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In the Likeness of God

In the Likeness of God

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by Philip Yancey

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The human body is a likeness of God, its design revealing insights into the church, the “body of Christ” For bestselling author Philip Yancey, the late Dr. Paul Brand—the brilliant hand surgeon who devoted his life to the poorest people of India and Louisiana—was also a likeness of God, living the kind of Christian life that exemplified what


The human body is a likeness of God, its design revealing insights into the church, the “body of Christ” For bestselling author Philip Yancey, the late Dr. Paul Brand—the brilliant hand surgeon who devoted his life to the poorest people of India and Louisiana—was also a likeness of God, living the kind of Christian life that exemplified what God must have had in mind. In the Likeness of God combines the complete texts of Fearfully and Wonderfully Made and In His Image—both Gold Medallion Award–winners which together have sold more than half a million copies—into one volume. Also included for the first time are eight beautiful litanies of praise on the human body by Dr. Brand. In Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, Dr. Paul Brand and bestselling writer Philip Yancey explore the wonder of the human body and uncover the eternal statements that God has made in the very structure of our bodies. Their remarkable journey through inner space—the world of cells, systems, and chemistry—points to a still deeper unseen reality of God’s work in our lives. In His Image takes up where the first book leaves off. In five sections—Image, Blood, Head, Spirit, and Pain—the authors unlock the remarkable living lessons contained in our physical makeup.

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In the Likeness of God

The Dr. Paul Brand Tribute Edition of Fearfully and Wonderfully Made and In His image

Chapter One


I have been trying to think of the earth as a kind of organism, but it is no go. I cannot think of it this way.... The other night, driving through a hilly, wooded part of southern New England, I wondered about this. If not like an organism, what is it like, what is it most like? Then, satisfactorily for that moment, it came to me: it is most like a single cell. Lewis Thomas

* * *

I remember the first time I saw a living cell under a microscope. I was twenty-one years old and taking a short course in tropical hygiene at Livingstone College in England. We had been studying parasites, but our specimens were dead; I wanted to see a living amoeba. Early one morning, before the laboratory was cluttered with students, I sneaked into the old science building. The imposing red brick structure stood next to a pond from which I had just scooped some water in a teacup. Bits of decomposing leaves floated in the turbid water, smelling of decay and death.

But when I touched one drop of that water to a microscope slide, a universe sprang to life. Hundreds of organisms crowded into view: delicate, single-celled globes of crystal, breathing, unfurling, flitting sideways, excited by the warmth of my microscope light. I edged the slide a bit, glancing past the faster organisms. Ah, there it was. An amoeba. A mere chip of translucent blue, it was barely visible to my naked eye, but the microscope revealed even its inner workings.

Something about the amoeba murmurs that it is one of the most basic and primordial of all creatures. Somehow it has enlisted the everyday forces of millions of spinning atoms so that they now serve life, which differs profoundly from mere matter. Just an oozing bit of gel, the amoeba performs all the basic functions that my body does. It breathes, digests, excretes, reproduces. In its own peculiar way it even moves, plumping a hummock of itself forward and following with a motion as effortless as a drop of oil spreading on a table. After one or two hours of such activity, the grainy, watery blob will have traveled a third of an inch.

That busy, throbbing drop gave me my first graphic image of the jungle of life and death we share. I saw the amoeba as an autonomous unit with a fierce urge to live and a stronger urge to propagate itself. It beckoned me on to explore the living cell.

* * *

Years later I am still observing cells, but as a physician I focus on how they cooperate within the body.

Now I have my own laboratory, at a leprosy hospital on swampy ground by the Mississippi River in Carville, Louisiana. Again I enter the lab early before anyone is stirring, this time on a chilly winter morning. Only the soft buzz of fluorescent lights overhead breaks the quietness.

But I have not come to study amoebae. This morning I will examine a hibernating albino bat who sleeps in a box in my refrigerator. I rely on him to study how the body responds to injury and infection. I lift him carefully, lay him on his back, and spread his wings in a cruciform posture. His face is weirdly human, like the shrunken heads in museums. I keep expecting him to open an eye and shriek at me, but he doesn't. He sleeps.

As I place his wing under the microscope lens, again a new universe unfolds. I have found a keyhole. The albinic skin under his wing is so pale that I can see directly through his skin cells into the pulsing capillaries which carry his blood. I focus the microscope on one bluish capillary until I can see individual blood cells pushing, blocking, thrusting through it. Red blood cells are by far the most numerous: smooth, shiny discs with centers indented like jelly doughnuts. Uniform size and shape make them seem machine-stamped and impersonal.

More interesting are the white blood cells, the armed forces of the body which guard against invaders. They look exactly like the amoebae: amorphous blobs of turgid liquid with darkened nuclei, they roam through the bat's body by extending a finger-like projection and humping along to follow it. Sometimes they creep along the walls of the veins; sometimes they let go and free-float in the bloodstream. To navigate the smaller capillaries, bulky white cells must elongate their shapes, while impatient red blood cells jostle in line behind them.

Watching the white cells, one can't help thinking them sluggish and ineffective at patrolling territory, much less repelling an attack. Until the attack occurs, that is. I take a steel needle and, without waking the bat, prick through its wing, puncturing a fine capillary. An alarm seems to sound. Muscle cells contract around the damaged capillary wall, damming up the loss of precious blood. Clotting agents halt the flow at the skin's surface. Before long, scavenger cells appear to clean up debris, and fibroblasts, the body's reweaving cells, gather around the injury site. But the most dramatic change involves the listless white cells. As if they have a sense of smell (we still don't know how they "sense" danger), nearby white cells abruptly halt their aimless wandering. Like beagles on the scent of a rabbit, they home in from all directions to the point of attack. Using their unique shape-changing qualities, they ooze between overlapping cells of capillary walls and hurry through tissue via the most direct route. When they arrive, the battle begins.

Lennart Nilsson, the Swedish photographer famous for his remarkable closeups of activity inside the body, has captured the battle on film as seen through an electron microscope. In the distance, a shapeless white cell, resembling science fiction's creature "The Blob," lumbers toward a cluster of luminous green bacterial spheres. Like a blanket pulled over a corpse, the cell assumes their shape; for awhile they still glow eerily inside the white cell. But the white cell contains granules of chemical explosives, and as soon as the bacteria are absorbed the granules detonate, destroying the invaders. In thirty seconds to a minute only the bloated white cell remains. Often its task is a kamikaze one, resulting in the white cell's own death.

In the body's economy, the death of a single white cell is of little consequence. Most only live several days or several weeks, and besides the fifty billion active ones prowling the adult human, a backup force one hundred times as large lies in reserve in the bone marrow. At the cellular level, massive warfare is a daily fact of life. Fifty thousand invaders may lurk on the rim of a drinking glass, and a billion can be found in a half-teaspoon of saliva. Bacteria enshroud my body-every time I wash my hands I sluice five million of them from the folds of my skin.

To combat these threats, some of the blood's white cells are specifically targeted to one type of invader. If the body has experienced contact with a severe danger, as in a smallpox vaccination, it imprints certain white cells with a death-wish to combat that single danger. These cells spend their lives coursing through the bloodstream, waiting, scouting. Often they are never called upon to give battle. But if they are, they hold within them the power to disarm a foreign agent that could cause the destruction of every cell in the body.

* * *

Often I have reflected on the paradox of the amoeba and its mirror image, the white cell. The amoeba, a self-contained organism, alone performs all the basic functions of life, depending on other cells only when it ingests them as food. The white cell, though similar in construction and makeup, in a sense is far less free. A larger organism determines its duties, and it must sometimes sacrifice its life for the sake of that organism. Although more limited in self-expression, the white cell performs a singularly vital function. The amoeba flees danger; the white cell moves toward it. A white cell can keep alive a person like Beethoven or Newton or Einstein ... or you and me.

I sometimes think of the human body as a community, and then of its individual cells such as the white cell. The cell is the basic unit of an organism; it can live for itself, or it can help form and sustain the larger organism. I recall the apostle Paul's use of analogy in 1 Corinthians 12 where he compares the church of Christ to the human body. That inspired analogy takes on even more meaning to me because of the expanded vistas allowed by the invention of microscopes. Since Paul's analogy renders a basic principle of God's creation, I can augment it like this:

The body is one unit, though it is made up of many cells, and though all its cells are many, they form one body.... If the white cell should say, because I am not a brain cell, I do not belong to the body, it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the muscle cell should say to the optic nerve cell, because I am not an optic nerve, I do not belong to the body, it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an optic nerve cell, where would be the ability to walk? If the whole body were an auditory nerve, where would be the sense of sight? But in fact God has arranged the cells in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If all cells were the same, where would the body be? As it is, there are many cells, but one body.

That analogy conveys a more precise meaning to me because though a hand or foot or ear cannot have a life separate from the body, a cell does have that potential. It can be part of the body as a loyalist, or it can cling to its own life. Some cells do choose to live in the body, sharing its benefits while maintaining complete independence -they become parasites or cancer cells.


Excerpted from In the Likeness of God by Philip Yancey Paul Brand Copyright © 2004 by Philip Yancey. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Philip Yancey serves as editor-at-large for Christianity Today magazine. He has written thirteen Gold Medallion Award-winning books and won two ECPA Book of the Year awards for What's So Amazing About Grace? and The Jesus I Never Knew. Four of his books have sold over one million copies. Yancey lives with his wife in Colorado.  Website: www.philipyancey.com



Dr. Paul Brand, son to missionary parents, was a world-renowned hand surgeon and pioneer in developing tendon transfer techniques for use in the hands of those with leprosy. He trained in medicine at the University College Hospital in London and and later gained his surgical qualifications whilst working as a casualty surgeon in the London Blitz. After visiting a Leprosy Sanatorium at Chingleput, he was motivated to explore the reasons behind the deformities of this disease. A donation from a missionary woman helped him establish the New Life Rehabilitative Center, which helped dispel the stigma of leprosy amongst medical professionals. He authored and coauthored several books, including Fearfully and Wonderfully Made and In His Image.

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In the Likeness of God 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dr. Paul Brand's books have been in my library for over 20 years and I have read these two separately at least twice. I've purchased the Nook Book now as I'm reading it again and want the option of looking up word meanings and highlighting significant passages. The writings of Dr. Paul Brand remain my favorite to this day and I continue to draw inspiration in each reading as he compares the body functions to all Christ has provided for us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My hardcopy is dogeared and torn. I keep it on my desk. Best book i have ever read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book off the 'New Release' table out of curiosity. I randomly opened up a section to read. To my pleasant surprise, reading this book was like having a fireside chat with Dr. Paul Brand. His writings are light, humorous, poetic, and inspiring. I kept on returning to the bookstore to read more excerpts from the book. I finally realized that this book will be one that i will read over again, and will definitely pass on to my friends and family. :) Now i have my own copy! Check it out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book detailing our wonderfully created anatomy and physiology and relating the organization used to create humans to our Christian walk! I highly recommend this book to all healthcare providers and wish I would have read it sooner. This book is definitely staying on my library shelf except when I pull it out to re-read and marvel and/or share it with a friend!