Saturday, 7 May 2011

Man making God in his own image

In The Dogwood Tree: a Boyhood (in Assorted Prose, 1968), John Updike recalls the ‘mighty’ Lutheran hymn he sang as a boy:

For still our ancient foe
Doeth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And arm’d with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Updike, rightly I think, remains impressed by ‘this immense dirge of praise for the Devil and the world, thunderous, slow, opaquely proud.’ He goes on to say that it is this, rather than ‘the patently vapid and dreary businesslike teaching to which I was lightly exposed’ that ‘nourished the seed’ of Christianity in him. It ‘branded him with a Cross’:

A brand so specifically Lutheran, so distinctly Nordic; an obdurate insistence that at the core of the core there is a right-angled clash to which, of all verbal combinations we can invent, the Apostles’ Creed offers the most adequate correspondence and response.’ [Updike, 79]
I like this phrasing: the obdurate core of the core and its right-angled clash—the notion that the God man has created in his image (as we atheists like to put it) is, for some unfathomable reason, not simply a magnified and outwardly projected of our own high opinion of ourselves, but on the contrary, a register of an ornery, self-thwarting and loving self-hostility.

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