Blog Archives

Kathryn Tanner and Gregory of Nyssa on the mystery of the human person

Whatever the knowable dimensions of human nature, its apophatic ones are what count here for imaging of God. An apophatically-focused anthropology forms the natural consequences of an apophatic theology. If humans are the image of God they must be, as Gregory of Nyssa affirms, an incomprehensible image of the incomprehensible: ‘If, while the archetype transcends comprehension, the nature of the image were comprehended, the contrary character of the attributes…would prove the defect of th eimage….Since the nature of our mind…evades our knowledge, it has an accurate resemblance to the superior nature, figuring by its unkowableness the incomprehensible nature.”

Kathryn Tanner, Christ the Key (Cambridge, 2010), pp. 53-54

The giant wobbly two-legged naked mole rat

Okay, I’m going to out on a bit of limb here. I mentioned a while back that I was doing some teaching with the high school group at my church on the gospel. Along the way, I’ve been doing some writing and trying to decide if I was going to try and work this into a book. Since my previous writing experience has been entirely academic, this is a very different style of writing for me. So, I may post something every now and then just to see what you think. I realize this is a bit risky since you are not really the audience I”m writing for, but I’ll take my chances.

To give you some context for responding, the basic idea is to tell a “thick Gospel narrative” – that is, to tell enough of the story for the good news to make sense – to a lay audience. You’ll see pretty quickly that I’m trying to have some fun with the material, even while engaging some significant issues.

With that background, let me throw a clip out there and see what you think. Right now I have this positioned as the beginning of a chapter on the imago Dei and how that relates to the Gospel. I’d appreciate any and all feedback you want to toss in my direction.

So, God is busy creating things. And, when God creates stuff, he usually does a pretty good job—mountains, canyons, oceans, rainbows, stars, chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream (okay, that one came later, but it’s still genius). I like to imagine that each time God finishes creating something, it joins all the others in watching what he’s going to do next. So, after God makes Earth and Sea they stand quietly together and look on as he makes the plants grow and bear fruit. I can even see Earth leaning over to Sea and whispering, “Ooh, kumquats!” Then Earth, Sea, and Kumquat watch in amazement as God produces Sun and Moon. And together they witness God’s creativity unfold as he makes Jellyfish, Dodo, Rhinoceros, Orangutan, and all the other animals that fill this new world. I’m sure that through the whole process, the world rang with the ooohs and aaahs of all creation as it bowed in amazement before God’s creative power.

As the sixth day drew to a close, I think they all knew that God’s work was reaching a crescendo. The firework-like display of God’s glory was reaching an end. Surely God must have something pretty impressive in mind for the grand finale. But, what could it be? What could possibly compare with the power and brilliance of Lightning and Thunder, the fragile beauty of Snowflake, or the nearly transparent wonder of Mist in the Morning? I can see all of creation leaning forward, holding its breath, wondering what God will do next.

Look, he’s doing something. I think this is it! What could it be?

Then, all creation watches in amazement as God brings creation to a climax and out steps….Um, what exactly is that?

“I think it’s another naked mole rat,” Dodo whispers.

“No,” Jellyfish responds, “It’s too big.”

“It looks pretty unsteady,” Rhinoceros says. “And, it only has two legs. I bet I can knock it down.”

Orangutan doesn’t say anything. He’s a little embarrassed for the new creature. It looks like God forgot to put the fur on. Maybe it’ll grow some later. Or, it could go roll in some mud.

And, they’re all thinking the same thing. This is the climax of God’s creation? This is his crowning achievement? What was God thinking? What is that?

We’ve already seen that the first part of God’s plan was to create the whole universe as a demonstration of his grace and glory. This would be his “place”, the theater in which he would accomplish his purpose. But, God had even more in mind:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 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)

Seriously? The giant wobbly two-legged naked mole rat that God just created is supposed to have something to do with his “image” and “likeness”? How can that be? What does that even mean?

Okay, fling away. But, be gentle. It’s Tuesday.

So, God is busy creating things. And, when God creates stuff, he usually does a pretty good job—mountains, canyons, oceans, rainbows, stars, chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream (okay, that one came later, but it’s still genius). I like to imagine that each time God finishes creating something, it joins all the others in watching what he’s going to do next. So, after God makes Earth and Sea they stand quietly together and look on as he makes the plants grow and bear fruit. I can even see Earth leaning over to Sea and whispering, “Ooh, kumquats!” Then Earth, Sea, and Kumquat watch in amazement as God produces Sun and Moon. And together they witness God’s creativity unfold as he makes Jellyfish, Dodo, Rhinoceros, Orangutan, and all the other animals that fill this new world. I’m sure that through the whole process, the world rang with the ooohs and aaahs of all creation as it bowed in amazement before God’s creative power.

As the sixth day drew to a close, I think they all knew that God’s work was reaching a crescendo. The firework-like display of God’s glory was reaching an end. Surely God must have something pretty impressive in mind for the grand finale. But, what could it be? What could possibly compare with the power and brilliance of Lightning and Thunder, the fragile beauty of Snowflake, or the nearly transparent wonder of Mist in the Morning? I can see all of creation leaning forward, holding its breath, wondering what God will do next.

Look, he’s doing something. I think this is it! What could it be?

Then, all creation watches in amazement as God brings creation to a climax and out steps….Um, what exactly is that?

“I think it’s another naked mole rat,” Dodo whispers.

“No,” Jellyfish responds, “It’s too big.”

“It looks pretty unsteady,” Rhinoceros says. “And, it only has two legs. I bet I can knock it down.”

Orangutan doesn’t say anything. He’s a little embarrassed for the new creature. It looks like God forgot to put the fur on. Maybe it’ll grow some later. Or, it could go roll in some mud.

And, they’re all thinking the same thing. This is the climax of God’s creation? This is his crowning achievement? What was God thinking? What is that?

We’ve already seen that the first part of God’s plan was to create the whole universe as a demonstration of his grace and glory. This would be his “place”, the theater in which he would accomplish his purpose. But, God had even more in mind:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 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)

Seriously? The giant wobbly two-legged naked mole rat that God just created is supposed to have something to do with his “image” and “likeness”? How can that be? What does that even mean?