The Likeness Between Man and God


I was fortunate enough to receive a complimentary copy of Fr. Andrew Louth’s new book Introducing Eastern Orthodoxy Theology which I have slowly been reading. (Can’t seem to find the right time without being interrupted.)  I’m always hesitant whenever seeing the word introduction in the title. Seriously, how many times can I be introduced to Orthodox theology?  But if it’s good to freshen up on the basics from time to time, Fr. Louth’s book is an excellent place to start.  Albeit, it’s far from mere basics.  I am only half way through the book and I think it’s safe to say that it would serve as an excellent resource for both the one seeking out Orthodoxy as well as the accomplished theologian.

I’ll share a little of my reading here. In chapter 6, Being human – being in the image of God Fr. Louth affirms that we are made “according to the image” of God but when he looks at the Greek text of Genesis used by the Fathers, he notes that the used preposition kata “is quite a strong preposition; it would suggest the question, ‘According to what image?'”  While the English simply suggests it is according to the image of God, the Greek suggests something much more complex.  He continues:

The New Testament suggests Christ, the image of God, the one who images forth God in the incarnate state. So maybe there is here, for the Christian Greek ear, the idea that human kind was created according to Christ, who is the image of the Father. This may remind one of the depiction of creation in the north portal of Chartes Cathedral, where the cruciform halo makes it evident that it is Christ who is the Creator (as the Nicene Creed affirms: ‘through whom [that is, the Son] all things were made’), and in making man he makes one who is like him, who is in accordance with – kata – him.  So our very creation entails a relationship, not just to God as Creator, but to Christ, the Son of God Incarnate.

But there is another point to note: verse 26 adds – ‘and according to likeness’. The word translated ‘likeness’, homoiosis, suggests something more precise in Greek: the ending, –osis, implies a process, not a state [….]

This idea chimes in very well with the few uses of the language of image in the New Testament, for it is in the context of saying something about the goal of our being disciples of Christ, that the New Testament resorts to such language: we are being changed into his image from glory to glory. ‘Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is’ (1 John 3:2)…..  The language of image is the language of sight; the suggestion of these passages is that being in the image means there is a likeness between human kind and God that enables us to see, to know, God – it is a kind of epistemological principle of much ancient philosophy that only ‘like know like’: to know something is to discover affinity.”

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