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Like Father, like Son

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Like Father, Like Son

In the preface of his book, Like Father, Like Son, Tom Smail gives us the reason for his writing: "This book is an attempt to discover what it might mean for our humanity that God is Trinity."(p. xi) He goes on to give his readers a general outline of what he'll be covering, beginning with how the view of Trinitarian doctrine has changed in recent times, and ending with a discussion on what we say about the triune God has deep implications with how we handle our relationship with others.

The first chapter, Whose Image, deals with the issue of who made whom. Smail begins by giving an example of a mother and a child. The mother claims that her son looks the same as the father, but the viewer can only affirm that if he/she knows what the father looks like. He sums this up by saying "what you can say about the image depends on what you know about the original. We can tell whether and in what ways we are like God, only if we also know what God himself is like...Our being is dependent on his being."(p. 2)

The basic Christian doctrine of humanity is that we are made in the image of God. But that doctrine isn't necessarily held outside of the Christian faith, as Smail points out. The opposing argument is that "God has not made us in his image, but rather that we have made him in ours."(p. 3) This view was first upheld by Ludwig Feuerbach. Feuerbach's argument is that "when we think we are talking about God, we are, in fact, just talking about ourselves...Just as a film projector throws images on to a blank screen, we project these ideas on to that ultimate reality and call them God."(p. 5) This view has been adopted and adapted, as Smail points out, by two contemporaries of Feuerbach, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. Both Marx and Freud push this argument further by saying that "God is, psychologically, nothing other than an exalted father..."(p. 8) In refute to these arguments, Smail points out that Paul, in his writing in Ephesians, has the projection turned around. In Ephesians 3:14, Paul writes that "I bow my knees before the Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth takes its name." Smail puts it as such: "...we are in touch with a process of projection that is moving in exactly the opposite direction, not from us to God, but from God to us."(p.17)

Smail summarizes the chapter by saying "If God's revelation in Christ is true, then we should be able to see how it shows us the ultimate truth about ourselves. When we know the original, we will be able to recognize the image. If the original is phony, the image will be a shadow; if the original is glorious, the image will be bright."(p. 36-37)

The focus shifts to a Biblical Image, with special interest in the creation story; most particularly Genesis 1:26, 'Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness."' It is noted that the first creation story deals with humanity in regards to the setting of creation with heaven and earth, and all living things, while the second focuses more on the relationship with God and living creatures, including Eve. It is also noted that the first creation story is where we derive the image of God language from. Smail includes key words such as selem (image) and demut (likeness), and explains the implications the use of those words has on our understanding of how we are made in the imago Dei. The biblical image is summarized by Smail: "Like the rest of the creation we owe our being entirely to the will and purpose of God, but our distinctness from the rest of creation is that God has mirrored himself in us, made us to be like himself so that he can relate to us and we to him in a way that is unique."(p. 47)

Smail moves from Biblical Image to God's Image. In doing so, he gives a brief history of the doctrine of the Trinity. His view of the Trinity falls closely in line with that of Augustine who believes that "the Father is the lover, the Son the beloved, and the Spirit the love that is between them and that unites them"(p. 75) Smail writes that "Creation is from and for the Father, but it is through the Lord Jesus Christ. The one is the source and destination of the creation, the other is the executive agent through which it comes into being and is set in motion toward that destination."(p. 70) The majority of this chapter deals with the progression of the Trinitarian view, as well as the differences between the Western and Eastern views. However, Smail asks an important question in the conclusion of this chapter: "If God is 'persons in relationship', what does that say about us, and if God is initiating Father, responsive Son, and consummating Spirit, what does that say about the kind of people that in his image we were made to be?"(p. 107) This question is fully answered in a further chapter which will be discussed later. For now, our attention is turned from God's Image to Human Image.

Just as he ended the last chapter with a question, so Smail begins his chapter on Human Image with a question: "can we be described individualistically in and for ourselves or, if not, what are the sets of relationships that make us what we are?"(p. 110) In terms of individualism, "We are human because, as thinking individuals, we can go out from our sure base in ourselves, in which we know ourselves, to know that which is other than ourselves..."(p. 110-111) This is summed up quite nicely by Rene Descartes when he said "cogito ergo sum, I think, therefore I am." Putting this into a Christian context, Smail says that "If I do know God, the world, and other people, it is because, first and foremost and the basis for all other knowledge, I know myself."(p. 111) In terms of our humanity in regards to relationships, Smail offers this reasoning: "If we believe in the God of Israel who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, then we have a basis for understanding universal human identity."(p. 136-137) Further, he states that "We become human in the way that we do through our receiving from others. It is in our relationships with them that we become aware of ourselves as persons capable of and obligated to committed responses to other people and to God, who is the ultimate source of the giving and receiving that structures our life..."(p. 145) It is because of this, and through this that we are created in God's image.

Smail then begins his discussion of Triune Image. He states that "We are in the image of God, not just because our personhood is dependent upon our relationality, but because, by virtue of our creation by the triune God, we mirror the Father,we mirror the Son, and



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