J.B. Phillips wrote a book titled, “Your God Is Too Small.” He wrote about the many ways we see God and the pictures we form in our minds of who and what God is. Whenever we try to define God with our images, Phillips wrote, we make God too small.
Human beings have always depicted their “gods” in many and strange ways. The Egyptian god, Sobek, for example, was pictured as a man with the head of a crocodile. The Hindu Fire god, Agni, was depicted as having two faces smeared with butter, seven tongues, gold teeth, seven arms, and three legs. Such is the creativity of the human imagination. Christians are not immune to this creative art of drawing pictures of God. Through the centuries, religions have tried to picture their gods in statues, paintings, and mental images. We cannot help but do so. Yet, in these attempts to picture God we often create a god in our own pathetic image. It’s one thing for humans to be created in the image of God, but quite another for God to be created in the image of human beings.
Two of the world’s major religions have avoided this tendency, Judaism and Islam. The prohibition of images in Judaism is one of the Ten Commandments found in Exodus. Islam has the same prohibition—Allah is not to be depicted in any form—neither statue, painting, or mental imagery.
If we are honest, we have to admit that we have pictures of God in our minds and quite naturally so. The question is whether or not these images graven in our minds are adequate, and of course, they are not. We may not give God the head of a crocodile, or think of God as having two faces smeared with butter, but our images are sometimes just as silly. Perhaps it is our way of making God manageable, which is, of course, a contradiction.