All right, I want to say a huge word here, that I’m sure I’ve used before in church. It’s the word, anthropomorphism. Why is that word important? Anthropos is Greek for humanity, man. And we know what morph is, morphism is how you change.
Now look at it this way, when we carry babies three months old, what do we do? “chuku chuku chu”. With that, we think we are saying something to them, but what are we doing? We are trying to morph into being like babies so that the baby will understand us. Now it’s absolutely silly because the baby doesn’t understand you but that’s exactly what we are trying to do. We are trying to morph. We are trying to condescend to how we think the baby understands and communicates so that we can better relate with that baby. It’s not that we cannot communicate at a more complex level, we can, but for the sake of relatability with one who is lower than us in terms of their cognitive factors, we start to try to be like them.
So, imagine a God who is eternal, that is doesn’t dwell in time and space, imagine that. You cannot imagine it, you know why? The way our brains are structured, the way we’ve always thought, we cannot not think without time and space but what we do know is that God is beyond time and space. We just know that for a fact, but we can’t imagine exactly fully what that is.
Then if he’s beyond time and space that means he’s always been. He’s eternal. He has no age. Every creature that we know has form. That is, as I’m sitting here, I’m occupying this space, I’m not occupying that space. So, you can say that’s where Femi is. And if you could see all the other people around me, you’ll say that’s where Olaitan is, that’s where Victoria is, that’s where Tomiwa is because we occupy a particular space. Now, all of a sudden, this God doesn’t occupy any space, this God is eternal, he has no age. How do you relate with him? The only way you can relate with him is if he comes down, condescends, and relates with you. Unless he morphs into our humanity at least to speak to us in the way humans understands, we will not be able to understand him and so that is where you see some of these anthropomorphic statements like the right hand of the Lord, he’s seated at the right hand of God, he breathed into the nostril the breath of life, like God breathes right. Uphold us with your mighty arms. Give ears to my words o Lord, like God has an ear. God changed his mind, he regretted it that he made humanity. When it says God regretted making humanity because of the sin that’s multiplied in the earth in Genesis chapter six, he’s basically just trying to convey to you his deep feelings and his position on sin not that he did not know that humanity will sin and all of those things because he’s eternal.
“Known to God are all his ways from the foundation of the world.” So that is how we reconcile it. The reconciliation is for the purpose of his disclosure to us so that we can actually understand, and we can follow his instruction, and the apex of God’s anthropomorphism is that God became a human being. It’s not just that he spoke in ways humans can understand, he became a human being. And that’s why John can then say what our eyes have seen, what our ears have heard, what our hands have handled of the word of life. We’ve held God. The only reason you could hold God is because God then could occupy space and time and that is what we find in the person of Jesus Christ.
Femi Osunnuyi is lead pastor of City Church, a gospel-centred urban church in the city of Lagos. Because of his passion for church planting and leadership development he also serves on the Lead Team of Acts29 and the Advisory Team of City to City Africa. He is happily married to Tosin and is father to Tofunmi and Timilehin.