One skeptic referred to humanity as a “Happy Accident,” meaning that there is no real purpose behind humanity, and in that sense, humanity has no real meaning or special place on the planet. I suppose that could be, but then there’s really no reason for me to care then. We are starting this study “Humanity: What Is It? to examine humanity from the lens of scripture, particularly Genesis 1-3.
We are doing so because there is much confusion as to what humanity is, who we are, why are we here type questions. I do not purport for this to be definitive or to persuade the hardened skeptic, because not only does the honest skeptic eschew meaning, they deride ‘religion’ for trying to give life meaning. So be it, I guess we all have a gospel to tell.
Also this study’s scope in no way will answer all of the questions regarding Genesis that a more exegetical study should offer. Let’s suffice it to say that the writer(s) of Genesis in no way meant for it to answer questions 21st century science is attempting to answer. And as believers it would behoove us to stay away from the debates in regard to science and the bible since the two are not at odds with one another, and our goal isn’t to win a science debate. It may be even possible to agree with the late Stephen J. Gould who was an atheist and eminent Harvard professor of Paleontology when he wrote, “Science and religion can be seen as nonoverlapping but equally valid means of understanding the world around us, and neither should encroach upon the domain of the other.” Christian Theologian RC Sproul once said that, “When people ask me how old the earth, I tell them I don’t know, because I don’t.” Not a bad tactic. As believers let’s stick to the gospel and not arguing subjects we know nothing about. The bottom line is the bible teaches us that God is the Ultimate cause of the universe, whereas science is trying to determine the Proximate cause.
The fact is the bible has proven itself well from an accuracy and historical perspective. There have been many skeptics saying the opposite, but the skeptics have most often had to change their positions when all the facts came in; like the existence of the Hittite Empire, which was spoken of often in scripture, but skeptics derided until 1948 when archaeological discoveries were made proving the existence of such an empire making the skeptical claims null and void. We can trust the bible for our “Life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), and trust it to place a mirror before us explaining who we are, what we are created to do and why we don’t have the joy we are seeking as humans. The authority of scripture is either a real part of our lives, especially as it relates to the many issues in our culture today, or it’s not. Of course we always have the prerogative to discard scripture and go our own way, but it can’t be based on the fact that scripture isn’t accurate, or is a book of horrible advice as some say.
In our passage today (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:7), we are exploring the meaning of the “Image of God.” What we are taught in the first couple of chapters of Genesis is that God is infinite and separate from His creation and the uncaused cause of all matter (Which is finite), which makes Him very different than many other gods. And that He created humanity in His image.
Being created in the image of God is the believers foundation for our identity, and for treating ALL people with dignity, love and compassion. This is an area I believe a purely macro-evolutionary theory has to trade in its foundational belief to make work. If we really are just “Happy Accidents,” and no different than the animal kingdom then there is no real, philosophical basis for me to care about the other person, especially if that person is ‘unfit,’ and not pulling his weight in the culture. Bible authors use this idea of being created in God’s image to stop murder (Genesis 9:6) and the cursing of humanity (James 3:9). Thus we are to see all humanity as created in God’s image!
To be created in God’s image is to be ‘Like” Him. We are told to be “Perfect” like our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:48). Thus God’s communicable attributes are part of what it means to be made in His image. Attributes such as love, holiness, goodness, truthful, rational, personal, merciful, free, etc. are all part of what it means. But, while many church fathers and theologians have included the above, as well as, reason, intellect, free will and the ability to rule over the creation as what it means to be created in God’s image, I think our context speaks more clearly to this.
First, I think the image means that we have ‘Dominion” (Co-Regency) over creation. This is certainly part of it, but not the whole. We will discuss this more next week. Being made in His image also carries a second idea. which is the essence of who God is. He’s a triune being unlike humanity. God is a perfect community in of Himself, with no need for anything else. He created out of His creative personality (Another attribute humans share with Him), and out of His pleasure and will, not because He needed anything. He exists perfectly as three distinct personalities united in one being. This isn’t a contradiction, yet it is hard to comprehend, which is what we’d expect from God. This is also very important to who we are as humans. We are created for community and personal interaction, like God. God therefore, created diversity as a good thing. Distinction is important to Him, as it is united in diversity. Things like marriage are two distinct and diverse people coming together as ‘one flesh.’ The church is “many members, yet one body.” This idea of God being diverse yet one is unique. These aren’t three different illusory manifestations, but three real persons, distinct from one another, yet unified in one. Theologian Karl Barth wrote, “God is in relationship, and so too is the man created by Him. This is divine likeness.” This then brings us to our third likeness in our context and that is the idea of being male and female. Genesis 1:27 reads, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” He defines that image as two distinct and different, yet unified persons. Distinctions and diversity are not evil. The fall has created this tension between people, God is in the business of redeeming that.There is something at the foundational core of God that desires diversity, distinction and oneness. The world is clamoring for it to be “One,” but doesn’t have a clue of how to make that happen. In our day and age when we have been promised that computers, jets and the internet would make us globally one, we have developed more factions, tensions and wars as the cultures have crashed into one another. As one song says, “The world is heading for mutiny, when all we want is unity.”
How do you understand who you are? What or who is your identity in? Looks, fame, money, success, accomplishments, relationships? What gives you worth and meaning? Our identity is not in our sexuality, our jobs or our lineage, it is the God and creator of the universe. We are accepted, because He accepts us in Christ. It is because of this that we have no right to judge others and look down upon others as ‘sinners,’ since we are just as fallen as anyone else, yet loved and accepted in Christ Jesus.
Since that is true then, we must become the community that God has called the church to be. Instead, many are running away from the church, when in reality God has called out (Eklesia) the church to be a family of sinners saved by God’s grace. We are called together to love one another, bear one another’s burdens and to proclaim to a dying world the truth of God’s story; that Christ has come to redeem the world, so that there would be “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). That’s God’s goal for the world; what’s the goal of evolution for humanity?