Angels Bewigged


I smiled as I perused the old gravestones of Scone Abbey. In typical eighteenth-century fashion, angels’ heads were carved onto the middle portion of the upper gravestone. These are usually in the form of a fat child’s face, sometimes flanked by wings. Yet at Scone, a variety of facial styles were employed. A couple that caught my eye had the appearance of bewigged gentlemen. This periwig, or tie-wig, is still sported by English barristers and circuit judges. In the 1700s, it was a mark of professional and upper-class status. The stone mason therefore gave his angel such a headdress, in keeping with the fashions of his time.

Although I find this perfectly charming, there is a real danger in projecting on to God and His messengers the styles and opinions of the contemporary day. Human fashion changes, but God is eternal and not subject to human shifts. Although few of us consider God to be a suited chief executive or grinning celebrity, we do tend to ascribe to Him our assumptions and priorities. Our society is obsessed with equality, and for many, God must be similarly preoccupied. Religions in authoritarian states tend to project their love of strict discipline onto the divine. Classical societies created lascivious deities who would be on today's Sex Offenders' Register, if they were real. In contrast, the true believer wishes to remade in God’s image; the idolater would create a god in the image of himself.