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Representing God
- Bearing God's Image and Name

What does it mean when Genesis 1 speaks of humankind being 'image of God'? This New View takes it to mean that human beings represent God.

This page discusses the issue of representing God, and bearing God's image. Here we discuss it generally though in the context of the New View, collecting together a variety of topics and excerpts that illustrate this, in order to show the inescapable diversity that we must embrace. There is also a Representation section that shows how the issues here are important parts of the 'New View' in theology and practice,.

Representing God is a theme that pervades Scripture and history, throughout the various eras, and in a number of ways:

The ones that most apply today are the first, last and second-last.

Representing God involves at least six things:

Who is up to such a role? Good news! God is the one who will do this within us.


Contents:


REPRESENTING GOD

Who Represent God?

Even when humanity is fallen, human beings represent God, bearing his image or name, and ruling with love and self-giving. What is said elsewhere about image and ruling pertain all the way through, but in the final era, which will last forever, the form this takes will be far more glorious and fulfilling than in this or the first era, as a flowering plant is far more glorious and fulfilling than the seed it came from (see I Cor. 15:37,38).

But in between, the era in which sin pervades all and human beings turn away from God, certain people represent God more fully than the rest. These may be known as the people of God. Who represent God depends on the era in which they do so.

This is especially relevant in these days of universal communication via publishing and especially the Internet and mobile phones.

In this (what some call it The Overlap, others the era of the Church) era, the theological concept of incarnation is central. Incarnation is God coming into the world as a human being, and, over the past 30 years or so, has been interpreted as God affirming this world (somewhat along the lines New View is propounding). It is also used for believers going into all the world: "incarnating the message of CHrist". Incarnation and what we mean by representing God are closely intertwined.

Why Representation?

But why does God work through representation? Partly, of course, because he is utterly Other. But there is another possible reason: to select someone to represent me means I trust that someone. God so loved his creation that he was inclined to trust it, and hence gave it the high privilege of representing him.

This is not representation of some distant or unknown Deity, where we are called to just get on and represent him. Rather, it is 'God With Us' (Immanuel). We represent God, not as a distant ambassadors, but because the Living God wants to be actively engaged with his creation and offers us the privilege of working with him in that. He could do it without us, but in his love has chosen to do it with us.

God loves both directly and indirectly. A wealthy person wanted to send a gift of art to two other people. To one he sent paintings. To the other he sent an artist. The artist would generate an entire sequence of paintings adapted to the changing needs and situations. Which is the more loving gift?

So it is with God and his creation: God sends both good things directly (e.g. makes the sun rise on good and wicked alike [Matt. 5:45]) and 'artists' to generate blessing (human beings who represent him; see radah). Not only the paintings, but also the artist, represent the giver to the receiver, but in different ways.

Image of God

The start of the Bible gives an overview of the purpose of God in creating the world, and its structure. He created good things, among them one type of creature with a special role:

"Then God said 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule ... in the image of God he created thek; male and female he created them, and said to them 'Rule over ...'." Genesis 1:26, 27, 28

What does this refer to? What is 'image'? Why do 'image' and 'rule' occur together? (I take it from the above that male and female, men and women, are both image of God and intended to 'rule'.) There have been a number of beliefs about what 'image of God' means:

The third has the distinct advantage of being more closely linked to the theme of ruling. Briefly, we are meant to rule creation 'For its sake' rather than for our own, and so show the pre-eminent characteristic of God, that "God is love (agapé)". The rest of creation can experience that. The other two meanings fail to link them together in this way. In short, humanity become more like shepherds? of the rest of creation, than consumers or even stewards. For what 'rulership' means, see the Radah section.

However, as discussed elsewhere, humankind turned away from this role and responsibility, wanting to be like God. There has been a debate of whether that means that humanity today has lost the image of God, or the image remains but is grossly distorted. The New View believes the image remains, has been distorted, but can be restored through Christ and the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul refers to it as "ambassadors of Christ" and "workers together with God".

In this era, between the first coming of Christ 2000 years ago, and the second coming, this image of God as representation is not just to the rest of creation, but also includes the idea of being people of God representing God to the rest of people.

The People of God

In the same way, humankind represents God to the rest of creation. That is what it means to be the image of God. It is not so much that we have characteristics or abilities of God, but rather than we represent God to any who 'look' at us or experience us. That is why, in Romans 8, it is in the revealing of the mature sons of God who are like God, that the creation rejoices. So humanity represents God to the rest of Creation. How are we doing in this role? Not very well.

A thing becomes clearer when we see it differentiated from other things. So, if there are some people who are specially chosen to represent God, then others can see more clearly what God is like. Seveal versions of this that have occurred during human history include the list above.

How can we today, as God's people, represent him? At least two ways:

(In fact, see the list at the start!)

Showing God: One way is that the character of God is developed within us; this is the work of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Another is that we speak of God to others, either the generalised knowledge (doctrines, theories) about God and his ways, or by our testimony and stories honestly told, or - and this can be particularly powerful and yet it is scary - by acknowledging Jesus as Lord personally among those who do not (Romans 10 has quite a lot on these). These are ways in which ordinary people can represent God. But there are at least two special ways, which both need courage. One is martyrdom.

Doing God's work: God's people are those who love to do God's work in this world (c.f. "I have come to do your will, O God" [Hebrews 10:7; Psalm 40:8]) - God's work rather than their own. Or, rather, to them God's work is their own, the work they love and their very reason for living. Alec Smith, way back in 1984, saw this clearly, especially in relation to justice and political issues:

"We're supposed to be an inspiration for the world. We should be leading the way. We should be moving faster and further ahead than any government thinking. The policy makers should be losing their breath trying to catch up with the body of Christ. It is we who should have been the first to voice the need for a new social order." [p.78]

God's blessing to the world (human and non-human) spreads out from God's people, as ripples from a stone dropped into a pool. This is in some ways a Jewish way of seeing things: some Jews, especially in the Second Temple Period, saw themselves as God's people, from whom knowledge of the True God would spread out to the world. The same can apply to all kinds of representative:

Each of those are centred on different ages; most of those reading this will be in the age penultimate one: believers representing God to all humanity. Everyone is invited to this joy and responsibility: to represent God in this world today such that we are a conduit of God's blessing into the world. Reader: do you want to face this challenge?

To be a source of blessing from God in this world requires holy and wholly-committed people. Luke 9:23-24, John 12:25,26. We who are Christ's all have a choice, as John Wesley put it, to take either the higher or the lower road. The real blessing from God usually comes via those taking the higher road (e.g. James Fraser, Hudson Taylor, Francis of Assissi), but the God who desires to bless, also sends blessing via those who choose the lower road of not fully 'losing their lives' for Christ. (Note: Some dislike the distinction between higher and lower, and I am myself inclined to that, but practical reality seems to show a distinction. The distinction is all of grace, however, and not a source of pride.)

Perhaps what I am really talking about is better called 'radical discipleship'.

Radical Discipleship

So God's people should be leading, not resisting or following. But today at least in the affluent countries, Christians very seldom 'move faster and further ahead' than the rest. Same in India? Usually we lag behind. Smith (radical son of the white Rhodesian prime minister!) was talking about breaking down apartheid. Today, the environmental movement is led by non-Christians, while Christians attack it, resist or criticise or follow reluctantly. And in academic life, it is very rare for Christians to propose radical new thinking.

But surely it is God's people


who should have the clearest view
of how the world is changing
and what the new responses should be!

Surely it is God's people

who have the best diagnosis,
and the best solution.

Surely it is God's people

who have the means and power and effectiveness.

Surely it is God's people

who have the motivation.

God's people


should lead the world in ideas and action
- radical ideas and action as well as non-radical -
and not just follow and criticise.

And yet Christians lag behind, fearful of taking risks, of doing 'the wrong thing' (despite the promise of 'no condemnation'!), of that other Christians would think them 'heretical' or 'demon posssessed'. And so the world is left to take the lead in escaping our predicament. And all we do is resist! Or else, a few of us join with the world, making the cause our 'thing', but for our own ego or fulfilment and not in surrender to Christ. Ah! God's people have not represented him.

This call to radicality goes along with the fact that God often surprises us, because what we do and believe is only a very small part of God's whole truth.

The Responsibility of Those Who Represent God

As said above, God's representative:

If what is said below is true, God's people should lead the world in ideas and action - radical ideas and action as well as non-radical - and not just follow and criticise as Christians have done for a century. Jesus said that his people should be as salt and light in the world. The 'new view' opens up richer implications of Salt and Light.

It is a heightened privilege and heightened responsibility to represent God. Those who represent God will be punished more severely than those who do not for doing the same things, because they give a false picture of God. Remember "Judgment starts first with the household of God." See start of Amos. ==== rest to be written. For now, see the section on representation in my page on 9/11.

"Let us not be weary in well-doing. We shall reap if we faint not." [KJV]

On 10/10/10 (10th October 2010) The Independent reported on 'Green Fatigue': the general public, opinion-formers and politicians in the UK have tired of responsibility for the environment, and it's no longer a major issue. Not because the problem has gone away, but because the climate-skeptics have done such a good job of sowing confusion. (See my critique of Nigel Lawson's book.) But God is faithful, and his love for his world changes not. So God's people are called to keep on well-doing, whatever shifts the world makes, and in spire of persecution.

Persecution is something that Jesus promised his followers: persecution and great joy. In the early days of the church, persecution was intense, and it may have been that the main way of representing God during that ear was just to remain "faithful unto death" [Rev. 2:10]. Likewise there have been periods, at different times in different cultures, in which God's people are called upon to suffer persecution, and we can even see this as an honour [Acts 5:41]. However, persecution is not to be expected all the time. Sometimes God's representatives are honoured by the people [Acts 2:47; and during the early ministry of Jesus], and this is to be expected since something in people will recognise those who represent He who is their health and salvation. Whether persecuted or praised, God's people should always put first their responsibility to represent him and "live, not for themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again." It is heinous for God's people to live for themselves; it might be better not to be one of God's people than to do this (yet probably the vast majority of Christians do live for themselves rather than for Christ).

This might be why "judgement begins with the household of God" and why God's wrath on those who (mis)represent him is hotter than on the rest of humankind. Just one example: Jeremiah 10:24-5, Jeremiah is perplexed why God is angrier with his own people than on those who do not worship him. In Jer. 11, God replies: it is because his people have broken the covenant he made with them, and did so in serious ways for a long time, continually. And that is why he exiled them. What God did to Israel in 400 BC horrified the other peoples. In the majority of the verses in the OT that speak of the wrath of God, this wrath is directed towards His own people, not to the idol-worshippers elsewhere.

Amos

Read the Book of Amos in the Bible. There you will find God is concerned, not so much to prevent evil as that His people, who should represent Him, have refused to do so. If God's primary concern was to prevent evil, He would increase the speaking of His word among them - but instead He promises a famine of the word of Yahweh. He stops speaking to them.

The people who should represent the God of Justice and model His Justice to the rest of the world have let injustice reign in their economy and their daily lives. These people think Yahweh God is with them, and they bring Him all the right gifts - yet their heart is turned away from Him, His ways and His Plan. These people, with the immense privilege of representing the Living God to the rest of the world, think that God is merely a talisman to give them a good life, of songs, good food, pleasure and economic security. No!

So God promises to destroy His Own people, to drive them away into exile beyond Damascus, and to use pagan nations in the process. In Jeremiah 45, God says He is uprooting what He has planted - His own people whom He chose to represent Himself. Is He doing this today with Western Christianity? See 'What Is God Doing?' and Is God Warning Us?.

Nevertheless, at the very end of Amos, God tells of a future restoration. The picture we find is not one in which God's prime concern is sin but is representation. He is concerned about sin because of representation.

Nevertheless, those who represent God can experience a kind of joy that far surpasses any persecution or troubles they experience. Much of this joy has to do with meaningfulness: what we are and do in life is Meaningful to the Eternal Living God. See Dimension 3.

What Enables Representation

The Christian community has, over its centuries, discovered the importance of several things that facilitate representing God.

New Birth

Only those who have been, as Jesus put it to Nicodemus [John 3], born anew, can truly and fully represent God, and we are reborn because Christ sacrificed himself for us, with a purified conscience, as Hebrews 9:14 explains. That verse also says something more: "to serve the living God." Now, the Greek word for 'serve' there is not douleuo the usual word for serving as a servant), nor diakoneo (to wait upon or minister), nor even leitourgia (public works), but it is latreuo, which is used only a dozen or so times, and always in relation to God or some deity. So, this 'serving' God is to be seen as a special kind of service and seems to have strong notes of devotion and what we are calling representation. It is Christ's self-sacrifice to death that enables us to be in this role with God. Let us make it real, because good representation is not automatic, but requires other things!

(This is similar to the idea of Three dimensions of salvation: D1 is being made right with God through the blood of Christ, D2 is experiencing God here and now through the Holy Spirit, but neither are an end in themselves, but both point forward to, both anticipate, D3, being mature 'sons' of God who shepherd the rest of creation aright as God's representatives.)

Holiness

"You shall be holy for I am holy". God's people are called to be like him - but so often we are not and we concern ourselves with our own little agendas. God moved in the 19th century and the holiness movement resulted. (He had also moved in previous centuries in this way, but usually only among special people; the holiness movement extended to ordinary people.) He emphasised to many people in many places the importance of holiness, not just in action, style of living and speech, but also in thoughts, attitudes and character. We are called to be "like Christ". To make something holy requires purification, and often those who were willing to accept God's challenge to be holy were allowed to go through major difficulties and persecutions. Especially we have to forego any attitudes of bitterness.

Fruit of the Spirit

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness/humility, self-control." These are (examples of) the character traits that God's people should exhibit. They grow in those of Christ who let them, by the work of the Holy Spirit of God living in us. The holiness movement discovered some of these but not all (e.g. joy was often missing), and it did not see that these extended to the entire creation.

Gifts of the Spirit and Power

In I Cor 12 and several other places are lists of gifts. They are abilities given to people so that our representation of God is more powerful and effective. But mostly we failed to take them seriously, and some theologians even argued that they had ceased with the time of the early church. But God moved especially in the pentecostal and charismatic movements, and people discovered these gifts can be relied upon to be active today. Problem was: they tended to be seen as gifts for individuals, we tended to see them as inserting a supernatural 'wow!" factor, and those who had such 'second blessing' often (unintentionally) looked down on those without it, leading to major divisions. But God intended them for effectiveness in our lives, and He can work well without them.

The Missionary Call

"Going into all the world, make disciples ..." By this, representation of God is spread throughout the world and into all cultures in every place. Throughout history the Church as institution formalised, diluted, ignored and even hindered fulfilling this call so that God resorted to impressing it on courageous individuals. God moved a number of people to take Jesus' command seriously, e.g. Loyola and then, in the main missionary movement, people like Carey and Taylor.

Theology

[No Scripture to support this one!] It is natural for people to seek to understand God's dealing with us, and representing God is facilitated when we can communicate general understanding of God as well as stories of what God has done and is doing. General understanding is helpful in new situations not yet met. Theology began even while Jesus was still alive, through the time of the apostles, in the early church, throughout the mediaeval period into the modern and postmodern periods. This New View in Theology continues that. Problem was that most theology was undertaken driven by the presupposition that theory is neutral and the key to 'true' knowledge, forgetting the importance of experiential, pre-theoretical knowing. And that theologians tend to do battle over their views. I am not aware that God has ever yet moved in major ways in theology.

Media and Writing

Right from Moses' time God wanted his people to write down their relationship with him, initially in the form of law but also then in other forms (the histories, poetry and prophecies). The New Testament followed that tradition, as do Christians today. Writing things down means that knowledge of God can be disseminated. First there was oral transmission including preaching discussion and story telling, then writing and scribing, then, centuries later, printing, which enabled broadcast, then other things like graphics, photography, film to convey more than text can, then information technology to make this interactive, then the Internet so that knowledge can be linked together. All this helps spread knowledge of God - but also false and distorted knowledge.

The Blessings of those Representing God

Would we expect God to treat those who represent him differently from others? Of course. In the midst of this wrath and terror is love. See Hosea 11: "How can I give you up! I will lead you with cords of love." God does have a special love for his people - but what can we expect? Here are just a few things (forgive me; I have succumbed to that seductive thing that I hate: alliteration):

- and there are more, such as prayer, wisdom, an intimate personal relationship with God, and many others. And we find the rest of creation working 'with' us, in our favour, rather than against us; things 'work out' wonderfully, and even evil is turned to good [Romans 8:28].

It is tempting for those who are chosen to represent God to slip into tribal thinking: God will favour us, fight for us, make sure we win over others. There is a modicum of truth in this, in that God will indeed protect his people, but the vast majority of this view is based on falsehood. But, given that humankind is fallen and proud, this is what the people of God ever gravitate towards, and thereby then first portray a distorted image of God and then dishonour him before the rest - so God has then to take action to put them right. The people of Israel he kept on sending prophets to and though occasionally they turned back to him for the majority of their 1000 years' history as a kingdom they turned away from him. So, 400 BC God sent them into exile in Babylon. As Erich Sauer said, "In Babylon they were cured of Babylon" - but then became too insular. Do the Christians do any better?

But we can pray that we will; Jesus showed us how. One phrase in the Lord's prayer links with our representing God.

In all the above-listed blessings, we need to remember Ezek 6:49: what God condemned n Sodom was their affluence, arrogance and unconcern for the poor. Is it not a temptation for those who are blessed such things to become complacent, and let their hearts turn to these - and become the kind of soil that is full of weeds and thistles that choke the seed of God's word? Our blessing is bestowed on us, not for our own good alone but so that we can mediate this good to others, to the rest of God's creation - as was intended originally by the role of radah.

What We Show of God

==== section started: I realise I should summarise things about God that his people should show. Here are some. They are challenging.

and so on. Do I?

Dangers in Representing God

Is there a tendency to focus on showing and telling, rather than on inner reality? Is this the danger that some Pharisees of Jesus' time succumbed to?

I was talking with a neighbour, and did a lot of complaining about managers at work and people in an organisation to which I belong. As he left, I tried to joke "You must see a rather bitter person. I'm not really." I realised that I had been wrong inside (bitter and complaining) but also felt I should have shown a better picture of someone who represents God. So I tried to recover the situation with that statement.

God is more concerned with the inner reality than with the appearance, even when the appearance seems, from our point of view, to dishonour Him. What really dishonours Him is the inner reality. What I should have done was come to the Father, confessing "I realise that I am still a bitter person. Please forgive me and work Your righteousness in me." And I should not have added the " I'm not really" at the end of my conversation with my neighbour.

To represent God we need to be pure (in my case, non-bitter) inside, rather than just trying to show purity. Maybe this is why, for some years, I have tried to maintain a policy of being more rather than less holy than I seem.

There are different types of dangers of representing God, depending on which of the three dimensions of salvation we tend to focus on or value most:

Working with God

The Apostle Paul talks about "working with God", which is not the same as merely 'working for God'. No! God also works. God is not some aloof monarch who merely orders his army or civil servants to do things for him. The true Living God is one who work within his creation and especially with his people. Generations of those who have taken God seriously have found little, and sometimes, large 'miracles' happening that facilitate God's work that they are engaged upon. Read the life of Hudson Taylor, for example. See also the page on miracles.

In representing God, the people of God will find God is active with them. We can count on this, as we seek to bless the rest of creation, since this is God's cosmic plan and desire. We do not need to rely on our own strength, not even though indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, in our own strength we can do nothing, Jesus claimed (as recorded in John 15). Rather, Christ himself is to us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption; he himself is those things in us, and it is his responsibility to express his character in and through us. Do we feel impatient or aggrieved? As such we won't represent God very well. Do we try to suppress or conquer those? No! Look to Christ, who will be, in us, patience and love. See 'The All-Sufficient Christ'. This is God's plan and desire. So he will work with us if we are faithful.

This has a number of implications.

This is yet more evidence of God's love. An aloof monarch needs others to do work for him. God does not need us to do things for him (he is all-powerful and he also has much better workers that we would ever be in the angels). But because of his love, God allows us to be engaged in his own glorious work and plan of blessing the rest of creation, even though we so often mess it up and do less that he himself would have done.

To Whom Has God's Law Been Revealed?

God's law through Moses was revealed to his people Israel. To whom did that law apply, and during which eras? To what extent, and in what way, does the Mosaic Law apply today to Gentiles, whether Christian, Humanist or people of other religions? Should we Christians attempt to bring God's law into the legal codes in our societies? Some say Yes, others, No. Some say the Sabbath Law is for all humankind, others that it is a sign only for God's people (and specifically Israel).

Under this New View, to some extent the question dissolves. The answer is Yes and No at the same time.

Persecution

Those who represent God bring light - to guide, to enliven, to show, to beautify, but also to expose, to show clearly the way things are, and the deep things of people's hearts. But the world is dark, and darkness hates the light. So those who represent God will be persecuted.

Jesus was God representing himself in the world as a human being. They hated him, and killed him. Jesus promised his followers "As they hated me, so they will hate you. But do not be troubled about this: I have overcome the world." The earlier prophets found the same. The ones since Jesus have found the same. And yet they stand in God's Presence.

Those who represent God will be persecuted. Yet we are succoured by the Holy Spirit of God.

Our response should not be to defend ourselves, nor to hide the light, nor to compromise. Christians know that. What many don't know is that it is also wrong to cut oneself off from the world. Many do this, and cease their engagement with the world. They cease political action. They cease action in academic life. They pull out of the media. They feel called to "full time Christian work" in a country where there is less persecution - and of course, they follow that call "for the sake of my family - after all, my first duty is to my family, is it not?"

No! We should continue to bring light at all levels right where we are. We will be persecuted, and denied advancement in the world, but we will be sustained with strength and joy, and the close Presence of God, and more importantly, we will be contributing not to our project, but to God's Project, of redeeming the entire creation. What more meaningful and noble cause can there be than that?

Philip Sampson reminded me that, in the film Amazing Grace, William Wilberforce takes a selection of the great and the good for a boat ride past a slave ship. His passengers do not welcome his commentary on the evils hidden from their eyes in the hold of that dreadful ship. Those who are comfortable do not like to be reminded of evils hidden beneath their noses. Philip draws attention to the evils in modern Western slaughterhouses, and finds himself getting nowhere. But God is with him, and evil will one day be removed. It is not for us to worry overmuch about the result of letting light shine to expose the evil; it is enough that we are faithful in doing this, as humble representatives of God.

Representing Then, Now and Forever

Anthony Smith, when I recently showed the 'Five Rs', remarked that there is nothing of the Consummation, the Eschaton, the next-life, in them. The fifth 'R' being 'Representing God' was meant to indicate not just the present age but the age to come, after death and the end of the this age. But he was right: I had not expressed it well, and this challenged me to think it out more carefully.

One reason for this is that New View looks at the Cosmic Story and God's Cosmic Plan in a different way. The traditional 'Christian' way of understanding it is in terms Creation, Fall and Redemption (CFR) (where Redemption includes the next life or it might be added on as an extra) gives us various problems. These are outlined elsewhere.

The main two problems here is that CFR either combines Consummation with Redemption or implies that different things pertain in the different aeons of temporal history.

But under New View the New Earth and Heaven is no longer part of Repair, but is our ultimate destiny, for which we are being trained now. The first perfect state (Garden of Eden) was never meant to be the final state, and that this life - whether perfect or sin-infested - is only a kind of practice run. Under New View, the entire Story is one, and what we understand about now is of similar kind to what pertains in the New Earth (though the latter is far richer as a plant is richer than a seed [I Cor 3]).

In all aeons, representing God is a major theme. In the pre-Fall situation, humankind was to represent God. In the pre-Christ era, certain people were called to represent God. In the current era, Christ's people are called to represent God. In the New Earth and Heavens humanity is called to represent God. It is one and the same, all the way through, though it might take different forms in each.

In the Forever, the other four 'R's will still pertain, though in different forms, and they will all contribute to representing God. Reality will still rejoice, humankind will still shepherd the rest of creation, all reality will be interconnected so that justice and love are one, and Christ's rich redemption (the 3 dimensions of forgiveness, Holy Spirit and creation awaiting with eager longing) will be manifest everywhere. See CFR page for more detail on this.

However, in this current era, we have the church ...

The Church

The purpose of the Church is to represent God, or rather to facilitate God's people representing him. 'Church' has several meanings, each of which facilitates a different aspect of representing God. And each of which holds its own danger. For a fuller discussion of this, see the page on The Church - A New View.

Traditional Christianities today give priority to the church. But to this New View, church is not a major issue, but is a sub-issue of the main issue, which is Representing God.

Academic Representation

Humanity has been given the mandate to bless the rest of creation and part of this is to build a body of knowledge about the way creation works that can shared and relied upon, and applied to any future situations. The whole of humanity is active in this project, and most afford it respect. It works by building theories, which process is governed by the paradigms within which thinkers work, which are themselves constrained by research programmes, and all are governed by ground-motives (religious presuppositions of the nature of reality that act as a spiritual driving force to the outworking of the mandate).

God's people should be at the cutting edge of this activity, because they (should) have a more healthy religious presuppositions. God's people should be lovingly critical of extant thought and theory and methods. See Engaging with Secular Thought for more.

Academic representation might be supported by the more recent discoveries in philosophy, concerning meaningfulness. Dooyeweerd suggested that "Meaning is the being of all that is created and the nature of our selfhood" and that "Meaning has the character of referring [beyond and ultimately to the Creator]" [NC, I, p.4]. That is, the very existence of things (whether pebble, pansy, poem, politics or person) is constituted as meaningfulness, which itself refers ultimately to God. God provided that all his creation is Meaningful in relation to himself (and meaningless otherwise). Philosophy before the twentieth century sidelined the issue of meaningfulness, because it wanted to try to carry out its functions without reference to God. However, twentieth century philosophy, especially that of the linguistic turn and postmodernism, has discovered the importance of meaning. Currently, on the assumption that we can (or the desire to) address this issue without reference to a Creator, thinkers have been looking to language (hence the Linguistic Turn in philosophy) to ground meaning, hence an widened interest in hermeneutics and the reading of texts. But Derrida, for example, found himself going further, and suggesting that all life is meaning that can be interpreted as meaningful. This intuition seems to be admitted by all philosophers who are willing, including Heidegger (even though he might use different terms).

What all this means is that as academics study the fabric of creation openly they discover meaningfulness and hence our referring to God. So all academic work may be seen as journeying to this discovery.

Cultural Representation

Human life occurs within a culture, and itself forms that culture. Culture consists of a "body of customary beliefs, social forms and material traits" [Webster]. Culture affects the way we live, and hence the extent to which humanity fulfils its mandate. Much in every culture is rotten, and diverts us from the mandate. God's people have the privilege and responsibility of bringing health back into the culture within which they live. This is by loving, critical exposure of the distortions and work to remove them, with the power of Christ. That part of culture which is the arts is particularly important here, so it is good that Christians have been active in the arts more than they were.

Political Representation

Political representation is concerned with the structures of society, especially policies, laws and societal infrastructure. This affects (hinders or helps) humanity in its mandate [I Timothy 2:2]. God's people are called to be active in representing God in the political arena. We should normally uphold and heal the political order [Romans 13:1] but should also know when and how to oppose it strongly - and be courageous enough to stand out against the political order. Whereas secular revolutionaries focus on one aspect, God's people should focus on what is underneath.

Overall Solution - Revival

Ultimately, when all the above are rotten, the only real and effecive solution is revival instituted by the Holy Spirit of God though his people. In revival, God's people not only show what God is like, but are God's key instrument in bringing health back into society. But, to be God's instrument, we must be pure and holy, not seeking our own convenience and comforts and agendas in life, but 'losing' our lives for Christ's sake, utterly dedicated to him. May I be so, and may nothing get in the way. Amen!


EXCERPTS

Do Life, not just Do Right

Nee To Sheng (Watchman Nee) gives the following story: Two men, who had become disciples of Jesus Christ, owned a rice paddy. The neighbour below them broke down the wall and syphoned off their water to water his own paddy. The two men, following Christ's injunction to "turn the other cheek", rebuilt their wall. This happened seven times. The two men sought advice from their pastor, who suggested that they should get up earlier in the morning and first irrigate their neighbour's paddy, and then irrigate their own. More than turning the other cheek: going the extra mile. The men did this, and while doing so experienced great joy. After three days of their doing this, the neighbour came to them, astounded by their attitude. "Please tell me about this God you worship," he asked them. Nee To Sheng summed it up by saying these men did not just do right; they did life.

Representing God in our Everyday Work and Life

Tim Keller published a book in which he speaks of 'secular' work as part of God's Plan. Our work and life is not just something that God blesses because he loves us, nor is the Church to do its own thing and trust God to bless it; rather, we have the privilege of being significant and involved in God's Plan. That is what representing God is all about.

==== more to be written.

The All-Sufficient Christ

Too often, however, we are not willing to take such an attitude or action. We might struggle to do this out of a sense of 'ought' (especially having heard the above story), force ourselves to follow their example, but then get no joy out of it, nor any results. Hannah Whitall Smith had struggled for years to curb her inner anger, impatience, rebellion, etc. and be a 'good Christian', then one day she made the discovery that Christ's salvation is for the here and now as well as for the future, is for saving to sanctification now not only justification in the future. When she needed patience, she discovered, she no longer needed to store it up by lots of prayer, but rather she could let Christ be patience within her.

This is a great secret for those who represent God. We cannot represent God by our own strength or righteousness - we are always weak and tend to sin - but he himself can represent himself in and through us if we let him.

Representing God then becomes a double joy: not only the joy of being and doing something of ultimate Meaning, but also the joy that comes from experiencing the Living God active and dwelling within us. The greatest joy a creature can experience. He not only gives us the strength to represent him, but he also gives the will to do so, not just a general grand wish to represent him but a gritty change in our wills here and now so that we genuinely want what he wants. Are we angry because someone took advantage of us, and want to be angry? Well, he can remove our will to anger, as well as the anger itself, and replace it with love. This is supernatural! This is phenomenal!

I have myself discovered something of this, via that wonder little verse Philippians 2:13, "For God is at work in you to will and to work his good pleasure." See that part of my spiritual journey.


References

Dooyeweerd, H. (1955/1984) A New Critique of Theoretical Thought. Paidaiea Press, Presbyterian Publishing House. Smith, Alec. (1984) Now I call him brother. Basingstoke, UK: Marshall, Morgan and Scott.


These pages present 'New View' theology. Comments, queries welcome.

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Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2008-present, but you may copy this page as long as every copy includes this full copyright notice, and the copying is not for financial gain.

Created: 31 October 2008. Last updated: 31 May 2009 church congregations. 22 June 2009 phil 2:13 'all.suff'. 30 April 2011 more visible link to RepGod; keywords. 6 November 2011 start of 'Forever', and some rewrite. 20 November 2011 clearer on New Earth, and link to cfr. 21 November 2011 more on Forever and links to cfr, romans8. 11 December 2011 filled in the 'to be written' bits about Church, then moved these to church.html, and composed a summary here; added other types of representation incl academic, cultural, political, and revival; corrected link and font. 18 March 2012 four aspects of representing God. 2 August 2012 meaningfulness, Derrida. 3 September 2012 Better headings, with some new topics to be expanded. 15 November 2012 persecution. 25 December 2012 I came to see this page as discussing the theme of representing God in general, while the one in rrrr.html is for developing the theme within the theology of the New View, so I have begun to move stuff from there to here and vice versa. Rep in everyday work. 26 December 2012 completed it. 27 December 2012 Image, Contents and a few corrections, and better intro. 3 February 2013 link to salt.light. 25 October 2013 God's wrath v his people r.t. nations. 19 January 2014 minor correction. 22 January 2014 box about Amos. 23 January 2014 dangers of reprsentation, link to scripture#surprises. 1 February 2014 who.law: extra with link to Jonah. 3 February 2014 more emphasis on six duties of representing. 28 April 2014 WhatIsGodDoing in discu. 28 August 2015 Heb 9:14, serving God. 27 September 2015 HTML error corrected ('name' s/b 'href'!); added re blessing spreading out; higher and lower roads.