Image of God and Disability, Part II: the Privilege of God's Image
Image of God and Disability, Part II: the Privilege of God's Image
The first series of “Image of God and Disability” captured the universality of the divine likeness on all human beings regardless of the features that differentiate us. At the same time, the image functions as the common ground for us to stand together as equal beings. The Scriptures revealed that there was no mysterious significance on the words image and likeness by themselves; I mean the image of JD does not have any implication, not that I have no value. The theological weight of the phrase has been researched because of the way in which the Holy Bible depicts of the God of Israel who accomplished the covenant of grace through Jesus the Messiah, the King of the kings, and the Lord of the lords. In this post, though it will not be detailed and exhaustive exegesis of the attributes of God, when we reflect on him, we can truly appreciate his designing us in his likeness and interpret the divine image as privilege and right, and this will further our discussion in exploring the lost value of human beings.
Before I go any further, let me briefly illustrate one importance method of reading of God. Christians who believe in the authority and life-transforming truths of the Scriptures must interpret each book of the Bible holistically, for it is deeply inter-connected with the rest of the Scriptures, and apply the analogy of faith or rule of faith, taught by the Reformers: Scripture interprets Scripture. This principle will require consistent interpretation of the one God of the Scriptures, who exists in the communion of three divine persons of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The God of Genesis is not different from the Judge of the Book of Revelation; as Yahweh of Exodus led Israelites through the pillars of light and cloud, the God of the NT will liberate us from the bondage of sin and that of suffering; Elohim of the OT is the God of the NT; though Genesis does not state that Jesus is the Son of God, God the Son is not different from the Creator of the universe; God the Holy Spirit who was hovering on the water in Genesis is not different from the Spirit of God who was shown as a form of dove when Jesus was baptized. A specific passage and narrative of a book of the Bible may highlight a special dimension God’s attribute; however, God of the Scriptures is the same from eternity to eternity. Now, then, let us dig into studying God as he himself showed us in his Words.
To begin with, I will explore the theological turf that is most mysterious, complex, and controversial, the nature of Christian God that distinguishes itself from other gods of religions. The doctrine of the Trinity by itself deserves a full investigation in a separate post, and I plan to do this later. Here, it will be a brief paragraph survey. Through the ministry of Jesus, to whom Christians confess as the Son of God, God as triune was revealed through himself, for only God can reveal himself as he is. The orthodox Christianity confesses that there is one God who exists as the unity of the three persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. From the beginning, the Godhead always exists in the fellowship of the three persons, without being created, sharing equal divine and relational essence with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Our triune God is omnipotent and omniscient, not bounded by space and time, self-existing without any necessity to be improved and be processed. He is not dependent on creation to be loved and to exist, nor does anything exist in himself except himself. Within the inner-life of the Trinity, the perfect form of love and holiness flourishes, without hierarchy or subordination, for each person of God is fully God and shares the absolute divine attributes. By mutual love and penetration, the three persons of God mutually dwell in each other, communing in relational and dynamic manner. John’s gospel illustrates the indwelling relationship of the Godhead where Jesus teaches his disciples that he is in the Father and the Father in him (John 14:11).
Having explained the mysterious and distinguished character of the Christian Deity, let us ponder on the divine attributes of God, his intrinsic nature. With regard to the moral or ethical aspect of the divine attribute, God is a morally perfect Being who is holy. He is unique and is separated from all creation (Exod. 15:11). He is righteous. His holiness is demonstrated in the righteousness of the law, which is perfect (Ps. 19:7–9). God is just; he does not show favoritism and judges all human beings by using the same measure (Rom. 6:23). God is love. God so loved the world that he sent the Son (John 3:16). He is faithful to himself and his words. He does everything for himself and will accomplish everything according to his goodness and promises (Num. 23:19). He is merciful (Ps. 103:13). He does not overlook the suffering of the world and listens to the cry and plea of the poor and marginalized. He is patient. He is still waiting for sinners to repent and worship him and is enduring the wickedness and rebellion of sinners until the due time that he established (2 Peter 3:9).
Next, God is infinite in his perfections. God is infinite in space (omnipresence). He can be in one place and at the same time all places. Because he is a spirit, he is not geographically limited (Jer. 23:23-24). At the same time, even though he is everywhere, he is not anywhere, for the world is not his dwelling place. He is in his dwelling place; the world cannot contain his magnificent nature. God is infinite in time, and God’s eternity is both temporal (human time) and atemporal (eternity or divine time). If God is infinite in his power, glory, and existence, he does not need the framework of time, whether time is objective or subjective in structure. God made time for human beings to accomplish his plans and will. In other words, there was a time when there was no time, at least as human beings understand the concept of time. For God’s infinity is different from humanity’s, he perceives time differently, for “one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day” (2 Pet. 3:8).
God is infinite in his knowledge (omniscience). God knows all things, and his knowledge is not measurable. (Ps. 147:5). Nothing is hidden from him, and he has foreknowledge. Even if he has given freedom to human beings, he knows every possibility and choice that we will make. There is no limit in his knowledge of the past, present, or future. Obviously, I reject moderate and hardcore open theism (this issue is very important and I will discuss it in another post). God is infinite in his power. God is almighty and revealed him as such to Abraham, “I am God Almighty” (Gen. 17:1). Through his infinite power, he has created the universe through his words and will accomplish his covenant and promises that he made. God is spirit. He does not have a body made of material and does not have a physical nature as human beings do. The Bible states that “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 1:18).
God has personality and is living. He has a name and is a person, and that means that he has will and consciousness, similar but different to our personhood. He is not a thing or idea and engages us personally and relationally with a name, for he says, “I am who I am” (Exod. 3:14). He gives life to creation and is the source of all living. He has the right to give and end life. God does not change in his attribute, will, and plan (immutability). He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, because he is perfect (Heb. 13:8). He needs no change and has no reasons to change his will and plan, for he is absolutely perfect in every way. Even though God has many attributes, he has no parts (simplicity). All his attributes are one and they explain the true one God.
If God was anything less than those described perfections, can we truly put our hope and faith in him? For instance, if God who is with us 24/7 loves us very much and co-suffers with us when we experience distress and hardships, but if he is not powerful to save us from the endless cycle of suffering, do we have hope in such a God? Sure, God’s presence and companionship sounds warm and comforting, but I want liberation from my discomfort, pain, and wheelchair. I want healing and restoration from my paralysis and disability. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. One the contrary, if God is powerful and holy, but if he does not love us, how can we truly receive his grace and mercy? What would be the relationship between his omnipotence and our misery if he does not love us and does not do anything about it? When the power of God and his love is irrelevant, we end up with Deism (a powerful God who does not care) and Sentimentalist (a powerless God who cares). We must be grateful that God is infinite in his perfections. If he were not, what is the point of our prayers, cries, suffering, and endurance?
Nevertheless, we believe in the sovereign love of God, because that is what the Scriptures reveal to us about the Maker of the universe and the initiator of the covenant of the grace which was given to the community of Israel and which was accomplished through Jesus the Christ in the power of the Sealer of the promises, the Holy Spirit. Human beings are valuable, because we still bear the image of the great God; we deserve to be loved, because that is what the divine likeness deserves; we are to love others, because that is what God does; we are to imitate Jesus Christ, because he is the image of the invincible God; our lives are meaningful, because God created us with intention and purpose; we have the common mission, because the broken images are to be restored only through the blood of Jesus Christ; we can exercise the privilege, because it was freely given to us by the supreme Author of the image.
The origin of our being is gift-oriented. As we have studied, God freely decided to make us in his likeness, not because we have done anything good and not because we are intrinsically good either. It was free gift. The image of God that all human beings inherited from Adam and Eve was given to us by this amazing and great God, and is meaningful because of the greatness of whom God is and what he does for his glory and for us. Then the image of God is the evidence of hope for human beings for God’s redemptive history is his condescending act of regenerating mission, restoring his tainted image in humanity. This is why we must turn our eyes to the doctrine of the image of God, not teaching of evolution or that of humanism, because our destination is determined by who God is and what he does. Without God, everything is meaningless, but because of God everything is meaningful.