Just as a reminder, this is part 4 in a series. Click on these links for Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
In this part, I want to deal with one of the two factors that the Word™ of Faith™ movement gets wrong: the image of God. As I mentioned earlier, part of the power behind the heresy is that, since we are create “in the image of God,” then we must be like God. At this point they carry it so far as to claim that we have the same power through Faith™ that God does. (The earlier parts will explain why I put the little “trademark” symbol after the word “faith” when referring to what they call “faith,” and a similar mark for “word.” A future installment will deal with faith vs. Faith™ in greater detail.)
First, I’d like to refer you to one of my favorite sites, GotQuestions.org, and their response to the question, “What does it mean that man is made in the image of God?” While this doesn’t cover everything I want to address, it provides a good starting point.
There are several issues to deal with when talking about man being made in the image of God:
- What, exactly, does “the image of God” mean?
- What does the “image of God” not include?
- Are we still in the image of God?
The first point is: What, exactly, does “the image of God” mean? The Hebrew word translated “image” in Genesis 1:26-27 refers to a shade, a phantom, an illusion, a resemblance, or a representative figure, “especially an idol” according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. This could, therefore, refer to God’s physical appearance, or something similar to it. In modern terms, a photograph, painting, statue, or digital image (note the word) could apply. In modern usage we can also refer to someone as the “image” of a relative. For example, if a son looks exactly like his father did at the son’s present age, we can say that the boy is an “image” of his dad.
Genesis 1:26-27 also refers to “likeness” in many translations. The Hebrew word is related to the word for “resemblance.” It can also refer to a model or shape. The same type of arguments mentioned above apply here as well. A likeness is even less concrete than an image. Again, though, something with the same shape as a dog, for example, isn’t a dog.
The point often made regarding the “image of God,” though, comes from John 4:24, where we are told that God is spirit. “Spirit” here can refer to the breath of life; the Greek word, in fact, is the root of our word “pneumatic,” as in something that is inflated with air. Genesis 2:7 says that man, unique among the other creatures, was given the “breath of life;” some translations complete the sentence saying that man became a “living spirit.” Again, this says nothing about power or abilities, only that we, like our Creator, are also spirit.
The second point to look at is: What does the “image of God” not include? As we saw earlier, an “image” or “likeness” is not necessarily a full replica of the original. Can a photograph of you do everything you can do? No, it cannot. It cannot move. It cannot speak. It cannot do your homework. It cannot fill in for you at work. It cannot love, hate, breathe, or die. An image does not necessarily have the same abilities as the original. The son that is the “spitting image” of his dad cannot necessarily do everything his parent can do, because the boy may not be old enough or not properly trained the same way that his dad was. The father’s abilities aren’t automatically passed on to the son.
The third point is: Are we still in the image of God? I believe this is the most important point in the whole discussion. Adam was made in the image and likeness of God. Since Eve came from Adam, she was also made in His image (which doesn’t mean that God is somehow both male and female, by the way). Like God, they were sinless. Unlike God, though, they had the ability to sin. And sin they did! Once Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, they both saw that they were naked, and they both became self-absorbed. Genesis 3:14-24 record the consequences of their sin. They had separated themselves from God. They hid from God; God didn’t hide from them! There would be pain, sweat, and death in their future and that of their offspring. What’s curious is that God said that they had become more like Him after eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:22). No matter what, the image had changed.
With all of that in mind, the final question arises: do we have the same creative power that God has? I have to conclude that no, we do not have the same power to create something from nothing. We do not have the power to “speak what is not as if it were.” Even if God had to depend on Faith™ to create, mankind does not necessarily have that same ability now, if we ever did.
I am not saying that we do not have God-given gifts! John 14:1-14 says that we will do greater deeds than even Jesus Himself did before His death, resurrection, and ascension. John 15:1-11 tells us, though, that we can do nothing apart from Him. It doesn’t say that we need Faith™! It doesn’t say that we are connected to Faith™ through speaking His words; the seven sons of Sceva can attest to that (Acts 19:11-20).
As I continue this series, I want to deal, of course, with the true meaning of faith, and how it actually connects to the power of God. I also want to show some of the history of the Word™ of Faith™ movement, and how it is little more than occult practices wrapped up in a Christian wrapper.
How would you answer the questions I pose? Are we still in the image of God? What does that mean to you?
For Part 5, click here.
For Part 5, click here.