I Speak, Therefore I Am . . .
by Jeff Boyer
A friend and fellow believer recently asked a general question, in a public venue, about the so-called “Word of Faith” movement (sometimes unnecessarily and disrespectfully called “Name It and Claim It,” “Gab It and Grab It,” and other demeaning names). She received a number of responses, some pointing to both published and on-line resources critical of the movement and aspects of its theology. I read those with interest, finding some negative consensus as regards the movement’s correlation of faith and vocalization. One aspect of the Word of Faith movement—hereafter referred to, simply for brevity, as WoF—is often overlooked by its critics but is related to its “apparent” (but not actual) validity and its descent into heresy: that is its relationship to creation “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27, 9:6). The Church (with a capital C), before and particularly since the Reformation period, has made a point of affirming that we humans are made in the image of God—an important concept for the populist and individualist emphases of the Reformation and post-Reformation gospel. The reformers were clear, as have been most theologians since, that this does not impute human characteristics to God; God, notwithstanding the incarnation of Jesus in human form as well as more Sunday School portraits than one can imagine, does not actually have arms, bunions, knobby knees, or a long, white beard. He does, however, have personality, separateness (holiness), presence, power, goodness, love, knowledge, and wisdom, and Scripture teaches that He has these characteristics without limitation; He is, in fact, the definition and standard of these characteristics.
If being created in the image of God does not impute human characteristics to God, it also does not impute divine characteristics to humans. We have, because of gracious decisions He made during original creation, attributes that are like His, but they are not His. It is not that we share His characteristics but that He gives us characteristics that reflect His. Our personalities reflect His personality (indeed, the several personalities within the triune “Godhead”); our individualities reflect His holiness; our presences are not merely unenlightened misunderstandings of an essential, undifferentiated oneness of everything; in our power we can both choose to and make things, and make things happen; we recognize good and not-good; we have emotions, we feel, positively and negatively, about our own lives and about other parts of creation; we can combine and direct emotions beyond our own lives to experience and express love for others; we know things and can add to our knowledge; we can go beyond knowledge to link facts with emotions and pattern recognition and so experience and express wisdom; and so on. In every case, however, humans are not the standard of these characteristics; at our best we reflect the Creator who gives them to us, while at our worst we bring shame to His characteristics and to the grace by which He bestows them upon us. This is, of course, where the effective, atoning work of Christ, on our behalf, enters the big picture…
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