What does God look like?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Bible didn’t come with pictures.

And though printers have decided to add a few in the children’s versions over the years, they rarely include God himself in their work.

Pastors and Biblical scholars say there is a reason for that — we as human beings haven’t physically seen nor can we understand the face of God.

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“We are finite beings trying to understand an infinite and eternal God,” Parkway Baptist Church’s associate pastor the Rev. Jason Cole said. “We will never be able to comprehend that.”

But human beings like to see to believe. It’s in our nature.

So, we all tend to have a picture in our head, even if we know it’s wrong.

Children are the quickest to share their mental pictures of God, and it’s obvious that their images are influenced by society and images they’ve seen in church.

“God has light brown, long hair,” 9-year-old Merchell Nelson said.

Nelson, a third-grade student at Holy Family Catholic School, drew the most detailed picture of God in her class. And it looked just like the painting of Jesus hanging on the wall in her classroom.

That’s common, her teacher Katie Moore said.

“Usually (children) form opinions by the things they see and hear,” said Moore, a teacher for 34 years.

Nelson’s classmates had fairly basic descriptions too, and most matched with popular images of Jesus, not God.

God has black eyes, wears a robe and black sandals, they said. There was some debate over hair color — either brown or white — and skin color.

But for Moore, it’s just not about seeing.

“God is a spirit,” she said. “I really don’t see color, I just feel that He’s within our hearts and walks with us daily.”

That’s more in line with what First Evangelical Methodist Church’s pastor the Rev. Bob Perkins sees too.

“No man has ever seen the face of God,” Perkins said. “Most church logos are flames, so I think of that.”

The Rev. Steve Pearson of Community Chapel Church of God said it’s common for most people to see impressions of Jesus when they think of God.

“He appears to be the blue-eyed, bearded, short-haired man,” Pearson said.

Local artist Wathen Doggett hasn’t ever been asked to paint the face of God, but if she had too, she’d start like she always does, with a thumbnail sketch of a face.

“My beliefs are not traditional,” Doggett said. “It would look like me and look like you and the person standing next to us. It would be an ordinary person.”

Kay Browning, another Natchez painter, said her approach would be a little different.

“I would probably do some sort of an abstract with the faces of all nationalities of children,” she said. “Because there is such goodness in children, they symbolize to me all the commandments.

“The face of God would be the innocence of children.”

But Cole sees more than one face when he looks to God.

“He has a dual face,” Cole said. “He’s all loving but on the other side he’s the judge.

“Humanity trying to use words to describe the indescribable, that’s what we are trying to do.”