MADE IN HIS IMAGE AND LIKENESS
Copyright 1996, 2014 by Nina Snyder
All rights reserved
A cup of the ocean is all ocean
but not all of the ocean.
Our Lord Jesus–all God–nothing but God—
but not all of God!
– Arthur Burt
A science fiction writer explores various concepts about God:
Hamilton felt the platform shudder. He was the last member of the tour group to follow their guide onto the observation platform. Suddenly, the platform above the Belmont bevatron generator was gone. Hamilton lunged forward, clutched at Marsha’s fluttering sleeve, then tumbled after her. As the group fell to ground level, a six-billion volt proton beam hit them…and so begins the novel, Eye in the Sky, written by Philip Dick in 1957.
In each of the succeeding chapters, the group enters and lives in a world created in the mind of one member of the group, according to his or her concept of God and His universe. One of the tourists believes that all machines are aggressively hostile to humans; another sees God as a forbidding eye in the sky. Another of the group believes she herself is God and can abolish whatever or whomever she dislikes out of existence. Bit by bit, she eliminates entire categories of people and objects which she finds distasteful, until finally, her world (and that chapter) comes to an end.
Although the belief systems of some of the group are bizarre, others are more in line with what the average person believes. Although, when even mild twists are carried to their logical conclusions, disaster engulfs the members of the group. The story closes as the tour group hits the floor at the base of the generator with everyone’s regaining consciousness back in the real world. There they are left to wonder what is, after all, the true nature of God and His creation.
The dilemma in trying to relate to a triune God
Every man has a concept of God, however fuzzy it may be. Those of us who believe in the three-part nature of God don’t question it, but we don’t really understand it. We reason that God is unknowable. How could we ever hope to understand the Creator, the one who moment-by-moment holds together the molecular structure of all of us, faithful believers and rebels alike (Col.1:17)? Of course, our understanding is bound to be limited, but I do believe Scripture holds more answers for us than we realize.
In the beginning God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” (Gen. 1:26), clearly indicating His plurality. Although there is a singular Hebrew word for “God”, the word most frequently used throughout the Old Testament, “Elohim”, is not singular but plural . In order for all the persons of the Godhead to be truly God, they must be equally of the same intrinsic, fundamental nature. Jesus, however, spoke to and about His Father as if the Father not were only separate from Himself but also higher.
The Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) is a model of the penitent sinner’s asking the Father (not the Son or the Holy Spirit) to forgive him. Consequently, some believe it is wrong to ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit to forgive us for our sins. We could understand these scriptures and many others if we could grasp the inter-relationship of the Godhead and how each person of the Trinity relates to us. Of the many questions Christians have as they read scriptures pertaining to the nature of God, we will consider ten of the most puzzling.
- If there is only one true God (Deu. 6:4), how can Jesus be said both to be God and to be with God? (John 1:1-3)
- If Jesus is God, and if there is only one God, how can there be one greater (John 14:28) and more knowledgeable than Jesus (Matt. 24:36), who has sent Jesus on a mission (John 17:45), and Jesus still be that omnipotent God?
Revelation 13:8 identifies Jesus as, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Considering man’s creation from the perspective of eternity rather than from the realm of time, we may conclude the Adam of Genesis was patterned after Christ, the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), and not vice versa.
Even though man is not an exact replica of God, it is accurate to say God created man similar to Himself. We are unable to conduct a physical examination of God, but since man is made in God’s image and likeness, it is likely that examining man will provide us with some clues. Some might fear this approach would be exchanging “the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man” (Rom. 1:23). Paul, however, holds that God’s “invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.” (Rom 1:20)
Unger’s Bible Dictionary states the resemblance between God and man is in the areas of spirituality, personality, holiness, love, and dominion. These concern character and authority, but in order to answer our ten questions, we must know something about God’s internal functions and operations. Ephesians 4:4-6 speaks of one body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one God. Verse 12 identifies that one body as the Body of Christ and verse 15 recognizes Christ as its head. It is this man who we will examine.
In 1 Cor. 12:14-18, Paul identifies the ear, eye, and nose as parts of the body, not as parts of the head. The control center of these and all other parts of the body is the brain. This point is essential in determining how Christ functions in relation to His body and in seeing a definitive comparison between the supernatural and the natural.
The triune head of man
The human brain can be roughly divided into three major sections: (A.) the left hemisphere, (B.) the right hemisphere, and underneath these, (C.) the lower portion of the brain which includes the cerebellum. Each hemisphere has specific, though often overlapping, functions and capabilities. Together with the lower brain, they initiate, coordinate and regulate all of the movements, processes, and operations of the body.
The left hemisphere, dominant in the vast majority of individuals, controls the right side of the body which is why most people are right-handed. It specializes in spoken and written language, abstract and rational thinking, analysis, mathematics, and logic. Keep in mind that the term “dominant” refers to that hemisphere’s relationship with the body in regard to handedness and does not imply dominance over the other hemisphere.
The right hemisphere, usually the non-dominant, controls the left side of the body. It specializes in spatial perception (perceiving and understanding objects relative to each other in space); is non-temporal and intuitive; and has instantaneous, global insight (spontaneous grasp of the whole picture).
Some authorities believe it is specialized in synthesis (the putting together of parts to form a whole) and analogous relationships (seeing similarities in some respects between things otherwise unlike). Although speech is mostly an operation of the left hemisphere, certain elements of speech, such as using and understanding tonal innuendoes, seem to be processed by the right hemisphere.
Whatever the actual contribution of each hemisphere, they do work in cooperative harmony. In a normal, healthy individual, both cerebral hemispheres collaborate in processing incoming and out-going data through electrochemical impulses which travel across the corpus callosum, a thick bundle of 200 million nerve fibers, which connects the two hemispheres.
Sperry’s split-brain studies
During the 1950’s, this vital link between the two hemispheres was severed surgically in a number of severely afflicted epileptic patients to prevent the transmission of epileptic activity from one side of the brain to the other. Some of these patients had been suffering numerous seizures with little relief.
Until R.W. Sperry, R.E. Myers, and Michael Gazzaniga began the split-brain studies of these patients, most people had assumed their mind was a unitary system, not a pair of mental twins which inhabit the same body. A person usually refers to himself as “I,” not “we.”
Sperry and the others developed ways of presenting both visual and auditory stimuli to only one of the hemispheres by means of a special device, and discovered one hemisphere could receive information apart from the other. Consequently, one side of a person’s brain could know what the other hemisphere did not, with the one responding to various stimuli, much to the other’s surprise.
Jesus and the Father are equally God
How does this relate to the Godhead? My brain resembles God in the same way my two cerebral hemispheres are both “me” and at the same time are “we,” as was demonstrated in the split-brain patients. Although Jesus existed in the form of God (Phil. 2:6), when He came to earth as a baby He “emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant being made in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:7)
Jesus’ emptying of Himself was like severing the corpus callosum which had previously connected an epilepsy patient’s two hemispheres together. The Father (illustrated by the dominant hemisphere) sent Jesus on a mission that used His specialties (remember how Jesus taught with perfect parables). Now that the Son had emptied Himself (severed from the Father), the Father could know what the Son didn’t know. Then, when Jesus ascended back to the Father, His former position and condition were restored, just as Col. 2:9 tells us, “in Him, all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” There Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19), as the non-dominant hemisphere sits to the right of the dominant left hemisphere.
- How can the Holy Spirit be equally God with the Father and the Son if He only speaks what He hears the Father saying (John 16:13)?
Beneath the cerebral hemispheres is the third portion of the brain, comprised of several highly specialized parts. The largest of these parts is the cerebellum or “little brain.” Although it doesn’t initiate motor activity, it co-operatively plays a crucial role in voluntary muscle movements, including the mechanics of speech, eye-hand coordination, posture, and fine motor skills.
The cerebellum adjusts the force and range of the body’s movement. More than being merely a communication center between the cerebral hemispheres and the body, the cerebellum operates in a synergistic way with the two cerebral hemispheres. That is, working together, they have a greater total effect than the sum of their individual actions.
The cerebellum receives information from the two cerebral hemispheres about actions which are planned. While movement is in progress, the cerebellum continually receives information about motor performance, comparing commands for activity with the actual movements themselves. It is then able to correct and modify subsequent movements.
No matter how comprehensive the concept, or how well the strategy planned, no work of art, no symphonic phrase, no graceful arabesque in ballet could ever be performed without the cerebellum. In this way, the Holy Spirit is like the cerebellum. His activity flows out of his communication with the other two members of the Godhead. It was through the work of the Holy Spirit the heavens were garnished (Job 26:13), all the animals on earth were created (Ps. 104:24-30), and life was breathed into man (Job 33:4).
From its connection with both cerebral hemispheres and with the brain stem at the top of the spinal cord, the cerebellum directs the movements of the body. In like manner, the Holy Spirit communicates His corrections and affirmations, as well as the purposes and insights from Father and Son, to the Body of Christ in order to influence its life.
In the fullest sense of his functioning within the Body of Christ, the Holy Spirit is probably more completely typified by the entire lower brain, which includes the involuntary functions of glands, organs, etc., rather than the cerebellum alone. For the purposes of this study, though, we have confined our analogy within the limits of answering our ten questions.
- How can the Father and the Son be equal with the Holy Spirit when blasphemy against them is forgiven but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not (Matt. 12:31)?
According to J. Sidlow Baxter , blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:22-23) is “ascribing the Holy Spirit’s gracious and holy activities to the devil.” The very fact of a person’s fearing he might have committed the unpardonable sin is proof he has not. If he had, he would be incapable of recognizing that possibility. John L. Mckenzie explains the reason this sin is not forgiven is not because of a lack of God’s mercy but because the person in question views all of the input he receives from the Holy Spirit as undesirable. This rejection of the Holy Spirit’s influence in his life thwarts the urgings of the Holy Spirit which would draw the person to repent and to ask for forgiveness.
This corresponds to the relationship between the body and the cerebellum. For example: in the rare case where degenerations occur in the neural pathways descending from cerebellum to the body, a person so afflicted experiences discoordination of his body, becoming increasingly less able to move with smooth coordination. As his spastic, ataxic condition develops, more and more of his motor responses are involved.
If the degeneration were of a temporary nature, there would be only a suspension of controlled voluntary motion. Since it is extensive and permanent, however, the impairment is also permanent. As the degeneration progresses, the affected portion of the body eventually can no longer receive or respond properly to impulses from the cerebellum which had previously coordinated its voluntary movements. Healing or “forgiveness” is not possible.
In the same way, a person can become progressively cut off from the influence of the Holy Spirit by quenching His influence and denying Him control over his life. In his final state, that individual views the Lord’s ways as evil, and Satan’s ways as good.
- How can the Holy Spirit be a person who is separate from the Father (John 16:7-11) and also be the means by which Jesus was conceived (Matt. 1:18)?
Although Mary was “with child by the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:18), John calls Jesus the “only begotten from the Father” (John 1:14). In Isaiah 48:12, one who identifies Himself as, “the first” and “the last,” tells us in verse 16 the Lord God (Adoni Yehovah) and His Spirit have sent Him.
The specialties each hemisphere contributes in speech and movement are communicated almost simultaneously to the cerebellum. The cerebellum adds its own refinements and transmits its electrochemical impulses to the body which then responds. It was the Father (the dominant hemisphere) who planned and initiated the earthly begetting of the Son, and it was the Holy Spirit (the cerebellum) who carried out the act by His divine energy. The distinctive powers and properties of both Father and Holy Spirit were necessary.
When Jesus walked the earth, the Holy Spirit was with Him, enabling Him to move in unity with the Father. The same is true in our analogy. Despite a severed corpus callosum in split-brain patients, the cerebellum communicates with the cortex (the outer surface) of each hemisphere. In this way, the cerebellum can still coordinate each side of the body in actions, such as walking, even where direct communication between the two hemispheres has been lost.
- In what manner does Christ indwell each believer (Rom. 8:10)?
- Is this different from the Holy Spirit indwelling believers (Rom. 8:9-11, 16)?
- How could we be in God and also have Christ in us (Rom. 8:9) if Christ is in heaven (Mark 16:19) seated at the right hand of the Father (Col. 3:1)?
Although we know that Jesus physically ascended into heaven and there sits at the right hand of the Father, we also know, in the spiritual sense, He never left us: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
In John 17:21 we read that Jesus desired we would all be one as He and the Father are one, and we would be in Them. God intended this union not only for eternity, but also for this present age, so “the world may believe that Thou didst send Me.”
All three persons of the Godhead spiritually indwell us in this way, both corporately as members of the Body of Christ and as individual believers: just as every healthy human being has only one left hemisphere (typifying the Father), one right hemisphere (typifying the Son), one cerebellum (typifying the Holy Spirit), and one body (typifying the Church), so it is with God and the Body of Christ. The Son sits at the right hand of the Father, and together with the Holy Spirit, through Divine energy, enlivens our mortal bodies (Rom. 8:11). We in the church are individually members (or cells) of His body (1 Cor. 12:27).
We are seated together with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6) where we are “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). As members of the Body of Christ, we are one with God in the same way individual cells which make up a person’s body are one with the person’s head. As long as a cell is connected, it has the life of that person in it. Since we, individually, are in Christ, we therefore have Christ’s life in us.
9.What does it mean that the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father (John 17:21)?
10.How does this exemplify our being one, and in what way are we to be in them (John 17:21-23)?
In John 17:21, Jesus speaks of the profound unity of the Godhead as a pattern for us. God’s internal union is based upon his essence in the mutuality of his love (1 John 4:8), of his light (1 John 1:5), and of his holiness (Ps. 99:9). Just as the flow of electrochemical energy courses among the brain’s left and right hemispheres and the cerebellum, so it is within the Godhead. Each person of the Trinity is so joined to the others in the flow of their unity, it cannot be distinguished where one leaves off and the other begins.
Knowing that God is one being who has created man as a representation of Himself, frees us from unscriptural prohibitions in relating to Him. With this picture in focus, we are free to pray without restriction to God as a triune being or to each person of the Trinity as a part of the whole.
In so far as we consider and experience the truth that we are in Christ, the unity of the Body of Christ will resemble God’s unity in love, light, and holiness. Our love for each member of the body, defined by 1 Cor. 13:4-8, builds up the body (Eph. 4:16). Walking together in the light of truth brings us into authentic fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7) and our uncompromising morality preserves the integrity of our common life together (1 John 3:3).
“When He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Then, we shall experience the fullness of all He intended us to be when He created us in His image and likeness.
RESOURCES FOR STUDY ON THE TRINITY:
Dick, Philip K. Eye in the Sky. Boston: Gregg Press, 1979
Bogen, J.E. “Some Educational Aspects of Hemispheric Specialization”. U.C.L.A. Educator 17 (1975): 24-32.
Gazzaniga, Michael S. “Organization of the Human Brain,” Science, Vol. 245, Sept. 1, 1989, 947-951.
Kandel, Eric R. and Schwartz, James H., ed., Principles of Neural Science 2nd Edition. New York: Elsevier, 1985.
Baxter, J. Sidlow. Explore the Book. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1960.
McKenzie, John L. Dictionary of the Bible. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1965.
Kandel, Eric R. and Schwartz, James H., ed., Principles of Neural Science 2nd Edition. New York: Elsevier, 1985.
Lawton Smith, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Florida