The authors, Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, wrote In His Image in the first person “I” as if only one author. Dr. Brand is a surgeon and Philip Yancey is a writer of Christian books and articles. Together they combined their expertise and knowledge to create this book that compares the workings of the human body to the workings of the church as the Body of Christ.
By their own admission, neither of the authors is a theologian. They also admit that analogies have limitations “to convey the essence of God in the world.” They describe the purpose of In His Image in this paragraph: “…image has come to mean the illusion of what something is presented to be, rather than the essence of what it really is. In this book entitled In His Image I want to reinforce the original meaning of image as an exact likeness, not a deceptive illusion. We must return to the concept of likeness to understand the ‘image of God’ we are intended to carry.”
If, like me, you are the least bit squeamish, you will find the book uncomfortable emotionally to read. Dr. Brand draws his illustrations primarily from his experience treating leprosy patients who have suffered mutilating injuries due to their disease.
The authors divide the book into five sections: Image, Blood, Head, Spirit, and Pain. Under Image they “center on a community…called to restore the image of God in the world.” “When we join his Body, it is the image of God Himself we must find, not our own. We find it not by proving ourselves, but by releasing that desperate dependence on our own self-images in favor of taking on His glorious image.” The authors did not focus on how an individual is transformed into the likeness of God, but rather how the Christian church is to show the world the likeness of God.
I feel embarrassed by that statement since I see so little of God in the image we present in this world. In Jesus’ letters to the churches (Revelation 1-3), he calls on us all to repent.
In the section Blood, the descriptions of the purpose blood serves in the human body explain how blood is such a perfect analogy to the Christian symbol of Jesus’ blood giving life, cleansing and protecting us spiritually.
In the section Head, Dr. Brand states: “In all respects but one I am now a different person--the exception being my neurons or nerve cells. Never replaced, these maintain the continuity of selfhood that keeps the entity of Paul Brand alive.” The brain is a message center that receives and sends out messages and retains our memories. The authors compare this to Christ as the Head of the Body--the church: “Today, Christ’s Body consists of millions of individual cells in His church. As the Head, He establishes His presence in the world through people like us. In a mysterious way He has chosen to make our prayers, our actions, our proclamations of His truth and justice His chief means of communicating Himself into the world of matter.”
In Spirit, Dr. Brand states, “We are, all of us, five minutes from death.” Breathing oxygen is essential to sustaining life. Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot remain spiritually alive. This section also uses other physical functions as analogies to the Holy Spirit: “Breath fills in only one aspect of the role of the Spirit.”
The last section Pain, explains why pain is important to a human body. Having no pain, those with leprosy injure themselves without knowing it’s happening. The authors finish the book with the chapter “Pain of God.” The authors assert: “By sending His Son to earth, God learned to feel pain in the same way we feel pain. Our prayers and cries of suffering take on greater meaning because we now know them to be understood by Him.”
In His Image challenged my imperfect and incomplete view of God and His church. The examples of real people, those hurting, those helping, and the analogies the authors provided have expanded my sense of the needs of a suffering world, waiting for the restoration of all things that God is working to complete. The analogies helped me see our imperfect church in a more positive light.
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