Male and female, the imagination and image of God
Before God created the universe, His imagination ran wild. The glory, beauty and detail of His creation all bear witness to His imagination.
And He made us in His image. We were born out of His imagination as the bearers of His image. As the image of God we have imaginations from which our own discovery and creativity flow.
For generations, people have labored over a perceived tension between art and science, music and math, intuition and reason, image and word. Edward Rothstein, in his book Emblems of the Mind asks:
What lies at the heart of this intimacy [between math and music]? … What could the links between mathematics and music possibly be? Why does the imagery of the eternal and the divine, the natural and the unnatural, seem to hover so persistently around mathematics and music? … How are we to understand the “art” of mathematics and the “science” of music?
The tension we perceive between reason and imagination, between word and image, is resolved in the nature of God – in the heart and mind of God. God is the First Artist and the Great Mathematician, the Creator and the Divine Code Maker. There is no tension in the end, because the tension is resolved in the infinite nature and perfect character of God.
We see both image and word expressed in the Word of God. We love God’s Word, recognizing that God used words to speak creation into existence; that He gave us his Word, the Bible; that Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh; and that God designed us to be word-makers.
But in his book The Imagination of God, Brian Godawa is careful to remind us that we are word-makers because we are made in the image of God.
The word image is a root word for imagination, which scholar William Dyrness defines traditionally as “the ability to shape mental images of things not present to the senses.” So the category of image might include anything that engages the imagination rather than the rational intellect. This would include visual images, music, drama, symbol, story, metaphor, allegory and other forms of creativity.
We are reminded that the Word of God contains both propositional truth that is engaged with intellect and reason, and it is filled with poetry, music, proverbs, allegory and drama that capture our imagination. It is good that the word of God speaks to both our hearts and minds, to our intellect and our imagination. This is why Christ calls us to love God with all our hearts and minds (Luke 10:27).
These two dimensions are integrated in human beings, as comprehensive individuals created in God’s image. Just as body and spirit are an integrated whole, so heart and mind are an integrated whole. Humans have ability both to reason and to intuit.
And, in their complementary nature, it takes both male and female to reveal all that it means to be made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27b) Together, female and male are integrated as the comprehensive, complementary, transcendent nature of the image of God.
- Women are more expressive of the maternal “heart” of God and are generally more intuitive.
- Men are more expressive of the father “mind” of God and are generally more rational.
Intuition and reason are two ways of knowing. Art (human creativity) and science (human discovery) are two ways of expressing. The fount of each is the Creator Himself. Both forms are equally valuable and equally needed to fully represent the image of God. Men and women exhibit both, but to varying degrees, according to their nature.
There are two patterns for knowing: scientific and artistic, objective and subjective, externalization and internalization, fact-focused and meaning-focused.
Interestingly, these are not simply witnessed in the different natures of the masculine and the feminine, they are also manifested in the corresponding biology of male and female brains. In other words, the actual organs differ. Women and men both have grey matter and white matter, but to differing degrees.
Grey matter is used for information processing while white matter is used for networking of processing centers.
Grey matter is used for the rational processing required for science and math. It deals with the question What are the facts? White matter is used to assimilate and sort information. It deals with the question What is the meaning? Both are needed for fully functional families and societies, and both have been impressed into the image of each human being, but to differing degrees according to their distinct biology.
Both male and female have white matter needed for intuition and assimilation of information, but women have ten times more white matter than males. And both women and men have grey matter needed for rational processing, but men have six-and-a-half times more grey matter than women.
Is one ability more important than another? No! They are differing tasks, equally important and complementarily balanced within the family and the larger community.
Let us celebrate the glorious distinctions in the complementary nature of male and female as reconciled in the character of God, as expressed in our being made male and female in His image, and in the woven richness of scripture’s word and image.
- Darrow Miller