So far our journey of exploration has found that God’s image, and our having been created in His image, runs headlong into the inescapable conclusion that it covers the whole package of human existence, body, soul and spirit. As several of you have commented, the idea of God having a form is a tough one to grasp, leading to difficulty in understanding that His image is also reflected in our human form. Certainly there are many who would argue against this notion, and yet looking at Scripture, it’s also hard to miss.
As commenters Matt and Steve have pointed out, the difficulty that many of us have in seeing this is that most of us are Western in our orientation, and this makes quite a lot of Scripture hard to understand, for the Scriptures were not written by Western minds or in a Western mindset; they were written from a Hebrew perspective, which is quite different.
In the early years of the church, the dominant mindset was Hebrew; even the Gentile believers learned to view things in the Hebrew manner, but as time moved forward, and Christianity became more and more populated by Gentiles, and Christianity became dominant in Europe, there came an impetus to move in a direction more akin to the traditions of the ancient Greek s and Romans, and away from that of the Jews. With time, even pagan ceremonies and observances were incorporated into the church because the church had become part of the State, beginning with Constantine making Christianity the State Religion of the Roman Empire.
By the time of the Reformation, Christianity was dominated by Western (Greek) thought, and many of our doctrinal traditions of today came out of this period when some of the greatest theologians of all time wrote from an entirely Western point of view, including such names as Luther and Calvin. To the Western mind, God is most notable for His free exercise of power, while to the Hebrew, God is most notable for His restraint. The Western mind see the physical realm as fallen, corrupt and depraved, while to the Hebrew it is God’s perfect creation. To the Western mind, the human body is inherently evil, to the Hebrew the human body is inherently good; God’s own image. To the Western perspective, a spirit having a form is hard to conceive of, but for the Hebrew mind, it is a given.
The Scriptures are more difficult for those of us who were raised and trained in the West; we miss things like the proper role of covenants, the nature of our own beings and how to understand apocalyptic texts; we even understand writers like the Apostle Paul as Western, when in fact, Paul was a Pharisee among Pharisees, trained by Gamiliel; the intellectual antithesis of Greek philosophy. I think we need to follow this trail for a bit, so when we come back later, I think we need to take a look at a few things Paul wrote about that will shed some more light on this line of thinking; see you then.
NOTE: If you are interested in reading more about the Hebrew influence in Christian thought, you might enjoy Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith by Mervin R. Wilson.