Throughout church history, the historicity of the bible undergoes constant assault. The tactics vary, but the end result is to undermine the authority of the scriptures. Enemies come and go, but they pursue the same goal. George Santayana is famous for many reasons, which I am unable to explore. His quote about history gets to the heart of the matter: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It is my humble opinion that today’s church is woefully ignorant about its past. There are numerous aberrant doctrines or teachings on the rise, which had been refuted in the past by our forbears. At the risk of casting aspersions upon anyone, I want to say up front that I embrace the old adage, “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.”
Ok…let me get down to brass tacks. What are some of those aberrant doctrines floating around in the body of Christ? The following notions have resurfaced over the last decade. Here they are in alphabetical order: 1.) Justification by faith with works (the New Perspective on Paul advocates this view); 2.) Rejecting the biblical notion of gender identity as male and female; 3.) Rejecting the substitutionary atonement of Christ’s redemption; and 4.) Universalism. All of these positions come to the surface in a variety ways. Some are more subtle than others with the exception of the second one. It is this view that I aim to tackle in this post. Before I begin one sentence in this direction, here is the biblical text that I will use to support my point-of-view:
“26a Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…’ 27 so God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28a And God blessed them…” (Genesis 1:26a – 28a, ESV).
There are a couple of things that I want to highlight about this passage. First, it occurs toward the end of the creation account in the first chapter of Genesis. Therefore, and this second point flows out of the first, the creation of man serves as the capstone or the culmination of God’s act of creation. Mankind or men and women occupy the highest position on the earth by virtue of the sovereign purpose of God. This is not an accident from my perspective. There is another key point to notice in this passage. God uses the plural pronoun us, which references the three persons within the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each one participates in the act of creation (Genesis 1:1-2 & John 1:1-3, ESV).
Most scholars agree that Moses is the writer of Genesis; however, I submit to my readers and followers that the true author, the Holy Spirit, inspired him to organize the content of Genesis chapter one in such a way as to highlight the importance of man being created in God’s image (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV). Nowhere in Scripture do we read that the angels bear God’s image like men and women. It is true that angels occupy a higher position than humans (Psalm 8:4-5; Ezekiel 1:5-13; Revelation 4:6-8, ESV), that they are spirit beings with personalities (Luke 1:19-20), and that they possess the ability to take on human form (Genesis 6:1-4 and Daniel 9:21-23, ESV). That being said, it is mankind who bears the image or likeness of God. It goes without saying that no animal reflects God’s image the way men and women do. The ramifications of human beings bearing the imago dei is immense or far-reaching.
First things first, it must be said up front that the Genesis account indicates that both genders bear God’s image equally and fully. God created women to bear his image, and he created men to do the same. In this respect, men are not greater than women and women are not greater than men. There are differences between the sexes to be sure, but those flesh out God’s image in ways that need to be acknowledged and embraced. Our culture and society desperately needs to embrace this biblical truth for our own good. If I stand upon this divine truth about men and women, then would I engage in behavior (whether thoughts, words, or actions), which denigrates the image of God in them? Let me phrase it another way. Does the truth of God creating men and women in his image shape how I perceive and interact with people? I believe it should, but easier said than done.
In my own life, I have suffered the consequences of mistreating others and myself. Every thought, word or act that lessened the honor and dignity of others and myself paved the way for defiling God’s image. Sometimes I found it easy to do because it came second nature. The point being is that if I do not care for God’s image within me, then it follows that I will sully it in others. Now, I realize that this post hits hard. My heart’s purpose is to spare my readers and followers the horrors of being on the wrong side of judgment day. The Triune God takes his creation of men and women very seriously…in fact, way more seriously than our cultures and societies do. Based on today’s passage, women have intrinsic value as women because God put his image in them. Men have intrinsic value because his image resides in them. When did this occur? It took place before the fall, before the rebellion of Adam and Eve.
Embedded within the creation of men and women is God’s image. Despite the rebellion of the first man and woman, this fact remains true forever. Human beings reflect God’s image to him and to others whether they want to or not. Do women see in themselves the image of their creator? What about the men? From my point-of-view, low self-esteem, eating disorders, drug use, sexual promiscuity, and other like afflictions seem to flow out of a poor self image. If our culture and society embraced the truth that God made all people after his own image, I think many of those afflictions and disorders would fall away. Thankfully, Christ came to overturn this bent within men and women. He is the way, the truth, and the life. In Christ, there is a way out of our innate or ingrown desire to defile God’s image in us.