Finding the Lost Images of God
Denver Journal Book Review by Denver Seminary Professor Dr. M. Daniel Carroll R.
Timothy S. Laniak, Finding the Lost Images of God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012. $14.99. Paperback. 142 pp. ISBN 978-0310-32474-4.
Finding the Lost Images of God is another in the Ancient Context – Ancient Faith series. Like other volumes in this series, this book is of a manageable size (142 pages) and has the layperson as its target audience in terms of style and detail (there only are twenty-three endnotes). It also is quite attractive, with many color photographs of artifacts from biblical times and of contemporary illustrations. The Ancient Context – Ancient Faith series tends to concentrate on Jesus and the Gospels, but Timothy Laniak expounds important Old Testament images of God, although he does make New Testament connections throughout.
The author is professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and dean at their Charlotte, North Carolina campus. He also has lived in the Middle East (occasionally he will recount an experience from there), and that background, along with his academic studies, inform Finding the Lost Images of God. Laniak has chosen seven key metaphors of God and dedicates one chapter to each.
The book begins with “The Divine Architect and His Temple” and describes God’s careful creation of the world and the interconnections between the desert tabernacle, the heavenly temple, the temple of Jerusalem, and the church as his temple. Chapter two (“The Divine Artisan and His Images”) looks at the biblical depiction of God as the potter, who has made human individuals and crafted a people for himself. In “The Divine Farmer and His Plantings,” Laniak speaks of Eden as God’s idyllic sanctuary and the images of the true vine and the vineyard in the Old Testament and the teaching of Jesus. The fourth chapter (“The Divine Monarch and His Regents”) explains that Yahweh is the absolute, sovereign ruler under whom the kings of Israel were to serve as his “sons.” The notion of the “son of God” culminates in a special way with Jesus and the coming of the Kingdom.
“The Divine Warrior and His Army,” chapter five, touches on a subject that recently has garnered much attention: the violence of God. Laniak does not attempt to minimize the notion of the Divine Warrior by counterbalancing it with other ideas that might be more palatable to some today. He demonstrates how significant the image is in both testaments and emphasizes how it is foundational to the concept of Jesus’ and the Christian’s fight with Satan and his minions. Although, in light of current debates, readers might have wanted more engagement with the concept of divine violence within human existence, this chapter demonstrates that to eliminate the idea would have serious consequences for how evil in the world and its ultimate defeat and the Christian life are understood.
The final two chapters concern “The Divine Shepherd and His Flock” and “The Divine Patron and His Household.” The first captures how central the image of shepherd is in reference to Yahweh and to Jesus, and how the charge to pastor is passed on to Christ’s followers. The latter explains how the Father metaphor is best appreciated within the cultural context of a patriarchal—patron framework. It also sheds light on the responsibility of sonship and the privilege of adoption into the family of God.
The author is to be commended for this informative and appealing book. It will broaden the reader’s appreciation of the theological depth of the Scriptures, even as it uncovers its cultural background. I highly recommend Finding the Lost Images of God.
M. Daniel Carroll R., PhD
Distinguished Professor of Old Testament