Image Bearers for God by Stephen F. Noll

Feature

Image-Bearers for God

Does Biblical Language for Man Matter?

On Ash Wednesday this year I attended my parish church and was marked by the priest with the Sign of the Cross, along with the words: Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return. As powerful as the symbolism of the act is, the words fell flat.

Or is it just me recalling the old wording: Remember, O man, that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return? The priest pausing mid-sentence—O man—and addressing each worshiper as “thou,” rather than gliding past with an indeterminate “you.” Each of these “thou’s” shares a common humanity: all are man, heirs in sin of the one earthly father and heirs in Christ of the one Heavenly Father. But the word had to go, because the sin and shame of “man,” so we are told, is actually the sin and shame of “mansplaining.”

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Stephen F. Noll (Ph.D., University of Manchester) is Professor Emeritus at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, and retired Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University. Many of his essays on Anglican issues have been collected in The Global Anglican Communion: Contending for Anglicanism 1993-2018. He blogs at www.contendinganglican.org.

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