Confronting the Divine Montage
The superiority of Jesus’ revelation over a montage view of God (see previous post) is captured when Paul and the author of Hebrews utilize an analogy of a shadow verses reality. Paul instructs his disciples not to “let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” And the reason, he says, is because “[t]hese are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Col 2:16-7). Similarly, the author of Hebrews says that the law and sacrificial system of the OT were “only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves” (Heb 10:1). As with Paul, the “realities” are all found in Christ.
These two authors see Christ, the reality, casting a shadow back in time, and this shadow takes the form of the first covenant, with its law and sacrificial system. Think with me for a moment about what this entails.
While there were certainly “glimpses of truth” in the OT’s law and sacrificial system, the revelation we are given in Christ is as superior to them as, for example, the real you is superior to your shadow. I could learn some things about you if I only had your shadow to look at—the basic shape of your body, for example. In this sense, your shadow points to you. But I couldn’t learn the most important things about you from your shadow, such as your personality, your beliefs or your affections. And, most importantly, if I got to know the real you, I certainly would never try to supplement what I know about you from what I learned from your shadow!
Jesus also confronted the montage view of God directly. Philip asked Jesus to “show us the Father.” Jesus responded by saying: “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Jesus is claiming that to know what God is like, we are to look nowhere other than to him. Now, Jesus obviously wasn’t saying that we can know how tall God is, how much God weighs, or what gender God is by looking at him. He is rather saying that to know God’s character we should look nowhere other than to him. And this character is altogether loving, self-sacrificial, and non-violent.
Similarly, a number of times the Gospel of John presents Jesus as the “light of the world.” There isn’t an assortment of different sources of light that reveal God, each supplementing or competing with the others, thereby created a divine montage. No, there is only one “true light,” and he “gives light to everyone” (Jn 1:9). In other words, insofar as anyone has ever received “light,” it is this light that they were receiving. It’s the same point the author of Hebrews was making when he said that the Son was “the radiance of God’s glory” (Heb 1:3).
For this reason, Jesus must be the one who serves as the sole source of our picture of God. We must rebel against any mental images of God that are montage like. Only in this way will we envision in our minds the beauty of God that actually reflects who God is. And only in this way will we genuinely love God with passion and self-sacrifice.
—Adapted from Cross Vision, pages 25-27