If I had to blame anyone, I guess it would be Michelangelo. I don’t have anything against him personally; it’s just that he has so greatly messed with our image of God.
In his historic Sistine Chapel painting The Creation of Adam, Michelangelo masterfully crafted an image of God that I’m sure existed well before he ever picked up a brush. My problem is with the actual image of God. It’s just that he’s so old looking. His beard is white and flowing like the fourth member of ZZ Top. His face is weather worn. One hand is reaching out to Adam; one hand is reaching back for a glass of Metamucil.
If there really is a hidden message like in the DaVinci Code, then there is an obvious message in Michelangelo’s Creation: GOD IS OLD.
George Burns played God in the 1977 movie: OH, GOD!: that God loves a good stogie…and that God is really, really old. The movie “Bruce Almighty” God is played by the aging actor Morgan Freeman. IT’S HARD TO IMAGINE GOD ANY OTHER WAY! We don’t know what eternal or eternity really looks like, so we try and fill in the blanks with the closest thing we have: GRANDPA.
Grandpa may not be eternal, but he’s been around longer than any of us. And if God was here way before Grandpa ever entered the scene, God must be really old. We do everything we can to avoid it. In our culture, old is bothersome. Old is a burden. Old is out of touch. Old needs to be sent to live in special homes far away from the fast paced and important lives of the rest of us.
This image of God leads us to a God who is past his prime, out of touch, outdated, and unconnected to the world in which we live. Going back to the days of the Bible, he was moving, active, really making a name for himself. But these days, it seems as though he may have lost his edge.
There are too many instances in our lives where this image of an “old weak” God damages our perceptions of who God really is. God may have created this world, but the idea of an old God means he certainly doesn’t understand it. So we lower our expectations and settle for a God who may have given us our first push, but who we passed up years ago. What about the Bible? If God is nothing more than a sweet old man, then the Bible is nothing more than a big old book.
As long as God is an old man, our struggles are something he just doesn’t understand. The longer we keep God confined to our concept of time, the older he gets.
Perhaps a better framework for God is not “old” but “timeless”. If God were limited to our understanding of time, then, like all things in this universe, he would be aging, deteriorating, dying. God is still moving in and around and among us, just as he always has. God has as much love and interest in our lives as he did in the lives of Moses, Mary, Peter, and Great-Aunt Betty
This God needs to die so we can begin to see and embrace and try and keep with us a God who is not dead, but fully alive.