Wednesday, November 17, 2010

God's Appendix

Man is supposed to be created in god's image, right?

In Mormon theology, this is interpreted quite literally as meaning that god has a body, normal human size, male, just "exalted."  Exalted means that it is immortal and has no blood for some reason?  But in every way it is supposed to be analogous to our bodies, just without blemish or fallibility.
I am aware that in other Christian traditions, this bit of doctrine is interpreted much more loosely... god is somehow ehtereal and everywhere at once, so he doesn't have a body per se, but he's like us in some sense.  I guess we can regard god as fundamentally human, in this case, except "higher" in some way.

I was just thinking about what the implications of this idea, that god is like a man, are.  I was of course thinking in the Mormon context because that's how I grew up, so I was imagining a physical god with a body like a human's.

It occured to me:  does god have an appendix?  How about tonsils?  Adenoids?  How about all of our junk DNA, most of which has absolutely no effect in our makeup and development?  If so, why does god have useless organs and parts?  He can hardly be called "perfect" in that case.
How about pores?  Does god sweat?  Can he sneeze?  Does he have to clear his divine ears of heavenly earwax?  It all seems like a pretty funny way to think of deity.

But for that matter, if god can get things done just by speaking or willing, why does he even need arms and legs and fingers, and in short, a physical body at all?

If we take the tack that god is not physical, but sort of an incorporeal-but-human being, we come up with some additional concerns:  Exactly how is man in god's image?
I can think of several possibilities, of course.  Our minds, our moral intuition, our imaginations, etc, are all modeled after god's.  We are sentient, modeled after god's sentience.
This is fine as a concept.  However, it collides with some other doctrines that I've considered:

For example, that "God's ways are not our ways."  I've been told this over and over when I have been questioning god's actions, given the world as it is.  Don't try to justify god, his thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours that we can't hope to ever follow them.
I can understand where this is coming from, but it seems inconsistent with the above-mentioned doctrine.  If we are made in god's image but he is not physical, how are his ways not our ways?  Our behaviors are presumably based on his ways.  Maybe it is that we are like children, not quite up to his level of abstraction.  But I really wonder how; adult human beings are capable of extremely high levels of abstraction.  Non-euclidian geometries, for example, represent a very thouroughly-studied field that is purely abstract; it has absolutely no relation to our experiences except the very exceptional case of the geometry which is the one of our experience.  If it is imaginable, we can think about it and study it.  If we can't make any headway in metaphysics, it is logically impossible as Kant demonstrated.  If god has tools we do not, then he is not necessarily more capable than we are, any more than a physics student today is more capable than Isaac Newton.  Just lucky.

So, if god has no body and does not think anything like us, in what way exactly are we made in god's image? 
Is it not more likely that god is made in our image?
He sure tends to conform to the prevailing philosophy of a given people at a given time, but only in that time to those people.


  1. Your last paragraph is killer. Well said.

  2. Does God have a belly button? God the father I mean assuming that Jesus has one from Mary's delivery. Does he have a vestigial tailbone? How about can he sneeze? Isn't that an involuntary reaction and muscle contraction? What about other involuntary action muscle groups such as intestines and heart? Can God be forced to do something like beat his heart when he doesn't want to? How about can he make something too heavy for him to lift? if he can, then he is not all powerful and if he can't he is not all powerful.