This week a friend shared his concerns about spiritual waywardness. Our religious landscape has changed, and it is obvious to anyone who wakes up to morning news or has daily interactions with the public.
The media has placed the world under a microscope, and every enlarged act occupies our minds. A different perspective would not eliminate the problems of the human condition, but could provide a better understanding of God’s plan. It would provide the strength to live with daily realities and to move toward an ultimate reality. In this discussion, I have included the views of three Biblical scholars. They have written books and produced a podcast which readers can find online.
A review of the creation story in Genesis is a good place to start a different approach to life followed by different opinions about God’s purpose for humans. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” (Genesis 1:27-28)
We tend to read this passage too quickly. A more comprehensive review could be beneficial. I will present a few ideas to consider and include a final comment on God’s purpose.
The sentence, in the image of God he created them, male and female means both were created and blessed. “God made humanity, male and female. One might wonder whether the author of Genesis saw the implications. Generations of Christians have not seen it,” according to John Edgar Goldingay. “We have often talked and behaved as if the male was the full form of a human being, with the female a slightly inferior form. But both male and female belong to the image. Women and men together comprise this image. When women are not present and involved in God’s work in the world and the church, the image of God is not present.” https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/56241.John_E_Goldingay and https://www.listennotes.com/top-episodes/john-goldingay/ Goldingay is a Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary in California.
The phrase be fruitful and increase obviously has universal adherence.
The phrase to rule over and subdue means that humans are to serve the creation as stewards as expressed in Genesis 2:15.
The phrase created mankind in his own image denotes the relationship between God and humans.
This connection reveals God’s self-actualization in humans and God’s love and concern for humankind.
It means that humans have the capacity for spiritual growth and the possibility of transcendence.
“The moral implications of the doctrine of imago Dei are apparent in the fact that if humans are to love God, then humans must love other humans, as each is an expression of God. Striving to bring about the imago Dei in one’s life can be seen as the quest for wholeness, or one’s essential self, as pointed to in Christ’s life and teachings.” (https://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/theogloss/imago-body.html)
Humans have the choice to accept the gifts of God or reject the relationship. Adam and Eve’s decision placed humans in a world with pain and suffering. “Human disobedience did not undo God’s placing of the human condition under humanity’s authority any more than it eliminated the divine image from humanity. Our vocation is to work for the completing of God’s creation project instead of its frustration by the spoiling of God’s world, as nations in general do,” according to Goldingay. (https://www.gracepointvegas.com/sermon-archive/)
“God’s will for each of us is that we grow into spiritual maturity that our lives are consecrated by the Holy Spirit. Then we will be able to know what he wants us to do—that good and acceptable and perfect will of God,” according to R.C. Sproul. (https://www.gracepointvegas.com/sermons/disciples-make-disciples/)
God’s purpose includes following Christ. “To have faith in Christ means to do all that he says. If you have handed yourself over to him, you are trying to obey him in a new way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because he has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of heaven is already inside you,” according to C.S. Lewis. (https://restlesspilgrim.net/blog/2017/09/23/mere-christianity-b3c12/)
“Yet of all God’s creatures, it is only human beings that Scripture says are made in God’s image.” — John Koessler
Earl Crow’s column is published Saturdays in the Winston-Salem Journal. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.