Thursday, April 1, 2010
The Anthropomorphism of God
A couple of weeks ago a Church leader gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting about the Resurrection (Easter was coming up). After the meeting this Brother took me aside and said he wanted to get my opinion on something. He asked, “Why do you think it is so important that we teach that God has a body?”
Since I had just heard his talk on the Resurrection of Jesus I had some idea of where he was coming from with this question but it was still a very big question. I paused for a moment and then said, “I think that we over teach it.”
He looked a little confused.
Then I said, “I think we over teach, or overemphasize, that God looks like a man in his prime. You said it yourself, that the resurrected Jesus could walk through walls and rise up from the ground and depart into the clouds (See Acts). So I am saying that it is a very narrow teaching to emphasize that God has flesh and bones and looks like a man. God is more than that. But of course if God wanted to communicate to a human being in a dream, or otherwise, He probably would not appear as a fish or as an electron. God would be astute enough to pick a more effective communication medium. He would appear as something we could grasp. We teach our children (I pointed at Natalie, age 12, who was standing close by) about a God that looks like a man because that is all they can grasp; but surely God is greater than what children can grasp. So that is why I say we over teach the idea of an anthropomorphic God, because God must be more than that. [We over teach this concept when we expect educated adults to literally believe the same things that we teach our children.]
The Brother didn’t seem to want to engage the topic further and he started moving away. I guessed my answer was nowhere close to what he had been wondering about.
Before he got away I said a little more, “It doesn’t really make any difference to me what kind of body God has. I can’t say that I literally believe in a God that sits on a throne tapping his fingers while having a symbiotic relationship with His intestinal flora and having nipples, though if He is omnipotent then I’m sure He could do that.”
He looked at me without knowing what to say.
Then I said, “Well you asked.” And I gave him a big smile.
Now another person at Church thinks I’m odd.