What does God look like?

A depiction of Yahew by the Libourg Brothers, early 1400s

It’s interesting to me that of the three Abrahamic, monotheistic faiths, Christianity is the only one that has accepted graphic depicitions of the divine in the mainstream. While Judiasm takes the Law of Moses serious in its demand that people not make idols (whether or not they’re in the form of things in heaven or not), it’s more or less moot because God is understood as non-physical, non-copreal, and eternal. Islam’s tradition of aniconism (not depicting God) comes from the Hadith, and that is unlike anything man knows:

Quran 42:11 “There is nothing like Him, but He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.”
 112:4 “There is nothing comparable to Him.”

I won’t get too deep into those justifications, but I just think it’s really interesting that Christianity used to be the same way; for a long time the iconoclasts decided that they were going to take the commandment not have graven images seriously.

I guess my main complaint would be that by accepting a long tradition of the depiction of God the Father as an old man with a beard, we’ve created a stereotype of God in our culture; while we don’t worship the image, it influences and  affects the way we think about God (as primarily masculine for instance). In fact a great deal of our relationship with the divine is to find ways that we can relate it to ourselves, with the justification that we are related to it by being made “in the image.” Is it that humanity has created a God that looks like ourselves, rather than understand the God we resemble through our limited abilities of understanding? In every way, how we understand God is anthropmorphic; from God’s range of emotions, of jealousy, love, wrath, and mercy, to God’s anatomy. How we understand the idea of  the “hand” of God or how he makes the heavens his “throne” and the earth his “footstool,” – even his physical appearance is recorded as man-like (Ezekiel 1:26) and the OT extensively relates to God in the human terms of king or ruler.

It’s a type of physitheism, where the human form and characteristics are attributed to God. Of course we use the language metaphorically, as language can only take us so far.

I was trying to come up with an antonym for “anthropocentric” and I realized there could never be one, because we would not be able to understand it. This is the nature of the transendental divine; the mysterium tremendum et fascinans, or fearful and facinating mystery. In the philosophical concept of The Other, the divine is the Other, and conversely, anthropomorphic terms are a way to existentially describe what God is not; you can even call this a type of apophatic (or negative) theology.

The way we relate to God is through our understanding; theologians have argued how much of  Imagio Dei refers to the physical versus the substantial, psychological attributes. I’d say most of this argument is part of the progression of Christianity from a physitheistic understanding to psychotheism, where God is truly a single spirit with wholly non-corporal, non-physical properties. The understanding of how this transcendent entity becomes immanent is part of the Christian mythos, though shared in cruder forms by other beliefs.
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I realize this entry is probably weak, but I haven’t published anything in awhile because I’ve been too busy with schoolwork. I have several posts brewing but I just wanted to get this one out of the way. I’ll try to return to it some other time.

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