The Rise of the Dubious “Imagers” Doctrine

What would be the point in being Line Leader if everyone else were Line Leader, too? Credit.

Regarding this verse:

So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27. NIV

I have explained at length (here) what I think this passage means. But I have witnessed in the last decade or so an emerging camp who prefer to read into this passage the idea that God created man to be his “imager“. That is, his “representative”. And it appears from their usage of such language that the camps who use it have quite got the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28:18-20 in mind.

Their idea of the creation of man seems to be that God created all humans to be evangelists of some sort to other humans. But this raises several reasonable questions, such as:

  1. Where is it written?
  2. Why does the “Great Commission” not appear until some thousands of years after Adam was created?
  3. If man is created to be God’s representative, was he given any instructions to that end? if so, where are they? Or is man just good at this naturally, somehow?

Further, we may reason with this incisive question: What is the thrill of being picked as Line Leader if the whole class is picked as Line Leader, too? And what’s the utility of that, unless the teacher is playing some manner of psychological trick in order to incentivize the entire class? And really, do we want a Line Leader who can’t figure out that it makes no sense to be Line Leader if everybody else is a Line Leader, too?

And what ever happened to this directive?:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

James 3:1. ESV

Apparently, not everybody was up to snuff for being a teacher in Jesus’ ekklesia. So what makes us think that God would think every human is up to the task of being his representative?

Indeed, why would it have been necessary for the apostle Paul to make an appeal to the Corinthians that they should “be reconciled to God” if they were already God’s “representatives” themselves?

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:20. NIV

For more on this, see my podcast episode here: You Are Not An Apostle.

As I explain in my article, rt 1 (opens in a new tab)" rel="noreferrer noopener" class="ek-link">Finding Your True Identity in an Undecided World—Part 1, being created in the Image and Likeness of God was a call to conform oneself to God’s spiritual standards for man. It was not a call to straighten out all the other humans. Yet even so, I see a great many churches today that talk as if they’re majoring in evangelism while minoring in becoming like Jesus themselves.

And I suppose I see where this idea of being first and foremost an “Imager” might appeal to the pride of someone who, like Cain, is willing to go through the motions of religion, but who has no authentic humility before God. Cain was willing to bring sacrifice when he didn’t mean it—and was apparently self-deceived enough to think that God would be fooled by his outward show.

And I, for one, don’t think that the world needs even one more inauthentic “believer” out inviting people to church, or “sharing the gospel”. And I’d trade a ten thousand such people for one who is wholehearted about being the creature of a Creator—the servant to the Master—the student to the Teacher. That one would get so much more done in getting people’s attention by his actual example of godly and humble living. The others, lacking the same example, have little more than words. And those words are not going to be attractive to the authentic souls out there, for they also look at the example of the ones saying those words, and smell a rat when the example and the message don’t match.

Indeed, the evangelistic words of the inauthentic people tend to attract yet more inauthentic people, who get a kick out of thinking that they, too, might gain praise for being the God-authorized leader of others. And I can’t get this passage out of my head:

25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[c]27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,[d]28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:25-28. ESV

Why is it that I see a lot of people in the “Imager” camp who are not as excited about giving their lives as they are about “sharing the gospel” with others? Should that not all be part of the same package? Aren’t they cherrypicking, then?

And one more thing. I find it very interesting that Paul shows great concern over the danger of a recent convert becoming conceited at being appointed to the eldership:

He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.

1 Timothy 3:6. ESV

If such a danger was real—and I’m not saying it wasn’t—then where are the warnings we should be reading about “Imagers” also becoming puffed up and with conceit and falling into condemnation on account of it? Or even if there is no such Bible passage mentioning “Imagers” and the danger of pride, where among the Imager camps today is one likely to hear such warnings given from the pulpit?

Of course, the habitually proud are the least likely to be concerned with the dangers of pride. And if we hear no such warnings, perhaps it’s reasonable to suspect that pride may be afoot.

I, for one, think that this Imagers business is just another dodge. I think it’s just another alternative to being a humble subject for oneself—a way to get in on the action without having to be the real deal. Imagine, for instance, the singer who will not join the choir to be just another alto, but who will join in a heartbeat if she’s being invited to be the alto Section Leader.

That’s what I”m afraid this Imager business is. I think it’s an appeal to pride—whether the people promoting the notion understand it as such or not. And I must say, there have been some pretty famous Bible scholars and church leaders supporting it.

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