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Chapter 4

News 231

IMAGES, REALITY and SURREALITY

 Images, their Cultivation, Uses and Abuses

Local TV late July 2002

In society today, your 'image', or your company's image, or your national image, or the image you bear in this or that dimension among the peoples of this earth, your life quality rating, whether 'first' with Norway and second with Sweden, third with Canada, because of this or that, or some combination deemed most suitable, fourth with Belgium, fifth with Australia, somewhat displaced since last time, or next with the USA: these things are deemed very important.

Polish your image for your firm, for your Website, for your employes, for your political party or for the nation's voters. Firms may be employed, things computed and disputed: what would turn this or that to the image advantage ?

The fundamental premiss appears to be this: it matters little what you are, provided that what you appear sells, gains votes, elevates impressions of you, of your firm, nation or party. Then Public Relations people can be paid to improve the perception of your image, or maybe even start to create a new or novel one. Opinions can be sought as to what is thought of your firm, what would be thought, what could be thought, and you are launched as if by rocket, into the space of image readers, to be surveyed like a space station from the earth, or perhaps, like a failed Russian rocket, being mapped as to where it is most likely to 'come down'.

In this case, it is more likely to be where it should go up, but if it is coming down, how to land the image most safely ...

Perhaps now the romantic couple can project images onto each other's retinas, consider the cost of sustaining those images, and the danger if they scatter, shatter or give a variable light. As to principle, what worry is this ? leave that to the princes, priests and pastors, if they are interested. Get what you can, give what you must, and hope for the best, seems to be the way.
 
 

A BETTER WAY

There is however a better way. We see it in Jesus Christ. He is, to be sure, described in this way (Hebrews 1):

"who, being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as he has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they."

 

Now this usage is common in this section of Hebrews. Thus you have (Hebrews 2:6) "What is man, or son of man" translated of course, "what is man, or the son of man" in English. However in this elegant style, the article is omitted from 'son of man' as it is in 1:9, "You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness" - no article, the things being well-known and presented in their bare categorical character. It is not 'a righteousness' but the thing itself, plainly expressed, 'righteousness'. Similarly in 6:2, we read literally, "of doctrine of baptisms" but in English, we render
"of the doctrine of baptisms". In 2:9, we have literally, "so that by grace of God" which we have to render, idiomatically, "by the grace of God."

This trend towards the brief, elegant impactive revelation of the abstract or invisible in these terms, then is also found in 1:3, rendered in the NKJV, "who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His Person", though literally it is "who being brightness of His glory, and express image of His Person." Now there is nothing strange about using such a reference to a vital or well-known quality in this way; it is just that one wishes to emphasise that this is here the nature of the case, especially with such primary things.

Of course, contextually, Hebrews is precisely making the case that what Christ is, nought else is, neither angel nor any other being, for Christ is referred to in the Old Testament in terms which befit divinity alone, even equality with God, even granted the use of His name without qualification, of Himself!

What however is this exact image of His person ? the precise outworking into expressive form of the invisible reality of God Himself ? He is "the image of the invisible God" says Colossians 1:15, and the "firstborn of all creation" by virtue of the fact that ALL of creation, the whole category, is HIS creation. He has this potent place in the scheme of things BECAUSE, we read, "all things were created by Him", or as John puts it in 1:3, "without Him, nothing was made that was made."
The realm of the 'made' is His: and as to anything made, HE made it! He is therefore increate.

Nevertheless, as far as man is concerned, Christ presents the image of the invisible God. You have seen Me, He told the disciples, and you have seen the Father (John 14). Why then ASK to be shown the Father ? He remonstrated! What He is, is what Christ has shown.
 

       Here then is a beautiful image. Instead of pretence, is reality.

       Instead of public relations, there are reality relations. Where the reality is invisible, Christ expresses it in a way that is visible. Whatever God is, He is, in His own Being, whatever humiliation He may assume for a good purpose (as in Philippians 2, John 5:19-23).

       What the Father does, HE does in the same way, we read.


Functionally, in status and in enterprise, they are ONE (John 8:29, 10:30).

Thus when Christ, also named "the word of God", who in the very beginning was WITH GOD, and also was GOD (John 1:1, since the Bible accepts only one changeless God (James 1:17, and mocks pretenders, as it does in Psalm 83, cf. Ephesians 4:4), is made manifest, what is found ? This: He exhibits, manifests, shows the Father, for what you see is what is there. It is translated to be sure, but it is an exact translation. The insurmountable glory is not dazzling lest the person be not seen for the glare (in Matthew 17, at the transfiguration, the glory is permitted to burnish Him lustrously for a little, but this is not the purpose in general). Christ reveals in humility, even dying accursed, in love to redeem.

Yet as an image, His is the translation, the expression.
 

  • The form hidden from our eyes in the sublime glory is presented in flesh (I John 4:14, Isaiah 43:10-11, Philippians 2, Isaiah 23),
  • yet without sin (I Timothy 6:16, John 1:18, I Peter 2, Romans 8:3),
  • and with love (John 3:16, I John 4:9).

This is an IMAGE which does not NEED, or PERMIT polishing, since it is transcendently bright already. It is not made presentable to the public, for their duping, since the presentation is for their confrontation with reality. To undupe them from their fallen mentors and foolish shepherds (as explicit in Ezekiel 34) was one of the major thrust of His coming as the Good Shepherd (cf. John 10). Here then is not a construction to hope for, that He would make men see something He might wish them to envisage, but the representation which, being what IS divine, shows men what they MUST know, because it is so, and whom they must know, because without THAT knowledge they are outcasts from life, love and truth - if they are to live forever, and not die the death of exclusion, a death where time does not remit, nor judgment expire.

Where glory is, this is its brightness, for its expression is that which sheds light on the reality! Thus He did not think it robbery to be equal with God, being in the form of God, but took the form of a man (Phil. 2). What is a form ? It is a mode of representation. What does it do to the reality ? It shows what it is in that form. Does this negate the reality, or is it the mode of its expression ? The form of man is a mode of its expression, the nature of its being, set in this format. When man is in the first place made in the image of God, the Lord has at once provided the means of ingress without distortion, so that "He who has seen Me, has seen the Father" and that He is the "express image of His person". If something  negated the thing of which it is now a form, it would not be the form of it , but the deformity or deformation of it. That much is obvious enough.

Now thus is indeed the nature of this world, to create images, so that what one wants to be believed, may be received on acted upon; but the nature of God is such that what HE IS, is what He wishes to be seen, and indeed, Christ has categorically declared that he who has seen ME HAS SEEN the Father, of Himself! He actually IS THE TRUTH (John 14:6) itself.

This is the standard and the standard bearer. We who are Christians need no image to present of ourselves, for our task is to be so filled with the Spirit of God, so devoted to Christ, His Son (Psalm 2), that the savour of the Saviour is presented, the salt of the stew is relished, the light of the world shines through our apparatus, as light from a lampstand! Christians, in Christ, deal in the LIGHT. Those outside deal with the DARKNESS, and as Christ put it, "If therefore, the light that is in you be darkness, how GREAT is that DARKNESS!" (Matthew 6:23)

How deep is the darkness that plays with impressions, like some firelit camp where the shadows and flickering flames construct weird patterns. It is in this hullabaloo of unholy pretence, pretension and extension that man tends to live, so making war, enemies, art forms of life that are dead on arrival, crossings of nature and double crossings of his fellows, in turn avenged, subject of contention, legal battles and the like.

 

"I," said Christ, "am the Light of the world! He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" - John 8:12. It is this light that is found the peace which flows from adjustment of eye and walk to reality, neither fearing men to lie, nor seeking man outside the truth, even for the kingdom, but walking in truth, where mercy abounds and joy sings like a lark above one's head, in some meadow in Spring. Dark are the thoughts of revenge and delusion, image making and counter-creation of contesting images! These are so foolish, that trying to make 2+2 equal 4.011 would seem sensible by comparison. It is all suggestion, hope, illusion, frustration, incompetence, misdirection and hence clash, clangour, for when you do not know where you are walking collision are sure, whether with God or man, or with both!

Christ is the categorical answer to all this striving, since truth is His, and the way of it cannot in anything be separated from Him! Of none other can this be said; of Him, it must be said, for it is an unassailable proposition, and His place suffers no sound or rational competition (cf. SMR Ch. 6, Barbs, Arrows and Balms Appendix IV). Without truth nothing can be argued; from it, everything can be verified. Such is the case with Christ as our every investigation shows, while contrary contestants lack even the validity to present themselves (cf. TMR Ch. 5, SMR Chs. 1, 3, 10, Repent or Perish Chs. 2, 7).
 
 

IMAGE WORSHIP

Man without God is like a sheep dog without master, herding the sheep for no purpose, but his own, adept at motion, incompetent at design.
 

He tends to worship his thoughts, his theories, his theorems, his ideologies, his religions, or what he makes for them, images of whatever he wants to put first, or make most prominent, or dominant as the case and the dream may be. Thus foolishly worshipping what is simply false, as in Communism, Islam, the more popular New Age type of Humanism, his own image perhaps, or what he hopes to become, or thinks the race may become, futures or pasts, whatever appeals, he goads his fellows, tempts God, needs the patience which guaranteed failure finds never enough, perhaps kills those who disagree, denounces or decapitates, derides or degrades, afflicts or persecutes, whether in the old Inquisition of Romanism, or the continuing horror of erratic jihads of Islam, yes or the powerless idols of naturalism, humanism, enshrined in international organisation, a veritable orgy of froth, a frivolity of faiths, a masterpiece of confusion, contusion of abstractions, illusion with feet*1.

Those afflicted are victims, the others victims too, for the masters of illusion are deluded, and all are sick or sickened, who refuse the knowledge of God (Romans 1:16ff.), whose existence sets Him part from all the images men make; for it is He who expressed Himself not according to the traditions of men, their cultures, their learning, but with accuracy in the form of a man. It is not any more man aspiring to find something divine in himself, his world or its imaginary progress. Even if such knowledge were granted to man, foreknowing HOW to perform, does nothing to tell you WHAT to do, for technology is not understanding, nor is the method wisdom, when the aim is unknown, or merely guessed, or constructed on computer for statistical purposes!
 

These things are but the abuse of images, imagery in the phase of reality, which, not fitting, is dream in the arena of life, which, being lived, is death affirmed, trouble invited and judgment deserved.
 
 

IMAGE CONFORMITY

Apart from worship in the affair of human image making, there is conformity. You may conform your images - duly to be worshipped, made the MAIN THING in life -  to what you want, in an ecstasy of anti-scientific scientism, or a lurid mist and mirage of existentialist confusion, making meaning reality without warrant, licence or success. Again, you may conform yourself to them, either in part, through confusion and effusion, through love of them or lust for them, or with desire for a more total control, as if unmanned by them, the very stuff of servile presumption,  and make a thing or servitor of some object of your own thought.

In either case, in the end, unless your exhausted mind divides into some schizoid estate, you will tend to grow more like your image, be it humanism, naturalism, evolutionism, or any other ideological, religious or cultural mock-up (cf. SMR pp. 422Eff., 422Qff.). On the other hand, since you are NOT IN FACT like that in your initial design, spiritual and mental, not a product of your own thought, then there will and must be tension of some kind, whether buried in the mental morgue of discarded thoughts, or arising from a mind not yet wholly conquered by illusion.

Hence there will be image ENORMITY, some kind of distortion or abortion, contortion, some emulsion or revulsion, some synthesis or goad, which results.

What is coming to this generation some ask ? The input of crass, crude, gross and outrageous reductionism in thought, in contact, in cartoons, such as the Simpsons, of licentiousness as a norm, of self-pleasing as an ideal, of truncated thought and cultural mandates served as if schools and universities, in many cases, were mission sites for indoctrination, and that not seldom of the devil who NEVER can abide what is, for he wants it more to his taste, and will spare nothing to have it so: these things have results.

It is pointless to pretend. Over-eat physically or mentally, what is no good for what you are, and you readily become what you were not, should not be, and in many cases, wish you were not. In time, the excessive waist-line may seem simply comfortable (to you), and the distorted ideology may seem simply the siren for action as you seek number one, evade conscience, evacuate morals and deny God with the power to do so, which is one of His greatest inventions, which man cannot begin to copy in his own limited creativity. (Cf. Licence for Liberty, It Bubbles ...Ch. 9, Ancient Words, Modern Deeds Ch. 9, Little Things Ch. 5.)

In this, you readily get the expansive mentality of jihads, religious mixes for convenience, for fear or for survival, and truth becomes a luxury society increasingly feels unable to cover in any form of payment, so making freedom of thought and speech increasingly disliked (cf. Beauty for Ashes Ch. 3, Joyful Jottings Preface, 13, 14, pp. 99ff.; News 145, Pall of Smoke, Diamond of Joy Ch.   3 10; Deliverance from Disorientation Ch.  6, p. 92).

You get likewise the necessity of removing terrorism, requiring international co-operation on a very large scale, and the necessity that Israel collapse before terrorism, on a very small scale, since she has so little land already, and this requiring also, international co-operation. You get, in short, such an insufferable irrationality, such a contused mass of human bruises, bruitings, brutalities and the like, such self-servings and such swervings as make 'accidents' and incidents, not only likely, but assured; and assuredly we have them to such an extent that it is a marvel that the world does not wobble in its course, as man does in his own!

Well-earned are its sundering spasms; and deep wounds are its conscience' chasms, jagged, unblessed, unsanctified, ceaselessly renewed, and renewed, the worse for it.
 
 

CHRIST CONFORMITY

It is well that in such a world, in such a condition, that there is a contrary, which towering over the pit as the inspiring peaks of supreme loftiness, leaves it the more despicable in its wanton ruin. His words give meaning, His work sheds light, His ways are rest to the children of men.

It is a simple fact that the Sermon on the Mount cuts the cackling squawking of unseated hens, roistering roosters and shows man the way of reason, righteousness, grace and love. Then there is a peace which makes of all the insistent turmoil, of spirit, of mind and body, mere clamour (Philippians 4:4-6). If there is fighting to be done, it is done for peace' sake in Christ, against that ardent foe; and through faith, the heart even in war itself against such an enemy, is deep in His peace (Isaiah 26:1-4).

It is another simple fact that there is NOTHING in this world apart from Christ, which shows forth a FOUNDER of what proclaims absolute truth, who is absolutely unable to be negatively assessed in truth or in consistency, in power or in prophecy despite the most torturous efforts over millenia. The thoughts fail; He stands. The fashions change; He does not. Having made the most monumental claims possible for any man, He not only drew on millenia of prophecy concerning Himself, to fulfil it, but gave words for millenia of history, to order it in advance, so that we now see it as it was forecast to be.

It is another reality to realise that there is no other book, let alone one authorised and confirmed by such a human, real, observable, testable, straightforward character as Christ, which LIKEWISE is unable to removed as to truth, reality and power. These two constitute a team. The power of the Lord to convert and sustain new life in those whose lives have gone through the ambits of inaccuracy, the realms of imagination, the regions of idolatry as is most common, in one or other of the various -isms which man makes as a manufacturer makes new models of cars (though they often tend to align themselves with the past, not a little, with some trifling, vagrant fashion added): this makes the third of the grouping.

When one conforms to Christ, however, there is a difference in category, in class, in kind from all the rest. First, HE Himself has been tested. Secondly, there are precise words to which He accorded authority which have been tested. Thirdly, as the image of the invisible God, He is not a human creation, but the source of creation, thereby in practice granting a liberty not before felt or experienced, since the mind is endued with understanding and the spirit is deprived of what depraves it.  As Source, and now through His redemption through the cross which cancels sin by vicarious atonement through faith received, He is not a simplistic substitute for life, but an ardent aid to it. Thus it was His wholly consistent word which declared,

  • "I am come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly" - John 10.

Thus individuality is taken care of: HE specialises in it, whether in the choice and allocation of disciples, apostles in the days of His flesh, in the exceedingly great and entertaining diversity of creation or in the monumental productions of His people, over the last few millenia. Thus one does not lose one's life but gains it in His presence, as His subject (Matthew 17). No more is it some cultural capture which religion constitutes in many cases (cf. A Spiritual Potourri Ch. 15, *1); but it is a Creator's clasp and the Redeemer's panel beating, His reconstitution of morals, regeneration of heart and washing of spirit (as in Titus 3:3-5).

That ? It is not imprisonment, but release; not blinkering for the eye, but removal of the same, for in Him, and in Him alone, ALL is explained from determinism to voluntarism, from predestination (cf. Predestination and Freewill, Tender Times for Timely Truths Ch. 11) to procrastination, from love to hatred, from abomination to culmination. SMR Ch. 5 will give just a touch of the temper of this thing, which nothing in the least degree, rationally or empirically matches. Indeed, in the Ch. 11 reference, it is shown that nothing else has the ingredients which COULD allow it to explain.

Hence being "conformed" to Him, is being informed by Him, and made so new and fearless, so aware and alert, that it is a refreshing wind in the hot desert, an igloo in an Arctic tempest, a song in Spring, water in the wilderness, beauty in the industrialised megapolis, to find Him; but all the more, to KNOW Him.

This first is renewal of life, and then, a lively growth in newness, like an oak with its abundant tassels in Spring, and green tender cover of new That, it is unsurpassable, for in the end, we who are men, we love fellowship which is first of all faithful, secondly deep and resonant with life, and thirdly true. His is all of this, and so much more,  that to know Him is like knowing an architect as you walk through the palaces of the past, and into the constructions of the future. All is covered in light, bright but not dazzling, for that was the point of His adoption of the form of a man, so that He became for us the very image of the invisible God, the exact representation of His person, in peace, in unity, in truth and with grace.

END-NOTE

*1

Cf. More Marvels... Ch. 4, SMR pp. 1032-1088H, News 121-122, Trust God ... Ch. 1,
Secular Myths, Sacred Truth, Chs.  6  and  8, Beauty for Ashes Ch. 3.