Sunday, August 22, 2010

Driscoll and the Image of God (Review)

What does it mean to be human? Anthropology, sociology, and psychology are all trying to answer the questions "What is a human being, and how do they work, and what do they do, and what possesses them to listen to Justin Bieber?" In the Bible we're given a whole new anthropology to work with, and a new psychology, and new reasons for why people desire the things that they do -for more on this, check out Donald Miller's fantastic book, Searching For God Knows What- and what the purpose of life is. Maybe "what is the meaning of life" is the wrong question, like asking whether yellow is square or round, but I think the doctrine of man being created in the Image of God answers "what is the purpose of life?" pretty well. On that note, here's my review of Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears' chapter on the Image of God.

Positives: Gender Roles, Abortion, Jesus, Unified Image
There were a few things that I absolutely loved about this chapter, especially having done extensive study on this topic last year -although I admit, I do need a refresher- and having formed my own strong opinions on the subject. Among them, I appreciate that this chapter presents man as a united whole that is more than just the sum of his parts, that Jesus is held up as the key to understanding this doctrine, that abortion is addressed (something I hadn't considered looking into last year!), and that gender roles are seen as a vital part of God's purpose for human beings.

#1: Gender Roles
. The section on gender roles is actually more about marriage: it's a chance for the authors to rule out options like polygamy, wife-swapping, homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, and even bestiality (a little like the Leviticus 18 List of Things You Can't Have Sex With). When the section gets to gender roles, though, I thought it was a good sensitive explanation of what gender roles in marriage should look like, how this has been abused, and why it should still be a good thing when properly practiced. I think it could have been condensed a little bit and applied beyond just marriage -roles in the church, anyone?- but it was fine for what it was.

#2: Abortion. A good section on when life begins in the womb (conception) and when abortion is actually killing a human being (always). In particular, I like that they took the trouble to extensively footnote credible medical writings instead of just pro-life websites. I also like that they quote the Didache, which forbids abortion and is so early of a Christian document (before the 2nd century began) that it might well record Jesus' own stated view on abortion.

#3: Jesus As Role Model. Since humanity is broken and fallen, Jesus gives us the best example of what man created in God's image should look like. In my own study, looking at Jesus was the only way that I could make sense of the Imago Dei ("Image of God"), and he is the key to figuring out how the whole doctrine works practically. This section challenges us not just to make up a list of ways that we think we could live out this doctrine, but to actually follow and imitate Jesus in our actions.

#4: Psychosomatic Unity. The image of God is not in just one part of us, like our soul or body or mind, but involves all of those parts of us together. The image of God is psychosomatic, involving both our soul/mind (psyche) and our body (soma, Greek for 'flesh'). I like that Mark Driscoll hasn't reduced the core of our humanity down to just one part of us, but takes a more holistic and nuanced approach. As I write on this doctrine in the future, I will be quoting the parts of this chapter that make this point somewhat often.

Negatives: Unnecessary Sources, Trying to Do Too Much
This chapter is going to be really great as a reference, but it is hell to follow. The authors try to do too much. Not only are they trying to tell us what the Image of God is all about, they're also trying to invent biblical counterparts to anthropology, sociology, and psychology, and they've also added sections on marriage and abortion -in the middle of the chapter, not as a neat addendum- and the whole result is a confusing read. It's hard to track; there's too much material to work through in such a small unified chapter. In addition, sometimes they quote sources when it really isn't necessary. I can't decide whether they tried to do too much, or didn't organize well, or a little bit of both. The style of writing didn't help either. Instead of summarizing up front and then explaining, it's really conversational writing that's sort of all over the place.

Overall Score: ****
I'm going to give this chapter 4 stars. It actually would have gotten 5, but like the other chapters, it wasn't laid out so well. So for the content alone and nothing else, it gets 4 stars. It's still a handy reference and a good chapter for small group conversations/doctrine classes, and I definitely recommend it. The conclusions are nuanced, biblical, and helpful. A little editing for a 2nd edition of this book -it's selling well, so a 2nd edition should happen- and this chapter will be up an extra star.

Memorable Quotes

"Practically speaking, this Biblical teaching (called 'complementarianism')... does mean that wives are to submit to their husbands like Jesus does to God the Father, that husbands are to lovingly lead their wives as Jesus does the church, that a woman should only marry a man she respects and trusts enough to follow, and that marriage is supposed to reflect something of the Trinity and the gospel, where Jesus pursues us in love and takes responsibility for us as an example to husbands and fathers."

"Therefore, to understand what a life of love, grace, mercy, justice, truth, compassion, holiness, righteousness, grief, suffering, poverty, pain, loneliness, and friendship that mirrors God is supposed to look like, we must look to Jesus Christ. Sadly, too often we look at sinful people -cracked mirrors- as our standard for what a holy imaging life is, Or we define noble qualities apart from Jesus and then aspire to them rather than imitating him."

Outline of Chapter Three
  • What the World Thinks It Means to Be Human
  • What the Bible Reveals About Man's Origin
  • What the Bible Says It Means to Be Human
  • What It Means to Be Made Male and Female
  • What Are the Aspects of Our Humanity?
  • Christian Errors Regarding the Image of God
  • When Does Human Life Begin In the Womb?
  • How Jesus Reflected the Image of God
  • How We Can Best Reflect the Image of God
  • What the Imago Dei Lifestyle Looks Like

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