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One thing I dislike is how Michelangelo depicts God as leaving man to fend for himself on earth. Once Adam awakens from his drowsy snooze, the Father is hidden behind a reddish veil whereby only His hand can be seen.
There can be little doubt that Michelangelo’s masterpiece- ‘The Creation of Adam’ (1512)- is one of the most famous paintings on planet Earth. Apart from Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘The Last Supper’, there is probably no other painting so well-known by so many (both learned and ignorant alike).
In spite of its aesthetic beauty and exceptional popularity, I have a brief confession to make today: I highly dislike it. And my reasons are theological.
The first thing I dislike about the fresco is the long grey beard and hair that God the Father sports. Although seemingly an allusion to wisdom and maturity, Michelangelo’s image of God is that of an elderly man who is drawing near to death’s doorstep. This is in stark contrast to the living, vibrant and dynamic Lord of Scripture who continually sends His effusive Spirit to bless the whole creation with renewing power. The painting hints that man is to become the successor of God and the true lord of creation once old Father God is out of the way. Adam, however, was created with the sole purpose of being a steward of God’s precious handiwork: nothing more, nothing less. The Father is still on the throne and He always will be. Man cannot usurp His kingship.
The second thing I dislike about the fresco is how Michelangelo depicts God as leaving man to fend for himself on earth. Once Adam awakens from his drowsy snooze, the Father is hidden behind a reddish veil whereby only His hand can be seen. The Father’s body posture is pointing away from Adam and the implication seems to be that God’s intention is to withdraw into the heavenly realm with the angelic host around Him. The Earth, now, seems to be entirely in man’s hands and at man’s disposal. This again is not faithful to the ongoing work of the Almighty recorded ever so clearly in the Old and New Testaments. It was the heresy of Deism that denied the doctrine of God’s continual providence. God doesn’t just create the Earth; He sustains it by the word of His power. Michelangelo doesn’t do justice to God’s providence.
The third and final thing that I dislike about the fresco is Adam’s idle posture. God never intended to create man as slothful sluggard lying about on grassy fields. He made man with a distinct mission: work, work and work. So often we forget that work was not a fruit of the Fall! The Father had already commanded Adam to look after the Garden even before sin entered Eden. The correct image of God’s model man is a worker, a mover, a doer; not someone habitually indolent. In other words, man is to be a reflection of His Creator. Of course there is a time for rest and respite; but God’s distinct mission for man was hard work.
So no, I don’t like the Father’s grey beard or His distant body language or Adam’s dreamy sloth. These are three of the main reasons I dislike Michelangelo’s painting in spite of its splendor and world-wide fame.
And on another note: why on Earth has Adam got a belly button?