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Vol. XIII • 1991


Imago Dei James L. Sauer

On the day that the British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge was being received for church membership, a number of Down's syndrome children were present in the congregation. At first he thought they might "ruin" the service; but afterward, he and his wife Kitty agreed that it was just the opposite. Their presence made the service even more significant. The mis-shapen, dull faced witnesses that stood by him were the perfect representatives of the divine purpose in history.

In his book Confessions of a 20th Century Pilgrim, Muggeridge mused on the meaning of their deformity: "Thinking this over afterwards, I realize that genetic failings are heavenly messengers, with a special role in the world to make outward and visible the physical and mental distortions which we all have inwardly and invisibly. Without dwarfs, we should suppose that all humans were giants, and vice versa, In simpler societies than ours the imperfect specimens--the idiot, the blind, the lame, the dumb--are revered; we call them 'handicapped,' and persuade ourselves that by murdering them all before or just after they are born, the norm, the model ad man with his everlasting smile exposing his perfect teeth, will become Everyman."

Perhaps some will find this a strange vision--this doctrine that in every little baby lies a broken image of the God of Creation. It would not have appeared so to the Apostle Paul as he looked to the incarnate work of "the Second Adam"--the image of the Invisible God. It would not to the Apostle John who bore witness to the incarnation "which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which our hands have touched." It would not to the Prophet Simeon who held the circumcised babe in his hands: "For my eyes have seen thy Salvation." He came not like a Greek god, an ideal; but like a suffering servant--a mere man.

How little we understand the meaning of the mysterious doctrine that we are made in the "image of God." That in some indescribable way each of us--and perhaps most especially those weak and broken specimens of humanity--reflect the humility and weakness of God become Man in the person of Jesus Christ. In our mockery of them, our lack of compassion for them, our abortion of them--is it not Christ we are attacking? In hating the image of God, are we not engaged in rebellious blasphemy against the Being whom the image represents?

"Imago Dei"
CSSHS • Creation Social Science & Humanities Society • Quarterly Journal

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