A Modern-Day Reformation in the U.S. Church
If there is to be massive renewal in the church it must center on the image of God.
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If there’s going to be a modern day reformation in the church in the United States, then it will revolve around the doctrine of the image of God.
For years I’ve been saying that if Christians in this country want to see a massive renewal of the faith and a new narrative of Christianity in our society, then we’re going to have to deal seriously with what it means to be made in God’s image and likeness.
I am grateful for the chance to explore this doctrine and the vision it casts in this article for Comment Magazine. Here’s a sample.
In Western thought and anthropology, theological explanations of what it means to be made in God’s image and likeness have tended to focus on how this teaching applies to one person at a time. Yet each people group—with our different languages, culinary culture, art forms, traditions, and histories—bears the image of God. We are valued in God’s sight not solely as single persons, but as part of distinct groups that each reflect God’s brilliance differently and together form a composite image of an endlessly inventive Creator. The image of God teaches us to honour one another as individuals, yes, but also as members of broader communities.
In an increasingly diverse world, where the sheer variety of differences can overwhelm us, the doctrine of the image of God teaches us to approach one another with respect and humility. A curiosity that dignifies is key: We could learn about misión integral from Latin American Christians, an understanding of missiology that embraces both evangelism and social responsibility. We could learn about peacemaking between ethnic and political groups from Palestinian and Rwandan Christians. We could learn about truth and reconciliation from South African Christians. Each historical and cultural experience has a charism to offer as God’s logic work itself out in the particularities of earthly groans. The church is most beautiful when its prismatic reality is most visible.
A Modern-Day Reformation with the Image of God at the Centre
But how do we better delight in this prism? The church is in need of a modern-day reformation to clear the cobwebs, a reformation emanating from a recovery of the imago Dei as central.
What would such a reformation look like? First, it would entail renewed scholarship that explores what it means to be made in God’s likeness in relation to contemporary issues. There should be no domain left untouched: questions of gender identity, transhumanism and artificial intelligence, end-of-life care, wealth and financial systems, labour exploitation, how we treat our food and agriculture, racial and ethnic conflicts, modern immigration and refugee dynamics, climate change and other issues of pressing concern cry out for the light of this doctrine. While the principle of bearing God’s image is eternal, the specific applications of that principle must shift and adapt in new contexts and time periods.
Excavating the image-of-God teaching for the modern day would also emphasize the ethical. The image of God is not simply an entry for a systematic-theology textbook. It is not just a teaching for audiences of churchgoers to give a nod of assent. Our ways and means must match our ends. Orthodoxy rings hollow without orthopraxy.
Read the rest of the article at Comment Magazine.