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Thursday, June 2, 2016

"The Image of God in an Image Driven Age" ed. Beth Felker Jones and Jeffrey W. Barbeau. A Review

The Image of God in an Image Driven Age: Explorations in Theological AnthropologyThe Image of God in an Image Driven Age: Explorations in Theological Anthropology by Beth Felker Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What does it mean for humankind to be created in the image of God? Are there ways this should play out in our social, inter-racial, and marital relationships? Is there anything restorative and health-giving for the battered, abused and molested in knowing that they are in the image of God? Many of these questions, and more, are tackled in a new 272 page paperback anthology, “The Image of God in an Image Driven Age: Explorations in Theological Anthropology.” This compilation is edited by Beth Felker Jones, associate professor of theology at Wheaton College, and Jeffrey W. Barbeau, associate professor of theology in the Graduate School at Wheaton College. It is a collection of twelve essays are drawn from the 2015 Wheaton Theology Conference, and are penned by authors across the ecclesiastical-theological-racial-gender spectrum. These papers, pulled together, offer a “unified collection of essays – ecumenical in nature and catholic in spirit – exploring what it means to be truly human and created in the divine image in the world today” (12-3). It is published for a wide audience to include theologians, pastors, parachurch workers, theological students. The eye-catching cover art is drawn from David J. P. Hooker’s “Corpus” which is a cross-less, crucified Christ.

The volume covers four major categories: canon, culture, vision and witness; with three articles under each subject. The first section discusses what it means when the Scriptures posit that humankind is made in the image of God. Is being in God’s image referring to reason, priestly function, relationship with God and others, or is there some kind of blending of all three? The first and third articles draw deeply from Scripture and presenting their point; while the second leaves much wanting. Altogether, though, these three pieces leave the reader with a deeper and fuller sense of our identity as humans.

The second segment takes on imaging in our culture, looking at sexuality, advertising and consumerism, and concludes with a superb analysis of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” This was a fun section, delving and dabbling into areas a reader might have anticipated, but also moving beyond anticipation into a richer perspective. The final chapter gave me quite a pleasure, as the author worked through McCarthy through the lens of Job. All told, these three commentaries provide a wonderful set of tools for examining cultural myths of image.

Then comes the next division the looks into seeing, or vision. If Christ is the Icon of God, then we are to understand the significance of “face” and to reject both a materialism that defines humankind only as bodies, and the gnostic trend that devaluates human bodies. This launches us into our vocation, as those united to Christ, of being image-bearers and moving along lines of hospitality toward others created in God’s image and bearing his likeness. And image-bearing hospitality employs speech, and is wrapped up in a community of speech.

Finally, all of this swells up into the last bit, that of witness. This section felt like a pendulum swing. The opening chapter jumped into racism and felt like an explosion from the first sentence. It was difficult to tell if the writer was simply passionate or throwing our hot accusations. The next chapter then explored the place of show-and-tell; to speak the truth of every human’s worth and resist the cultural commodification of people: buying, selling, using and discarding humans for the sake of gratification! The final piece climaxed with a thoughtful presentation on how the faith and the gospel crosses cultural borders and translates the doctrine of the image of God into different societies. The author searches out different ways this may look, sound, taste and feel.

“The Image of God in an Image Driven Age” is a thought-provoking, stimulating communiqué announcing the importance and value of being made in the image of God. This volume would make a great addition to a Bible College or seminary class on anthropology. It could easily be used in worldview studies, and book-discussion groups. It is a book worth reading and passing along!

Thanks to IVP Academic for providing, upon my request, the free copy of “The Image of God in an Image Driven Age” used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).


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