Doug Green is speaking at QTC today. His first session was on the “image of God” in Genesis (and a bit of Psalms, and a bit of Kings). Here are my notes.
Guilt and Depravity – the two problems facing humanity
Guilt is the bigger issue in western sentimentality.
Depravity concerns inner corruption.
This double focus means that when it comes to defining the gospel we focus on these two conditions.
The WCF mirrors this focus on these concerns. This is what our reformed minds are interested in. If we talk about the gospel it’s likely we’ll end up talking about these concerns.
Justification – we get a new legal position and inner moral orientation. This is how we define the work of Christ and the Spirit. These views have come under criticism in recent years (the justification debate). Our definition is possibly too individualised. We need to do a better job at describing the gospel as it applies to the cosmos – but that’s not our focus today.
The Human Condition
The atonement is incredibly important for understanding the solution to the human problem. It is the central element in God’s answer to the human condition.
Nothing today is a contradiction of that central tenant.
“The Gospel as the Way to be Truly Human”
The salvation or gospel story told from the perspective of what it means to be truly human.
Image of God – that was our original definition of humanity.
The consequence of human sinfulness can be enriched by saying when humanity sinned we lost our glorious godlike status. We metaphorically fell from heaven, and we became less human as a result. We became more like the animals we were supposed to be ruling over. All sin has a dehumanizing effect. It makes us more beast than human.
Imagine a sliding scale on a continuum with God on one side and the animals on the other – we were, in the beginning – closer to the God end of the spectrum than the animal side.
Doug is pushing a very high anthropological view – true humanity was more like God in the beginning than we often think. Sin tipped the spectrum.
The word “fall” captures the idea of this change in status.
We didn’t become mere animals, and the image of God was not obliterated within us (Genesis 9). Something happened there to decrease our “image of godness.” Before the fall we were “glorious” creatures – but there’s a sense that sin ripped away or diminished that glory. We now live in perpetual quest for our lost honour and glory – perhaps an interesting angle on our human condition.
The good news of the gospel is that you can become glorious again. You can become human again. This has implications for pastoral life and evangelism.
The Godlike Glory of Humanity
Genesis 1 v 26-27
When we read the text we focus on the word “image” and forget the “likeness” – what does this mean? It confirms the creator/creation distinction. WE are creatures like the fish and the birds, but on the other hand among the creatures there is one that resembles God. That is man. We have “one foot on either side of the creator/creature distinction” – in the ancient world if you wanted to know what a God looked like you were supposed to look at his image or statue. His physical resemblance. However you talk about the image of God in humanity you can’t ignore Psalm 8.
“You made him a little lower than (Hebrew) Elohim” – a little lower than divine beings. That’s an awfully high anthropology. That we were just a tad short of divine.
Instead of saying that humanity was created like God the psalmist says that we were made similar to heavenly beings. The main point is that there’s something almost divine about unfallen humanity. [ed note – which would be consistent with reading the passages in the light of an eschatological view of humanity].
“You crown them with glory and honour” – this divine glory, traditionally divine characteristics, rested on humanity.
To bear the image of God meant that the first human, Adam, bore aspects of divinity.
Our doctrine of “total depravity” leaves us with a low view of humanity – but that’s our post fall humanity – what does it mean for us if we’re in Christ. Sometimes Doug wonders if our view of who we are as Christians is a little anemic. “There but for the grace of God go I” – we’ve been transformed, on the road to glorious humanity, so we’re not just forgiven sinners anymore…
The Holy Spirit in us gives us an element of Godlikeness. Maybe we need to take that work a little more seriously.
We’re godlike – but we’re also “sons” – Genesis 5 gives us an interesting hint about what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God. “Adam had a son in his own image, in his own likeness who he named Seth…” Seth was to Adam what Adam was to God. Luke’s genealogy makes that point (Luke 3 – Adam the son of God).
“Son of God” is a way of referring to exalted humanity.
We were godlike. We were glorious. We were sons.
We were godlike, therefore we were kings over creation.
“then God said let us make mankind in our own image, in our likeness…” with a purpose construction in Hebrew “so that they might rule.”
Because the original humanity was created in the image of god they were created to be kings over the rest of creation – exercising dominion.
It’s a vice-regency deal. In the ancient world creation isn’t a neutral act. When gods create they gain mastery over their creation. [Interesting aside – perhaps our postmodern approach to literature (denying authorial intention) is part of this desire to not associate creation with mastery/ownership. It’s certainly consistent.]
God’s rule over the world is meant to be a mediated rule – through his creatures, humans. Who are designated to rule on his behalf.
The first humans were not kings over creation – they were “God’s kings” – like the governor general with teeth. With real power.
“You made him ruler” [ Psalms ]
“The flocks and the herds… all creation belongs to the Lord God, all creatures are the works of his hands”
Genesis 2 portrays Adam as a king (subtly). One is obvious – the naming of the animals. Name giving was also a way of exercising dominion and authority.
Genesis 2:7 – much more subtle. The language of being taken out of dust, throughout the OT, is the language of enthronement. 1 Kings 16 is an example. The prophecy against Bashar “I lifted you up from the dust and I made you a leader…”
Dust is the language of “nobodyness” this language of being created from the dust is the metaphorical “raising up of a king” – “dust you were, and to dust you will return” is the language of dethronement.
2:15 – the portrayal of Adam as a gardener – in the Ancient world the kings were the garderners who made their nations fruitful. Ecclesiastes 2 – “this is my greatness, I built houses and I planted vineyards and parks, I planted all kinds of fruit trees…” the proof of the author of Ecclesiastes’ great kingship is that he is a gardener.
We were created to be kings over creation, but we are also kings under God.
Humanity was godlike – but not god. And the godlikeness was subject to recognising this relationship. Should they forget that they would immediately lose their godlike standing.
“The Lord God commanded them: “you are free to eat of any tree of the garden…”
Adam receives a one word Torah. A single test of obedience, of creatureliness. Failure to comply casts him out of his kingly role.
To be truly human is to submit to God and to obey his commands.