Monday, February 9, 2015

Fallen Images

Dr. Elwin Ransom was sent on a mission. In C. S. Lewis's moving tale, Perelandra, Ransom traveled from Earth to Venus on a mission to prevent Venus's "Eve" from yielding to the temptation that would plunge her people into sin. After many days on Venus, he encountered both the King and Queen of that world, the "Adam and Eve" of Venus. Ransom was so overcome by the radiance of their appearance that he fell on his face before them and said, "Do not move away.... I have never before seen a man or woman. I have lived all my life among shadows and broken images."

            Broken images? What did he mean by this? Lewis was reminding us by a subtle suggestion that man and woman were originally created in the image of God: "Let Us make man in Our image," God said, "according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." (Genesis 1:26)

            So what is involved in the image of God? A lot. For example, an image resembles and represents the one it images. Man resembles God in that he is an intelligent, moral being. Man has a mind that can think, examine, analyze and evaluate information. And he can communicate his finding through language. According to Arthur Koestler "The emergence of symbolic language, first spoken, then written represents the sharpest break between animal and man."        Man is also moral. In fact, when speaking of man, the Bible focuses on such moral qualities as purity (1 John 3:2ff., 9); righteousness (Ephesians 4:24); and holiness (Ephesians 4:24).  All these represent ways in which man resembles God.
            The image of God also means that man represents God. In that role, man is ruler of this planet (Genesis 1:26), exercising control and authority in His name. Cultivating the land to improve and control the environment. Establishing laws so communities of people can live in harmony with one another. Governing those communities. "As vassal lord," according to theologian John Frame, "Adam is to extend God's control over the world...." Adam exercised this control at the beginning by naming the animals God brought before him (Genesis 2:19).

            But...! Ransom referred to fallen images. On earth, when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, man fell into sin. Still they remained the image of God (Genesis 9:6), but now the image is corrupted by sin--fallen!

            In Ephesians 4:22-24, Paul describes in part how the fallen image can be restored. "In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."

            In speaking to the King and Queen of Perelandra (Venus), Ransom indicates the goal of restoring God's image in man. He said to them, "Take me for your son." This is why God restores His image. "As many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God...." (John 1:12, KJV). After that, He is gradually reshaping us into "the image of His Son...." (Romans 8:29). But first, we must receive Him into our hearts and trust Him to finish what He starts in us (Philippians 1:6). Then the new self will gradually replace the old self, the shadows will vanish, and the broken image will take the shape of a restored image.

Note: This article was originally written as a study for the youth at Sagamore Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas. I post it here to share it with all who may benefit by it. ~~krc

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