I once led a retreat for a small group of Christians. I began the retreat by asking them to sit quietly for a moment and identify the main image for God which they carried around in their heads. After a few minutes of silence, each person went around the circle and shared with us their main image for God. Most people admitted their basic image of God was that of a mighty king sitting on a regal throne, bearded and resplendent, imposing and awesome. They pictured God as someone who vigorously fights evil, wipes out all enemies, and emerges from the fight as a victorious, supreme lord. Let’s call this image “God as Commander in Chief,” who by flicking one little finger can instantly change the course of the world.
You can find passages in the Bible that describe God more or less this way. However, we can get ourselves into a heap of trouble if this is our only image of God. For one thing, the Bible has hundreds of images for God. As an example, take the first two chapters of Genesis, which all by themselves have about twenty images for God, including artist, inventor, gardener, evaluator, experimenter, and others. Or take the small book of Hosea, which has some of the most eye-popping pictures of God anywhere in scripture, like God the Cuckolded Lover (2:2), or God the Maggot who eats putrid skin (5:12), and so on. Given this bounty of images for God, if we choose any one of them and willfully reject the others, we’ll end up with a badly misguided view of God. By using a rich variety of metaphors for God, we end up instead with a more complex picture of who God actually is.
- Revelation 4:1 - 5:7