Monday, January 03, 2011

Across the Spectrum: Chapters 5 and 6 - Divine Image and Human Constitution

Continuing the thread started in this post and continued in this post and this one.

Chapter 5: The Divine Image Debate
Position 1: The image of God is the soul
Position 2: The image of God is our God-given authority
Position 3: The image of God is our rationality

The odd thing about this chapter is that it completely side-steps the issue of what did the original author mean? The simplest reading of the Genesis text suggests that the original author of those words thought that God was bipedal, humanoid and created mankind in his physical image - to look like him. But of course, we don't view God in those terms today, so can't possibly read the bible as meaning that. (Although, see the book I recently commented upon regarding the role of the Great Angel in creation...)

So what is it about us that bears the 'image' of God? I don't know, and none of the three options presented here is entirely compelling. Is it that we have a soul? Well, that belief is largely based on Hellenistic thinking and was bolted onto Jewish/Christian thinking, rather than coming out of it.Or is it that we have the dominance of the planet? Surely that is our status, not our image? Or is it that we are rational? Well that seemed the most compelling to me until I actually read the supporting arguments, which quickly got bogged down in arguments about the Trinity.

Does it actually matter anyway? Whichever option you choose, how does it influence the way you live?

Chapter 6: The Human Constitution Debate
Position 1: The twofold self (body & soul)
Position 2: The threefold self (body, soul & spirit)
Position 3: The unitary self

This is something that I'd never really thought about before reading this book, and it certainly isn't a major issue. Indeed, the Kindle edition of this book (which I'm reading) is the 1st Edition of it, and the 2nd Edition of the print book doesn't feature this chapter at all. Its not really an issue.

The question is whether or not we are divisible into parts. If my body dies but something lives on, is that thing that lives on 'me' in any way, or is my identity reliant on having a body? Also, the bible occasionally makes distinction between the spirit and the soul, but are these two discrete parts of me?

For me, I'm happy to understand things in terms of computer science - the body is hardware, the 'spirit' or 'soul' is software, which needs the hardware to run on. Maybe at the point of death God will do a 'backup' of my software and will then be able to download it into a new piece of hardware, but if not, I cannot see how the software can continue to run without hardware. I am a composite being and need both components. But this isn't an issue I stay awake at night pondering...

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