Thursday, June 01, 2006

In the Image of God 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post thinking about whether we were in God's image. As far as I can remember, what I wrote can be summarised like this:

  • Adam was made in God's image
  • Adam fell from that image
  • We are made in Adam's image
  • Christ was perfectly God's image
  • Christians are being restored into Christ's image

In the meantime, the intimidatingly clever Daniel Hill has asked me some questions about the authority over creation implied by God's image. That got me thinking, so I'm revisiting the topic.

The Essence of God's Image in Adam

As I mentioned last time, the essence of God's image is that it is to do with ruling. Here are the key verses from Genesis again.

Then God said "Let us make man in our own image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number... Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves on the ground."
Genesis 1:26-28 (NIV)

We can see that the verse referring to God's image (v27) is bracketed by v26 and v28, both of which are God telling the people to rule over the world.

God's Image Ruined by the Fall

But that isn't the way it stays. Adam and Eve sin, and then God speaks to them.

To the woman, God said,
"I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
with pain you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you."

To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,'
"Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.
Genesis 3:16-19 (NIV)

Adam and Eve's rule over creation is removed. God's words to Eve affect his command at the start of 1v28 - to be fruitful and increase in number - it now comes only with pain. As we see in chapter 4 with Cain and Abel, it is also now not automatic - the number reduces in Genesis 4.

God's words to Adam, though, remove his dominion over the ground - it now produces thorns and thistles, it requires sweat and at the end it will claim Adam, who was meant to have mastery over it. Adam's dominion over the animals is also removed with God's words to the serpent, which instead of being subject to Adam is now the enemy of him and his descendants (3v15).

That does not mean that the image of God was totally obliterated, just that it was so corrupted and twisted that it is no longer the image of God, but the image of Adam, which is the image we all bear.

When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.
Genesis 5:3 (NIV)

So we, in Adam's image, still have some degree of mastery over the world, but not the degree that Adam had before the Fall, when he was in God's image.

Absence of God's Image seen in the OT

Throughout the Old Testament, we see that people are not ruling over the animals and the earth in the way they were meant to. The most disgraceful death is to be eaten by dogs (e.g. Jezebel), as that has nature ruling over people.

God's judgement on his faithless people sees their cities replaced by briers and thorns. For example,

Now I will tell you
what I am going to do to my vineyard:
I will take away its hedge,
and it will be destroyed;
I will break down its wall,
and it will be trampled.
I will make it a wasteland,
neither pruned nor cultivated,
and briers and thorns will grow there.
I will command the clouds
not to rain on it."
The vineyard of the LORD Almighty
is the house of Israel,
Isaiah 5:5-7a (NIV)

Again, we see nature overcoming people specifically as a sign of his judgement on them but also as a clear indicator that they are not in his image.

God's Image Perfected in Christ

Of course, it is in Christ that we see God's image perfectly, and it is in Christ that we see his perfect rule over his creation.

One day Jesus said to his disciples, "Let's go over to the other side of the lake." So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we're going to drown!"

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. "Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples.
In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him."
Luke 8:22-25 (NIV)

Jesus' perfect rule over creation showed that he was in God's image.

[This raises a few interesting but pointless questions to which I don't know the answer, nor do I especially care. Could Adam and Eve have performed what we would call miracles before the Fall? Why would they have wanted to?]

God's Image Restored in Christians

We also see that God's image will be restored in Christians. How does this work out in terms of rule over creation?

Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
2 Timothy 2:11-12a

"You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth."
Revelation 5:10

There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
Revelation 22:5 (NIV)



DFH said...

Perhaps an even more significant question is whether Adam had the Holy Spirit before he sinned?

George Smeaton argues that he did, albeit mutably. See The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit Banner of Truth , ISBN 0851511872.

Another Scottish writer whose work has had a profound influence is Thomas Boston, Human Nature in its Fourfold State, ISBN 0851515592. Subtitled, "... of primitive integrity, entire depravity, begun recovery and consumate happiness or misery."

Both books highly recommended for someone about to train for the Christian ministry.

John said...

My gut reaction would be "no". After all, in OT terms, he was clean, but not holy - it took Jesus' sacrifice to make us holy. In Reformation terms, he did not have original sin, but neither did he have Christ's imputed righteousness, which is far greater than never having sinned.

That's partly why I dislike seeing what Jesus did as restoring creation - the "restored" version is much better than the original. Otherwise there wouldn't have been much point in the Fall...

DFH said...

Rather than trust your 'gut reaction', might it be better to consider Smeaton's carefully worded treatment of this important subject?

Here are the first few headings in his first division....





I'm sure Smeaton would have agreed that what Christ restored through the atonement is greater than what Adam forefeited by his one act of disobedience.

The difference between Adam in his primitive integrity and the regenerate Christian is certainly recognised by both Scottish writers.

In Smeaton the key word in this context is 'mutably'. Thus ....

"The doctrine that man was originally, though mutably, replenished with the Spirit, may be termed the deep fundamental thought of the Scripture-doctrine of man." (p15).

Other writers have summarised the fourfold state like this:

1. Before the Fall, Adam was righteous but capable of sinning.

2. After the Fall, man was incapable of not sinning.

3. By the redemption of Christ, believers are capable of not sinning.

4. After the redemption of our bodies, we shall be incapable of sinning.

The Holy Spirit indwells the believer immutably, according to promises such as "I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you." (Heb 13).

John said...

But surely the righteousness of Christ is greater than the righteousness of Adam in more respects than simply its immutability! Adam was clean; consecrated priests were holy; even the Ark of the Covenant was only holy holy. Christ is holy holy holy.

The temple, though built exactly according to God's instructions, still needed to be consecrated, simply because it was created and therefore not a fit habitation for God without sacrifices being made.

DFH said...

Arguments on this topic are beset with the difficulty that we can only hypothesise about what Adam might have become had he not disobeyed. i.e. Would he have progressed in righteousness and holiness through continued obedience? After all, we know from Scripture that there is progression in sanctification for the NT believer, based on verses such as Jn 14:21.

The problems raised by custard's response are to do with anthropology itself. The change wrought by the new birth is spiritual and ethical, but it does not make us more than man (i.e. it does not turn us into angels or 'little gods'), but rather it makes us fit to be temples of the Holy Ghost.

If being temples of the Holy Ghost was not part of God's original design for man in his state of innocence, then this prompts the philosophical question as to whether human nature was metaphysically different prior to the Fall.

In the present age, we are faced with New Age mysticism which seeks a sort of salvation through gnostic metaphysics. How we answer this question ultimately takes us back to the doctrine of the Incarnation, and what it meant for Jesus Christ to be truly man as well as very God.