Monday, January 18, 2010

A Fancy Word

I have been trying to avoid fancy words in these blogs about theology.

By fancy words I mean the Latin, Greek, Hebrew and German based terms that make up the jargon of theological conversation. Those terms drive people who want to talk about God and how He wants us to live our lives, positively nuts! To most of us, the jargon seems created for the purpose of keeping Joe Truck Driver away from the conversation.

(Joe Six Pack isn’t interested in the conversation.)

Today though, I want to use a Greek term: “anthropomorphism.”

Some people say that when we call God “Father,” we are guilty of being crude.

Anthropomorphism is an important word and it really will help us talk about God.

Anthropos is Greek for “man.”

“Morphe” is the Greek word for “form.”

Thus, anthropomorphism means, “in the form of a man.”

Anthropomorphism is the act of attributing human features or characteristics to non-human beings or objects.

Mickey Mouse is an anthropomorphisized mouse! In other words, Mickey is a mouse that acts, speaks and dresses like a man. Have you ever seen a real mouse dressed up like Micky in nature?

No, you haven’t!

We made Mickey up.

We imagined what a mouse would be like if it dressed and behaved like a human being.

Some people say that calling God, “Father” is anthropomorphism. They claim that we are creating an imaginary God, by attributing human characteristics to Him. (Oops! I am supposed to say, “Him, Her, or whatever God may be.”)

Truthfully? Sometimes we do treat God in an anthropomorphic way; don’t you think?

Even the Bible does it.

“God’s ear is not too heavy that He cannot hear; nor is His arm short that He cannot reach,” the Bible says.

That is classic, Biblical anthropomorphism. I mean, does God really have an ear or an arm?

No, He doesn’t.

However, God does hear. He also “reaches.”

Since human beings reach and hear with their arms and ears, they find it difficult to think about how a Being could hear or reach without arms and ears. Therefore, human beings envision God as having arms or ears. That helps us understand God.

This is a legitimate use of anthropomorphism. It helps us understand God, using terms and pictures that we can grasp.

In a sense, using the word ‘Father” in reference to God is, as the critics claim, anthropomorphic. God did not “begat” anyone in the way human beings “begat".

The issue is however, that God Himself Has chosen this term. He calls Himself a father and does do for His own good reasons.

Today’s Old Testament reading in the One Year Bible is about Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. This becomes the key to the future of both Egypt and Israel.

The New Testament reading is about how Jesus spoke to the people in parables. Jesus said that we have to pay attention to the parables because most people “look but don’t really see; they hear but they don’t really understand.”

Why the dreams?

Why the parables?

Why anthropomorphism?

Because there are things we need to know that are difficult to understand. We have to move step by step, picture by picture until we grasp what we need to know.

C. S. Lewis tells about a child that asked him once what adults meant by the term, “having sex.” (That was a long time ago!)

He replied that it was a fun thing adults did when they are married.

The child then asked if it was good as ice cream.

Lewis said, “Well, yes, it is as good as ice cream and even better sometimes.

The child was overwhelmed.

“Gosh, better than ice cream. Imagine that.”

Now we see as through a glass, darkly.

That’s why we need anthropomorphism

No comments: