Man(אָדָם)(in the Genesis sense)
- In God’s image
- Man(אָדָם) is Male and Female
- 2 persons/1 substance (Gen 2:21-24)
- Adam looked over all the animals and found none like him and thus none suitable for a mate.
- Named all the animals
- “They” (male and female) were given the Earth to rule.
Manwas a “they” not a “he”, two persons – one flesh – one substance.
- Given free will
- There were real choices with real consequences available.
- With God
- With each other
Before getting into the subject of humanity I want to clarify something about terminology. I will frequently use the term Man in this article with a capital M. This is because we are discussing ancient literature. I am using this term in the sense it was used in the text of Genesis. Specifically in the first 5 chapters of Genesis. This term in Hebrew means Man in the sense of humanity, including both male and female. In Hebrew “Adam”(אָדָם). It also came to be used as the proper name for the first male in the Genesis story. The word is translated then as either “man” or as “Adam” depending on the context in modern translations. Though in Hebrew it is the same word. Therefore when I use Man with a capital M in this article I am speaking about Man as male and female in the same sense Genesis uses the term in the early chapters. I am not using it to denote the males.
In God’s Image
Much has been written on the creation of Man in God’s image. The subject could easily fill a book(or many books it turns out). Obviously, I am not going to go to those depths here. However, it is important for us to contemplate why this aspect of our creation is the first thing we are introduced to in Genesis. God created us in His image. Why is this important?
Some have said that this image refers to our ability to reason. Others would focus on our understanding of moral realities. I think both of these aspects of Man reflect God to a degree. But are these attributes necessarily and absolutely unique to Man? I am not convinced that these things alone constitute all that is implied by the term “the image of God”.
There are other considerations as well. Some say for example, that we are “image bearers” in the sense that we are representatives of God’s presence and glory on Earth. Similar to the way an image would represent the glory of some deity in a temple. It is not the deity but represents and reflects that deity in some way. In a manner of speaking the Earth is God’s temple and we are the image of God in that temple.
Unity and the image of God
Another way of looking at Man in God’s image is that Man was created male and female. God created Man as male and female. A seeming contradiction. This is described in great detail in chapter two of Genesis. There we see that God created the female by taking material from the male. That the first pair were quite literally two persons in one substance. The two were one flesh. Moreover, we see in Genesis 2:243Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. that this unity was to be the model for male-female relationships from this point forward. Though obviously in all other cases of marriage the two are not literally one flesh. But become one in their union.
This unity was not to be understood as simply a quirk of the first couple. But rather a theological statement about God’s intent in the creation of Man. Man was created to be male and female. The two were to be one. Therefore we reflect God’s image by our very nature. Two persons in one substance.
How does this reflect God’s image? God, as we have come to understand in Christ, is three persons in one substance or essence. Man reflects this sort of unity as male and female. Two persons in one flesh.
Uniqueness of Man
One other attribute of Man though only mentioned indirectly is this. Man is completely unique. As God and Adam looked over all the animals. They found no creature to be suitable as a counterpart for Adam. This implies that Adam was not like other animals he was completely unique. This is why God needed to specially create a counterpart for Adam. Humanity was not like the rest of creation. Both male and female were not a minor variant of some other species. They were uniquely created for each other. Moreover, God created them from the same substance. Man is male and female, they are one, and utterly unique.
Reason and Self-Awareness
This attribute of Man is the one that many feel is the most significant difference between Man and the rest of God’s earthly creatures. The ability to think in terms of self. The ability to think in abstract terms. Math, language, poetry, music, love, and beauty are all things that are uniquely human. And while it can be argued that animals possess some of these attributes to at least a small degree. It is futile to argue that any animal including the “highest” primates remotely approach human levels in any of these categories.
There is a uniqueness here that transcends mere mechanics. After all, what is the chemical composition of an idea? The vacuousness of materialism is immediately recognized when the situation is looked at dispassionately. There are a great many things that cannot be quantified or explained in terms of material causation, composition, or process. Information for example cannot be explained through unguided mechanical processes. It is nearly oxymoronic to suggest that unguided physical processes could produce reason. The processes of reason and unguided physical processes are antithetical. Unguided processes have no “why” only a “how”. Yet “why” is the question every reasonable being asks. And “how” only matters to beings that ask why.
The material of the universe is unaware and unconcerned about either “why” or “how”. Why is only a major concern of reasonable beings, mechanics, though important, explains only the process not the reason.
The path of a Pachinko ball cannot be compared to a game of chess though both have “rules”. Pachinko balls do not celebrate victory when they reach the bottom. Nor do Pachinko players celebrate their skill. (at least sensible Pachinko players that is) Each ball falls through the forest of pins guided only by the laws of physics. No reason, no goal, no purpose, no value. Human reason is not simply the firing of neurons in patterns that form over time. To suggest this is to destroy the concept of reason.
So we find another way in which Man reflects God. Man is a self aware and reasonable being. Reason begets reason. Information comes from a mind not a brain.
Man as a moral being
Man is morally aware. Our decisions are not simply based on pragmatism, but also on an abstract but very real sense of moral good and evil. Ironically even when human beings reject the entire concept of spirit and adopt a thoroughly materialistic mindset, the language of good and evil persist. It may be a hollow and self-referencing definition of good and evil but there is something in us that knows good and evil are very real. Not only that, even those with empty, groundless, self-referencing ideas of good and evil continue to base their actions on these moral ideals.
So the image of God that we carry includes not only reason and self-awareness, but also moral awareness and ability. We are able to make both moral and immoral decisions. Furthermore, with moral awareness and capability comes moral responsibility. Man governs for better or worse based on moral considerations beyond the basic desire to survive. Our sense of right and wrong often cause us to make decisions that do not reflect immediate self interest. This moral sense is innate. It has and does exist in people of all ages and beliefs. In fact it is tellingly still present even in materialists that deny anything exists beyond the material universe. Secularists of all stripes still cry out for justice and often claim to be guided by real moral principles.
Co-regents, Caretakers, and Cultivators of Earth
With all these attributes of Man in mind let’s look at our purpose as beings. Not only are we created beings. Not only do we have the attributes described above and more. We were created with a purpose. We have a function in the overarching plan of God. We serve a function in the cosmic kingdom of God. Along with various other heavenly beings we have a role to fulfill in God’s family. Our existence is not simply a happy(or unhappy) series of events.
While the pain and confusion of this life can make our purpose, or any purpose, hard to see at times. Our existence is not meaningless or trivial. In spite of our seemingly inconsequential size and power. Hopelessness can cause us to retreat into simply existing. Thinking only of ourselves and the present moment.
However, the bible tells a much different story. God created Man4Remember “Man” is male and female as one in biblical terms to multiply, subdue, rule, and care for the earth. Our first “job” was as gardeners in Eden. Caring for God’s creation and ruling over it as governors under God’s ultimate authority was our original charter. In essence God gave this planet to us that we may bring order to, and care for, this world. To make it our home and extend the kingdom of God. To extend God’s family. God created a new domain(earth) for his new family(Mankind) to live in and enjoy.
But God did not simply build a fluffy little nest for us to live in, he gave us a world of challenges to explore and overcome. We would need all the powers he gave us to successfully accomplish this task. We would need creativity, strength, wisdom, and intelligence to accomplish our assignment on this wild planet. Mankind was not created to passively graze. We were created to build, create, multiply, and rule. We were created to do all of this as an extension of God’s loving rule over all creation. All while loving God and each other.
The broken image
But something went wrong almost immediately. The same human attributes and gifts that were meant to bless and empower us were used instead for selfish goals. Our ability to make good moral choices gave us the ability to make evil moral choices. And Man wasted no time in exercising this capacity for evil. The ability to reason and to choose became the ability plot and to plan in our own self interest. And sinful self-interest turned the unity of male and female into a never ending power struggle.
Man was banished from the garden and the presence of God. Man was blocked from accessing the tree of life. From this time forward the blessing of moral freedom became our curse. Our desire for autonomy became our exile. The desire for living life on our terms became death. For to declare autonomy from the source of life leaves only death. Our desire for self-satisfaction became estrangement, conflict, oppression, and war. For when our desire to please ourselves is primary, benefiting others is of little interest to us.
How does this knowledge change the path?
This conversation may seem a bit abstract and of little practical use so far. So let’s reflect a bit on how these concepts of human existence affect our path and alter our perceptions. Not to mention hopeless now that we have rebelled against the very God that gives us life. But not all is lost.
The first benefit of understanding Man as being in God’s image, with all the properties that entails, is that Man has incalculable value. Man is not valued because of what they can do, nor are they valued for their position is society. Man is valuable because they are created with value. They are given value by their creator in the same way they are given various abilities and properties by their creator.
In practical terms this means that the value of a human being has nothing to do with skin color, or sex, or age, or background, or skill, or even health. A persons value is in their being human. The value of something as rare and precious as being in the image of God can not be measured through such superficial and circumstantial metrics. Failure to recognize this intrinsic value is actually a sign of passive contempt for our creator.
As John says “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”1 John 4:20
The knowledge that we are created in God’s image changes everything. Life ceases to be a meaningless and arbitrary existence for which we have to find some purpose. Life is meaningful because God has given it immeasurable value and real purpose. We must therefore value life particularly human life. Man is unique, Man is male and female as one. Man is created in God’s image with purpose and function. Therefore, we must love each other as God has loved us.