Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Who made whom?

That was the logo on a popular T-shirt where I went to college. To the best of my knowledge, the nineteenth-century German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach was the first European thinker to make the suggestion that human beings fashioned God in their own image. It probably seemed liked a radically new thought at the time, especially inasmuch as much of the Christianity of Europe was already deracinated in the sense that Scripture was no longer the touchstone of theology.

In fact, Isaiah spends a good deal of time on this topic. Throughout chapters 40-46, he denounces the making of gods out of metal and wood, often doing so in amusing burlesques. The idea was known to roughly contemporary Greek philosphers such as Heraclitus who ridiculed the idea that the gods looked and acted like men. In any case, the difference between Isaiah and Feuerbach is that Isaiah, good Israelite theologian that he is, knows that anything that we fashion with our hands or even our imaginations is not God but an idol, and the fashioning of such images is a violation of the First Commandment.

Sr. Margaret Mary Funk, in her book Thoughts Matter, refers to the third monastic renunciation that of renouncing my image of God. While various Biblical depictions and most especially the Incarnation tell us about God and allow us to know Him, final and true knowledge will always surpass our ability to imagine, describe, and certainly to depict.

1 comment:

David F. Buysse said...

Aristotle also observed, "Men create gods after their own image, not only with regard to their form, but with regard to their mode of life."


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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
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may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
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Origen of Alexandria
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