Monday, June 15, 2009

TCITB: Chapter 14 "Children and the Image of God"

from TCITB Chapter 14

Children and the Image of God

by W. Sibley Towner

Sorry about the long breaks but it takes me a while to read and digest these chapters and even as slow as this is I feel like I'm racing through. I may not be doing the best job of taking the discussion to the next step, "What do we do with this? How does this change or reinforce how we think and our everyday interactions with children?" but you can!

This is the beginning of Part III: Thematic Essays. The Image of God is the theme of this essay - created in the image of God, even as children. The author supports the idea that our being created in the "image"or "likeness" of God includes children "underscoring the full humanity and dignity of all children". [TCITB p 308-9] Some of you may read this and say, "But of course children are created in the image of God." Mr. Towner explores a bit of what this means and his discussions of original sin and dominion are most interesting to me.

The author gives us 9 different ways to interpret the "image of God " as it occurs in the scriptures, emphasizing that the one thing they seem to have in common is that this image is something God shares with man but not with animals. [TCITB p. 309-311]

He then examines seven "exegetical issues raised by the foundational texts" that influence how we understand this and "how they are generally addressed by scholars today." [TCITB p. 311-316] This is a lengthy discussion looking at the language: similarities and differences in the use of different words for "image" and "likeness". [TCITB p 313-15] the use and implication of the writers using plural referring to God and later to Adam and collective implications. He also looks at gender. [TCITB 312-13]

His discussion about authority is wonderfully insightful. [TCITB p 312-316] He focuses on a simple conjunction suggesting an alternative translation - "Let us make 'adam in our image, according to our likeness, so that they may have dominion. . . " - implying something different from the "trampling, enslavement, and harsh rule by the powerful over the weak." [TCITB p. 315] Given this, he asks "how are we to represent God?" He talks about exercising our "kingly rule within the ecosphere in God's manner, the way God would do it. That means treating the creation with tenderness and appreciation for its intrinsic goodness and beauty." He says, "such a meaning coheres nicely with the natural curiosity about and admiration of other creatures that are exhibited by children." [TCITB p. 316] Later, at the end of the chapter he says "[f]rom a right relationship with God flows nurturing 'dominion' in the world." [TCITB p. 323] From my perspective, that attitude would also naturally flow to the way we treat children.

Towner then asks, given what we know, "what can we say about the meaning of the image of God and how it might apply to children and childhood?" The author sees the image of God in "relational terms". He talks about how we relate to the One who placed His divine image in us, how we relate to one another and how we extend those bonds to children (male-female, extended family, parent chld, grandchildren). He talks about our relationship with with God's creation revisiting the meaning of the word "dominion" emphasizing respect, interacting, charity, and disciplined stewardship. [TCITB p. 317-318]

Contrasting ancient Israel to other cultures of the time, the author says that "only kings and related elites were living images of the high god. Israel 'democratized' and generalized the imago dei concept to the point that all human beings bore it and bore the consequent responsibility of exercising rule over the earth as kings would do." There's more in these pages. [TCITB p. 318].

He emphasized that 1) though humans are created in the image of God, God and and man remain distinctly different. 2) "although the image of God in human beings can be obscured or distorted, it cannot be smashed or erased."[TCITB p. 319] Towner's discussion of the dissonance between God and Man will challenge your ideas about "original sin." [TCITB p 319-21]

From the author's perspective, the idea that children are human beings created in the image of God may not be directly stated in the Hebrew scriptures but it is implied, and he believes well supported. [TCITB p. 321-323] From my perspective, the fact that Jesus came to us as a child instead of through some divine miracle as an already grown adult, fully relating to God His Father, and the world He was born into, as well as the fact that He only walked with us until His early thirties just underscores all this.

So, he is examining what "image" means . . . we still have to keep learning about the One who created us in His image. Then, we are created in the image of God even as children. . . what does that mean? How does that affect our interactions with children? Their interactions with God and the world around them? God's interactions with all of us?

We don't answer questions here, we ask them. :) They need smiley faces on Blogger...

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