The Image of God in an Image Driven Age, Beth Felker Jones and Jeffrey W. Barbeau, eds. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016.
Summary: A collection of papers from the 2015 Wheaton Theology Conference focusing on how our understanding of “the image of God” shapes our understanding of what it means to be human, and how we ought perceive the images that pervade our lives.
The subtitle of this collection of papers from the 2015 Wheaton Theology Conference is “explorations in theological anthropology.” In other words, the thread that unites the essays in this collection is the exploration of what it means to be human, particularly in relationship to God. In particular, this is a wide-ranging, and yet, taken together, coherent collection of papers exploring what it means to say that human beings are made in the image of God. Although called a theology conference, the contributors are drawn from theology, English literature, history, and art.
The papers, grouped in threes are organized around four topics: canon, culture, vision, and witness.
- Canon particularly explores how biblical themes inform our understanding of imago dei. Catherine McDowell focusing on creation and how we are God’s “kin” or children. William Dyrness on the Fall and the tension that exists between trajectories of life and death. Craig Blomberg considers the New Testament witness and particularly the understanding of the image of God as Christlikeness, reflectors of Christ’s glory.
- Culture explores the connections between the idea of image, theology, and the arts. Timothy Gaines and Shawna Songer Gaines consider human sexuality, our sexualized culture, and how many works of Renaissance religious art, in portraying the naked human form portrayed human sexuality as a good gift of God. Matthew J. Milliner explores consumerist issues and how artists have often engaged in iconoclasm, in breaking false images, and the unique role Christians in the arts may play. Christina Bieber Lake, in exploring the persistence of the image of God amid the suffer in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road–an exploration that left me wanting to read this work.
- Vision explores the incarnation of Jesus as an icon of God, enabling us to see something of God. Ian McFarland explores the Eastern Orthodox theology of icons. Daniela Augustine discusses the work of the Spirit in transforming those who are in the image of God to grow into the likeness of God. Janet Soskice considers Jesus as the one through whom God spoke the world into existence and that our own capacities for speech image the speaking God.
- Witness explores how Christians proclaim (or fail to proclaim) the Triune God. Soong-Chan Rah, in a particularly trenchant essay, explores the sad racial history of black and white in the U.S. and how the image of God has been construed in terms of “whiteness.” Beth Felker Jones attests to the power of Christian witness to the image of God to resist the commodification, sexual and otherwise, of human beings. Philip Jenkins reminds us of the global character of Christianity and prepares us for the new cultural expressions of peoples in the image of God.
Some conference proceedings collections seem lacking in cohesion. This collection, while reflecting diverse perspectives, offered, I thought, a coherent, yet multi-faceted exploration of the wonder of what it means to be humans in the image of God. The engagement with the arts, literature, and mass culture fulfills the promise of addressing our image driven age. The recognition of the image of God and the racial blinders that limit our vision of that image is a vital contribution to a broader theological anthropology.