Carmen Joy Imes
InterVarsity Press, 240 pages | Published June 6, 2023
What if we are God’s image and not just made in God’s image?
In Being God’s Image, Carmen Joy Imes traces the image of God through Scripture, arguing that we are not merely made IN God’s image, but that we ARE God’s image. She invites us to explore the significance of God’s image as our human identity, or God’s representatives on earth.
I’m normally a slower-paced reader as well as cautious (out of self-preservation) when approaching evangelical writing, yet I devoured this text! Imes writes like I imagine she teaches — producing thoughtful discussion that invites students to engage with pop culture references to pieces of daily life (like Netﬂix) as well as to explore the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. As an Old Testament scholar, she understandably draws on Genesis and creation narratives as the book’s foundation.
Imes writes for the people in the pews or an intellectually oriented Sunday School class; for example, her Hebrew references are accessible, like a pastor citing a particular word in a sermon. Her nuanced look at the Hebrew engaged me, bringing back fond memories of learning with (beloved seminary professors) Bill Brown, Brennan Breed and Christine Roy Yoder, and keeping me turning the pages at a decent speed.
The appeal to a wider audience is clear when Imes offers an occasional sidenote, ranging from references to the 1995 movie “The Lion King” to Netﬂix’ “The Crown.” But there are times Imes introduces a concept without going deeply enough. For example, I longed for her to lean into “God as the model farmer” challenging her readers to see themselves as thoughtful caretakers of creation, thriving together, rather than as rulers who have dominion over creation. In just a single paragraph, Imes talks about bringing forth fruitfulness as well as community, but could have gone much deeper, particularly considering her subtitle: why creation still matters. Imes also leans heavily on God’s sovereignty and creation as a temple. I couldn’t help myself but to think about God preferring a tent.
As an Evangelical writing for a similar audience, Imes’ views are not always consistent with Presbyterian theology. I appreciated her feminist angle and scriptural support for viewing women as equal partners, as well as her emphasis on the beauty of diversity in creation in the discussion of Babel. Imes’ work becomes problematic when she smacks the reader over the head with a tangent that insists sexuality is only for married men and women. Since this point is not essential to her thesis, it feels like an olive branch to conservative readers. Having pushed them to see women as equal partners, Imes is now determined to prove “I’m still a conservative evangelical!”
Her points that “(o)ur sexuality is part of how God made us” and “our culture distorts sex” are well-taken; however, if sharing this book with a congregation, it would be ideal to bring other works into the conversation. Or, Being God’s Image might even be a starting point for more conservative communities ready to examine what they believe.
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