Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Imago Dei and Your Teenage Daughter

It was my wife's and my privilege to raise three boys and a girl. All four of our children are grown and out of the home. Two of them are now married, including our daughter Charis who recently moved back to Oklahoma with her husband for his new career. We are grateful for the grace of God in our children's lives, but we are particularly thankful for God's presence in the life of our daughter.  Young girls in America are bombarded with media and advertising that defines "success" for women in terms of beauty, sex appeal, and body consciousness. Before I offer a word of encouragement to parents with pre-teen or teenage daughters, I ask you to watch the following video that will illustrate how American advertising has lied to our girls.

 How do we combat these messages our loved ones see? I believe we must teach them about the Image of God within our girls, or as the ancients called it, the Imago Dei.

Thomas Aquinas taught that God's image is seen in one's intellect or reason. The ability to think is a human's most God-like quality. Aquinas pointed out that animals were not created with a mind like that of a human, so animals do not have the image of God. The first humans (Adam and Eve) had a battle between their reason and what Aquinas called their "lower powers." God intended for Adam and Eve to be controlled by their ability to reason with God, but they allowed their physical appetites, such as lust and gluttony, to overtake their minds. They fell from walking in harmony with God.

Aquinas taught that after the fall, the descendents of the first parents lost all control of their “lower powers.” God said in Psalm 81:12, “I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own devices," a concept repeated by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:24, “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.”

Thomas Aquinas writes:
In his original state man was divinely endowed with the grace and privilege that, so long as his mind was subject to God, the lower powers of the soul would be subject to his rationale mind, and his body to his soul. Man’s mind by sin abandoned subordination to God, with the consequence that now his lower powers were no longer wholly responsive to his reason; and such was the rebellion of the flesh against reason that the body as well was no more wholly responsive to soul.
Aquinas believed that for the Image of God to be restored, there must be an understanding that the lower powers must come into submission of the mind. This can only happen when people come to know and love the Creator God more than themselves. This experience with God is what we would call salvation. It is what happens when someone comes to be a partaker of the life of God in Christ, not just a believer in the existance of God through Christ. Christ begins the work of transformation, but we parents can be partners with Him in encouraging our girls.

If we wish to combat the influence of our culture in the lives of our daughters, we would do well to practice the following:

(1). Be cautious of ever emphasizing, either intentionally or unintentionally, the need for a beautiful body over the necessity of a well-conditioned mind.
(2). Take interest in recommending books that your girls can read more than any interest in commending boys your girls can date.
(3). Spend as much time and energy on sponsoring your daughter's planned field trip as you do your daughter's prom date night.
(4). Focus on reinforcing your little girl's ability to think for herself.
(5). Use phrases like, "I love the way you think!" or "You amaze me with your abilities to understand!" or "I'm so proud of the way you stood up for your convictions" -- as ways to confirm the importance of one's mind over one's body.
(6). Ask questions about, and show interests in, any friend that may be unpopular with the "in" crowd, but gives evidence of having a strong character and a good mind.
(7). Never be bashful to talk with your little girl about her relationship with God.

The fight for the souls of our daughters goes against a tidal wave of cultural conformity, but in the end, I can't imagine we parents ever regretting emphasizing the Imago Dei (the mind) over the temporary tent of this world (the body) in the raising of our daughters.


Victorious said...

I was privileged to see Jean Kilbourne present her "Killing Us Softly" series about 35 yrs. ago at the University of Rochester. The presentation was a bit different than this one with the emphasis on men and how they perceive women as opposed to the impact the media has on young girls and women's physical features. That presentation focused on the women being used by the "bad-boy-type" guys and loving it.

While I have 2 adult sons and no daughters, I tend to think the problem will not be solved simply by educating our daughters. They are responding to the image they think is appealing to men. Christians (not all, granted) do train their daughters to "catch" a handsome man with a promising career so they will be "taken care of." How do they "catch" a man who (in their own words) are very visual? You guessed it... appeal to the visual.

So along with educating the young girls, we must stop the attitude that "boys will be boys" and excusing their attraction to the cutest, sexiest, girls that their testosterone levels can't handle. Then blame the girls when they try to be the most popular, prettiest girl at school.

And lest we think its just the secular media guilty of this "Imago Dei" concept, we have John Piper marginalizing muscular women and allowing a slap now and then; Mark Driscoll who "sees things" and teaches young believers how to have sex; Ed & Lisa Young's "Sexperiment" in a 24-hr. "bed-in" and a host of other in-you-face hype about sex and women staying beautiful to appeal to their husbands!

We're beyond help in this area I'm afraid. Jean was right when she said in the video that after 40 yrs. of education about this topic, it's only gotten worse.

God help us.

Victorious said...

Sorry for attributing the "Imago Dei" to the secular media. My mistake.

Wade Burleson said...


I wholeheartedly agree that the emphasis southern evangelicals place on beauty and sex in females (the illustrations you give in paragraph 4) contribute to the problem. Hopefully we can begin to make a difference, for we, above all people should reflect God's image.

Wade Burleson said...

No problem, Victorious. I understood what you meant.

Victorious said...

Wade, I wish I could sound more optimistic, but when this attitude infiltrates the church, we are doomed to perpetuate the already sex-saturated image of women. And when we give men the "rule" via the erroneous teaching of headship, we give them "scriptural" permission to demand what is appealing to them in terms of beauty, demeanor, and sex. It's a tragic, slow conditioning that so many have come to see as normal.

Even most "purity" teachings are directed primarily toward the female with little or no emphasis on male virginity. With 2 sons, I speak with first-hand knowlege...

End of rant.... :(

Wade Burleson said...


R.A. said...

I agree with you 100% but I also think it's a hard tension. That is, teaching young women to value themselves for more than their bodies, but also teaching them how to care for their bodies and how to enjoy being "pretty."

I simply speak from my own experience in bringing this up. Somehow growing up I was able to see through all the media BS from a really young age (personality thing? I don't know. Not all of my sisters were able to do as I did and some of them got really caught up in it). The problem I ran into, and the balance I still have a hard time finding, is how to reject the lies about beauty and body image, but still present myself well. For years I rejected overtly feminine clothing because of my disgust over the objectification of women. Then when I began allowing myself to go shopping now and then and wear clothes with a more feminine flair (never picking clothes out because they were "girly" but just allowing myself to purchase items I liked) I got all these compliments all of a sudden. It really upset me - it actually does to this day. I still don't know what to do with it, and I'm now in my 30s! I want to be seen for my heart, but people don't seem to see that heart unless I'm buying into an "acceptable" standard of female beauty.

Such a frustrating problem!

Rex Ray said...

Have you ever read something that ‘rubbed you the wrong way’?

That’s what I felt in reading, “…,but they allowed their physical appetites, such as lust and gluttony, to overtake their minds.”

Lust?? God made them for marriage. Was that lust?

Gluttony?? How is tasting fruit gluttony?

It was their REASONING that got Adam and Eve in trouble by desiring to be like God in knowing good and evil.

Is Thomas Aquinas Catholic? I believe they believe the forbidden fruit was sex.

Hooray for you! I too, was raise to believe ‘sow your wild oats while you’re young’ is the devil’s lie; and having sex is after you’re married. From experience I know its God’s way and the best way.

But I fear I might not be able to say the same if I were a teenager today.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this.
I really appreciate your insight into raising girls. It's very helpful that you're a decade ahead of us in all this so we can learn from your experiences.


Wade Burleson said...


I would invite you to argue with Thomas Aquinas, but that will have to wait until heaven.


Wanda (Deb) Martin said...


This is exciting news! I am so happy for all of you that Charis and her husband are back in Oklahoma.

Thanks for this post. It is so important.

Rex Ray said...

AH! There’s nothing like a good discussion on a rainy day, especially if you think you can win. :)

Since you didn’t tell who Aquinas was, I asked Google:

“Saint Thomas Aquinas was a Catholic Priest in the Dominican Order and one of the most important Medieval philosophers and theologians.”

Why wait for heaven to understand why Catholics believe ANY sex for priest is wrong? They believe the Bible where Paul is WRONG AGAIN.

“It is good to live a celibate life.” (I Cor. 7:1 NLT)

Have you heard of the priest that went to heaven and to his dismay learned the “I” should have been an “e” in celibate? :)

Victorious brought out the ‘double standard’ for girls and boys. This is seen in Paul’s writings where he makes no mention of men who lost their wives but comes down hard on widows because being married has less devotion to Christ:

“The younger widows…physical desires will overpower their devotion to Christ and they will want to remarry.” (I Timothy 5:11 NLT)

“But because of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.” (I Cor. 7:2 Holman)

“I wish that all people were just like me…I say to the unmarried and to widows: it is good for them if they remain as I am. But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with desire.” (I Cor. 7:7-9 Holman)

HUH? Is Paul saying the ONLY reason for marriage is because a person cannot control their sex desire? He seems to have missed ‘falling in love’.

“Now regarding your question about the young women who are not yet married. I DO NOT HAVE A COMMAND FROM THE LORD FOR THEM… [Ut-oh, do Inerrantists dare accuse Paul of not telling the truth? Must be one of those “illusion” things. :) ] I think it is best to remain as you are.” (1 Cor. 7:25-26 NLT)

I believe this is another place why priest are not permitted to marry:

“An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife.” (1 Cor. …7: 32-33 NLT)

Pege' said...

Wade, Having 3 girls and one son, I would like compliment you on the points you made and would also like to add to any one who ministers to girls, teens and youth telling them all they have to prepare for is marriage and child bearing, that their only place of ministry is in the nursery or hospitality ministries is in error. Yes home is the first place to start. The church needs to change its bias toward women because the church propagates this secular myopic lie. Our girls have the same gifts as our young boys in Christ and should be developed as leaders too!! IMHO

Rex Ray said...

I wrote this story for a contest, but I think it brings out that people do crazy things without “lust” being involved. You may want to remove it because it’s too long.

Surprise - Surprise

In December 1954, I was twenty-two and a senior at North Texas State University at Denton, Texas. I worked a 40 hour week on the graveyard shift for a dollar an hour.

I rented a house, and since our parents taught school in Alaska, my sister (ages 14 and 16) lived with me. I paid $50 for my only motorcycle – a 1947 Indian Chief. Riding “Chief” exhilarated me.

I had Chief a month before riding it to Roswell, New Mexico to see Betty whom I’d dated the previous year. She had graduated and was teaching school. I had not seen, written, or called her in three months. My sisters told me I should write Betty and to drive my car, but they didn’t realize I wanted an excuse for riding Chief, and how much fun it would be to surprise Betty and give her a ride on Chief.

I got off work at mid-night and worked on Chief till daylight. Since it was cold, and no windshield, I wore long-johns, blue jeans, coveralls, and a leather jacket, but my teeth still chattered till I got numb all over.

The 500 miles took seventeen hours because some would call Chief a pile of “junk”. Many things kept coming loose and the chain had a habit of ‘coffee breaks’. Or maybe it was because of an amateur mechanic.

Knocking on her uncle’s door at ten o’clock that night, I think I was more surprised than Betty when she introduced me to her boyfriend. I told them Chief broke down ten miles out of town and I had hitchhiked. They got a flashlight for me to see how to fix it. Chief’s light wouldn’t work so I followed them. I didn’t dare ask Betty to ride with me because I got the feeling both wanted me to vanish. Since there was only one extra bed, I shared it with him. We didn’t talk much.

Since my arrival, I think I put a damper on their courtship. I spent the next day working on Chief. Even though I told Betty I’d been working and going to school and hadn’t dated anyone, she was angry. “You didn’t write a word and you show up expecting me to be waiting for you? You can keep your surprises to yourself!”

I left about sundown after receiving a short peck of a goodbye kiss.

It was one of those dark nights where you couldn’t see a thing. Once, I didn’t know when my headlight stopped working because the approaching car lights were blinding. When we passed, total darkness engulfed me with fear. Needless to say I stopped in a hurry.

I got the light working, but had to hold it to shine on the road. That caused me not to be able to hold the gas grip on the handlebar. I’d set top speed with the gas grip and then grab the light.

Rex Ray said...

I came to a town but couldn’t slow down because the GAS GRIP HAD FALLEN OFF. I was dumb struck. I hit the brake but it did no good against the strong motor. I couldn’t cut the motor off because the switch cut the light off. I stepped on the clutch and brake, but the motor almost exploded from the high RPM. When I could see by street lights, I cut the lights and motor and barely got slow enough for a left turn.

Thereafter, my left hand controlled the speed with a bailing wire attached to the carburetor, and my right hand directed the light. All went well until four in the morning and 125 miles from home. I’d missed sleep the day I started, and what I got with the boyfriend wasn’t much since I kept wondering what a revolting development it was. Lack of sleep caught up with me and I dosed off. I woke up at full speed going into a ditch facing a railroad track. I had time to grab both handlebars and think: “This is going to be exciting!”

Wrong. There’s nothing exciting about being unconscious. Flying over the railroad track caved the front wheel into half a wheel. I wish I’d been thrown clear because Chief was on top of me. And worse, Chief didn’t die until it ran out of gas. Two hours later the motor was still hot. The muffler roasted my leg nearly to the bone. Tall grass had me hidden, but the LIGHT WAS STILL BURNING. The light may have saved my life because that’s what the wife of a motorist saw and got her husband to go back and investigate. They got a gas station attendant to help remove the heavy monster. They got me awake and asked a lot of questions, but all I knew was my name.

I don’t remember them taking me to a nearby hospital in Breckenridge. I woke up with a doctor telling me I had a close call from shock. I didn’t believe I was burned because the destroyed nerves caused no pain, but I was hurting in a lot of other places.

Since we didn’t have a phone, a sheriff informed my sisters. They drove my 1948 Hudson automobile – big enough I could lie in the back seat. The service station said they would keep Chief for me.

My sisters were the only ones to visit me for two months in the college hospital. Betty wrote one letter saying she was sorry I was hurt.

A doctor said he would charge only $100 to treat me as an experiment since he had never seen such a deep burn. He did a skin graft and changed the dressings every other day. After the hospital, I was on crutches a month. Without his help I may have lost a leg.

The accident disqualified me to be a pilot in the Air Force. After graduating at NTSU, I received a teaching certificate at Austin College where I met my wife to be, but she wouldn’t ride with me on Chief.

Eventually my parents returned and pressured me to sell Chief. After failing to sell it for $100, I agreed to let my father try. He sold Chief real fast for $10. I never road a motorcycle again and I never did anymore surprises.

Wade Burleson said...

You have a gift of being able to tell stories well!

Victorious said...

I, too, enjoyed your story, Rex, but like Betty said, I'm so sorry you were hurt. I can't imagine having a motorcycle laying on top of me for two hours burning my flesh!

Thanks for that post!

Rex Ray said...

Thanks, but I didn’t tell why that trip might have saved my life.

Years later, I met a ROTC classmate. We were in the Air Force. He was a pilot, and I was servicing his plane. I made some comment about how much greater his job was than mine.

“I’d trade with you in a minute; over half of our class is dead.”


“Mostly pilot error.”

Victorious, you see; I’d probably forget to put the wheels down while landing. :)

I volunteered to be a life-guard. One day, I heard two “BOOMS” overhead. Looking up I saw a parachute. The pilot had blown the canopy and ejected. The plane I had serviced two weeks before was silent as a mouse until it crashed.

The pilot was on his third circle of the base while all the time telling the tower he was almost out of fuel. But the tower kept telling him to go around again because they had an emergency coming in. The pilot wasn’t hurt and the plane hit a cow pasture.

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

And lest we think its just the secular media guilty of this "Imago Dei" concept, we have John Piper marginalizing muscular women and allowing a slap now and then; Mark Driscoll who "sees things" and teaches young believers how to have sex; Ed & Lisa Young's "Sexperiment" in a 24-hr. "bed-in" and a host of other in-you-face hype about sex and women staying beautiful to appeal to their husbands!

i.e. "Just like Porn Culture, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!"

Anonymous said...

Our church had some difficulties with both sexes bordering on play ing up to society's warped vision of women until the pastor simply made a firm rule about appearance and dress, and the problem pretty much went away.

Victorious said...

....until the pastor simply made a firm rule about appearance and dress, and the problem pretty much went away.

Or it just went under cover. Now we have pastors tweeting about their "smokin' hot wives."

It's a sexual obsession that has infiltrated the church and not about to go away any time soon.