The most foundational concept here is the definition of anthropomorphism* itself. This is where I’ll start, and maybe never get past, since it tells a lot of the story.

Consider the definition Caneday proposes:

“Because God formed Adam from the “dust of the earth” and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, making him in his own image and likeness, God makes himself known to his creatures in their likeness, as if he wears both their form and qualities, when in fact they wear his likeness.” (pg. 161)

At first I did not like this definition. It seemed too literary, too vague, and it includes anthropomorphism (“God…breathed”) internally.

However after dwelling on the concept for a while I enjoy how this definition is centrally biblical. This is not a ‘high-brow’ $5 word definition, like my vanity would wish to affirm. Caneday wrote this from the perspective of a narrator straight out of the creation account, and it’s final turn of phrase captures the idea that hit me in all this.

The striking thing is that the subject starts and ends with God. God is the doer, God is breathing in life, God is the standard, God alone defines.

Caneday specifically did this to contrast a commonly held definition of antrhopomorphism:
“A figure of speech used by writers of Scripture in which human physical characteristics are attributed to God for the sake of illustrating an important point…. Anthropomorphisms essentially help to make an otherwise abstract truth about God more concrete.”(pg. 158, taken from other authors, see footnotes)

I can say with confidence that this is how I used to think of anthropomorphism. But again, the fundamental shift is from viewing things with man as the standard, to a view with God as the standard.

This universe is surely and clearly God’s. God defines the terms and types, and God gives the meaning.

It seems that Calvinism again is the doctrinal basis for understanding these topics. The humanism of Arminian thought drives us to pervert anthropomorphism until God is just a really wise person, and not really God at all (read open theism). But God demands that he is the center, and when the center is God, the figurative language communicates through the likeness he wove into our being.

Caneday then pulled back the curtain and informed me that all scripture is anthropomorphic. Now, viewing things with the “arminian definition” above will cause one to think this statement is nonsense. But viewing things from Caneday’s definition, it is right on.

Lord willing I’ll get to post again soon, and present some more thoughts on meaning, anthropomorphism, and types.


*(It is assumed that we are only talking about anthropomorphism with respect to God here, not nature and animals and stuff. Caneday discusses this for the purists of terminology.)