To be made in the image of God means we have some degree of God’s attributes. Most important of these is the consciousness of God and the heavy responsibility that comes with the extraordinary freedom of choosing our actions. But in the hierarchy of choices, there is the primary choice of aligning our thoughts, intentions, and actions with our best understanding of God. The literalists and fundamentalists exclude themselves from some of the deeper levels of meaning conveyed by the scriptures. The Bible, the Koran, and the Eastern books of wisdom are filled with sketches of God that at times seem clouded with ambiguity and even contradiction. Who is this God who commands severe punishment of sin by execution and dismemberment, or who declares war on women and children by genocide? Why, a rational person asks, is that found in the Good Book?
Stories of that kind, such as found in Genesis, are steeped in the culture in which they were written. They are a sketch of God as the people of the time understood God. Frankly, the early monotheists used God to their purpose, even as moderns do, to conduct righteous wars. Does this make God less than God? Do humans have the power to make God in their own image?
The Bible is an exploration into God engaged with humankind in its struggle to be in right relationship with one another, the environment, and their Creator. Seen in that way, the light will shine differently from different verses, but the light is there for those who “have eyes to see.”
The Dangers of Dogmatism
So, if there is a tragedy to the stance taken by the biblical literalists, it is that they close off not only a richer and deeper understanding of God for themselves, but for others as well, who are repelled by trite, absolutist answers that do not resolve the complex questions raised. God may work with tribes and nations, but he speaks to individuals. That individual communication is what we find revealed through the prophets, warriors, historians, and poets who wrote the Book. It is therefore also a continuing communication of God with each of us as we read the wisdom writers, historians, and prophets.
We’re called to pray deeply, to think deeply, and to share deeply, the experience of God. We are called to be tolerant and open to individual differences of how God is experienced through scripture, without crying heresy or abomination. Yes, there is evil misinterpretation and conscious conflation, but that can be identified and rejected. Most people searching for a healthy and functional way to living in this painful and confusing world are searching in good faith.
The implication is that we study in private, but we share in dialogue what we genuinely experience, without fear of condemnation. It is the spirit of truth that should guide us, in balance with a spirit of humility that the full truth is beyond our human grasp. But what mental power we have, we are to use. We can know much more than we do. We can probe deeper into the meaning of those confusing and anachronistic events of past cultures crying out for God.
Practice Meditation with These Scriptures.
Today, January 29, 2019, these were the scriptures taken from Sarah Young’s wonderful devotional, “Jesus Calling.” They are the inspiration for this present mediation:
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. —PSALM 8:5
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. —GENESIS 1:26–27
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. —2 CORINTHIANS 10:5
You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. —ISAIAH 26:3 AMP