Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Have we gotten our analogies backward?

I've begun to wonder over the course of the past month if we as a church haven't gotten our analogies backwards.

I'm always hearing about how the relationship between Christ and his bride the church is "like" the relationship between a husband and wife.

But to say this is similar to saying that Christ was made to be "like" Adam.

Don't get me wrong, He was. But recently (thanks to Pr. Stuckwisch) I've come to think of that concept a little bit differently.

It has been explained to me that Adam was made in the image of Christ, not the other way around. Adam was made to mirror the "perfect Man" even Jesus.

If Adam was made in the image of Christ then should it not then follow at least a tiny bit that his wife, Eve was made in the image of the Church? Should we not rather say that the relationship between husband and wife was created to paint a picture of Christ and his Bride?

Have we not a tendency to view things from an earthly form of egocentrism. We in our arrogance say that heavenly things are "like" earthly things. Would it not be better to praise our Father that in his mercy He has made earthly things in the image of heavenly things? That he has preserved for us husbands and wives, fathers and mothers who not only provide for our physical needs but by analogy point us to the Great Husband and Father who ultimately provides for all our needs and his Bride who nurtures us as she submits to her Husband and gives us birth into his family.

Therefore, should it not better be said, as does the blessed St. Paul that, "husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her, so that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless"? And when he continues, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord," is there any question that this is what the Church does?

So we ought to recognize that we are creatures made after the pattern God determines. God didn't decide to form the relationship between Christ and the Church so similarly to marriage so that we poor mortals could better understand it. Instead he gave us marriage so that we could better understand how much He loves us.

I hope that makes sense. And now I really need to go to sleep!


Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

It makes great sense, Truth Questioner. You've nailed it, spot on. Adam & Eve, from the beginning, were made with a view toward Christ and His Bride, the Church. Marriage is always in reference to that divine Husband and His Lady, the Mother of His Christians (all the living).

So, too, God is not "like" our fathers on earth, but rather, every fatherhood on earth is named for Him who IS the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ from all eternity.

You have put your finger on both the way that things are too often gotten backwards and misunderstood, and on the proper way of considering God's gifts.

Moria said...

You are spot on, of course, in your understanding of the direction of the comparison. But just keep in mind that in common speech we still say that Christ is like Adam or the church is like Christ's bride because it is exactly these earthly, more familiar, things are preaching to us of a more profound truth. That is to say, the earthly things are the image of the eternal, but because these images are our first level of familiarity, they also give real insight into the eternal and transcendental.

The Apostle himself does this in 1 Corinthians 15, and then goes on to say also how Christ is different and better than Adam.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Well, yes, good point. That's a helpful clarification.

Husbands and Fathers are analagous to Christ and His Father. However, this is so, not by way of any humanly-invented mental comparisons or linguistic analogies, but precisely because the Holy Triune God has created us in His Image and Likeness.

Therefore, when people argue (as I have often heard, especially in academic settings) that it "just doesn't work" to speak of God as "Father," for example, because too many people don't have such good fathers; and so, they conclude, this "analogy" is misleading -- or, again, when the complaint is made that husbands aren't very much "like" Jesus after all -- it needs to be said that God is the Father, by whom all fatherhood on earth is named, and that Christ Jesus is the true and heavenly Bridegroom who serves us perfectly and faithfully in all things.

In other words, the likeness of earthly fathers and husbands to God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ is not a case of man trying to make God into his image, but precisely the Image and Likeness of God that He has created in man as a revelation of Himself. Sadly, that revelation is terribly distorted and horribly imperfect in all of us, because of sin, but it has been perfectly realized and fulfilled for us in the Person of the incarnate Christ Jesus, who is both true God, the exact Image of the Father, and also true and perfect Man.

The purpose of the "analogies," which are God's gracious gift to us, by His design, and by His creative Word and work, is not that we should perceive God to be "like us," but that we should become and be like Him. Not apart from our bodies of flesh and blood, but exactly there in the good vocations to which He has called us (like unto Himself!). What God the Lord is by nature, we are called to be by His grace in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Thus, the purpose of the preaching -- for husbands and fathers, as also for wives (who are called to be, not only "like the Church," but members of the Church, the Bride of Christ, as are we all) -- the purpose of the preaching is not that we should simply have a better "picture" of what God is like, but that we should submit to one another in love, and serve one another for Jesus' sake; that father's should love and serve and care for their children in the way that God the Father does for all of us; that husband's should love and serve and sacrifice for their wives, and forgive their wives, and cleave faithfully to their wives, as Christ has done and still continues to do for His Church; and that wives should love and serve their husbands faithfully and confidently, for Jesus' sake, as unto the Lord Himself.

Although the Image and Likeness of God have been perverted in us and lost by our sin, all of this has been securely established in the flesh of Christ, the incarnate Son of God, and recovered and renewed in us by His gracious Word and Spirit, by His precious Gospel of forgiveness and life. Already, by His grace, Christian fathers and husbands and wives are more like Him, who is our Father in Christ Jesus; and more like Him who is our Head; and more like His Bride, as He has already taken us to be in Holy Baptism, as members of His holy Church. And in the Resurrection of all flesh, in our glorified bodies like unto His own, we shall see Him as He is, and we shall know Him as we are known by Him, because we shall be like Him. Then the time for all analogies shall be done, as we shall see him with our own eyes, whom for now we know by faith.

TruthQuestioner said...

Thank you Pastors! I'm going to have to read these again after this hectic absurd week is over. I really appreciate your feedback and insight on these things. That's part of the purpose of musing actually. Thanks again.