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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






02 April 2008

I Am Also Not Making this Up


In the previous post, I began responding to some questions about the nature of God and what it means to be made in His image. As I previously noted, I cannot determine the sincerity of the person asking these things. But whether sincere or flippant, in some ways these remind me of the questions that my junior high students often bring up, variations of the old, “Can God make a rock so big that He can’t move it?“

In his Confessions, Saint Augustine addressed the query, “What was God doing before He made heaven and earth?” He replied, “I answer not, as a certain person is reported to have done facetiously (avoiding the pressure of the question), ‘He was preparing hell for those who pry into mysteries.’ It is one thing to perceive, another to laugh; these things I answer not. More willingly would I have answered, ‘I know not what I know not,’ than I should make him a laughing-stock who asks deep things, or gain praise [for myself] as one who answers false things.”

So also I try to walk the line between mocking the questioner and providing definite answers that are outside God’s revelation of Himself in His Word.

6. Its says in the [S]criptures that GOD has no form if this is true how can we be made in GOD[’]S image?

As I said previously, we aren’t made as physical likenesses but spiritual. Since God is not a man and a woman, the simple fact that “in the image of God” the Lord created them “male and female (Genesis 1:27)” tells us that our first parents were not biological copies or clones of their Maker. Instead, in their making, especially in His giving life by breathing into them His Spirit, for it was then that “the man became a living creature (Genesis 2:7)” and commenced life in God’s image.

7. Can GOD be anything GOD wishes to be or is GOD restricted to being as our image?

You ask the reverse of the correct question: Only those who don’t believe in the true God consider Him to be in “our image.” However, as far as His own nature is concerned, the Lord can assume whatever form and use whatever means He desires. However, His nature is to never be evil, so he restricts Himself from being or acting against His natural goodness. If He were in our (current) image, God would be weak, capricious, and incapable of any true goodness. This is close to the “rock” question I mentioned above. He cannot and will not be or do anything contrary to His own nature and He will never do anything to restrict Himself.

8. For those who don’t believe in alien beings, what is the official title that would be given to GOD and JESUS and the [angels] and the devil if it were to be a final title of those beings that would satisfy all descriptions of those not of this world?

The Burning BushWhat different than the titles and names they already bear — whether claimed by themselves or given by others? In English, the ultimate meaning of a god is that a being or beings far surpassing man in matters of power, knowledge, and the like. Even cultures and religions whose deities are the image of man have false gods with at least some attributes that place them above mankind. In Christianity, we use the catch-all word “God” whether referring to Him in His oneness or to the individual Persons of the Trinity. Of course, we also call the Second Person, God’s eternal Son, “man,” for so He is according to His conception and birth of the Virgin Mary.

When He told Moses what name His people should call Him, God spoke from the burning bush and named Himself, “I am who I am. (Exodus 3:14)” And while most English translations follow a rather superstitious Jewish custom of using the word “Lord” as a translation of the Hebrew Yahweh throughout the Old Testament, God actually told Moses to say to Israel, “The One who is [or He is] ... has sent me to you. (verse 15, my translation)” In other words, God called Himself “I am” and wanted His people to confess that “He is.”

Even as we live in the 21st Century, we don’t think of Him as the “He was” from bygone days. Instead, He was and is and will be. In Exodus 3:15, God emphasized being the eternal He is by saying, “This [Yahweh] is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” So Moses confessed, “From everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:2)”

The angels and the demons (themselves fallen angels) are created beings. We must think of them, also, according to what they are and what Scripture calls them. “Angel” means “messenger” and God uses the holy angels to convey His messages to others, as He sees fit. Some of the created beings are called the sabaoth, usually translated as “the heavenly host” or “host of heaven.” This host is God’s army fighting “against the spiritual forces of evil. (Ephesians 6:12)” Not called angels and perhaps separate classes of created beings are the four living creatures seen in Ezekiel and Revelation, the cherubim, the seraphim, and, perhaps, others.

As for the dark spirits, what better names and titles do we have than what Scripture provides? “Satan” means “accuser,” for he works to lead our consciences to despair. “Devil”descended from a Greek word meaning “slanderer” — we first meet him slandering God’s good name in Eden (see Genesis 3:1-5). Likewise, Jesus said that the Devil is a “liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)” In classical Greek, a “demon” was a lesser god or an elevated mortal — something with a connection to the divine. Biblical Greek uses it to apply to the evil spirits subordinate to Satan.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

To Ask the Pastor, send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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Newspaper column #531

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