Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Image of God and the Fall of Man

If God made all things good, where does evil come from? This post focuses specifically on mankind's intentional evil, the plain evidence that mankind is not now thoroughly good. And if mankind is not now thoroughly good, how can we assert that mankind was created good?

As we saw when discussing goodness, the primitive natural things have some sign of God's goodness in them. They stir some memory of God or longing for him. Light reminds us of God; so do water and mountains and stars. But none of these things can fully reveal the glory of God. They are bound by their natures to certain courses; they have no direction except what necessity requires of them. They do not govern themselves. Stars and tides and things which thoughtlessly follow their courses have a beauty and cause no disruption. But they have no thought, no wisdom, no love, no desire to increase the good beyond themselves, no ability to lay a course other than that laid down for them.

Mankind, instead, is in the image of God. We were created with the capacity for thought and wisdom and love. Mankind alone is gifted with the management of the world, to govern himself, even to govern some of God's own creations placed under his care. A creature in the image of God carries great possibilities and great risks. There is great possibility in wisdom and love and the desire to increase the good. When we see a great artist, or scientist, or athlete, or a humble farmer who does great things with the land, we can only begin to imagine a world in which all people had lived out the possibilities of the image of God. At the same time fellowship becomes possible, a bond that we enjoy in the company of others of common purpose. But along with the great possibility there is also great risk. There is risk that mankind might make himself his own god, might try to force all things to love him and serve him and conform to his own image, might reverse right and wrong at every point. This is a possibility not because God desires evil, but because he desires such a great good as a creature in his own image.

Some would say that God created mankind with no freedom, but has bound us to a specific course by necessity of nature and decree. But being bound by necessity is not fully consistent with the image of God we are said to bear. Neither does it match the view given us in the Scriptures, which show God implementing his lordship in a way that still leaves room for our sub-lordship. A creature in the image of God will govern himself and govern what is within his stewardship. Still, mankind's direction now is not entirely free to turn back to God, not because God desires man to fall away, but because man does not fully desire to return. Scripture shows that mankind's turn away from God to enthrone ourselves in God's place has left us in a natural state where we now run from God and hide, and make excuses and pass blame, and justify ourselves at the expense of others. We are bound to do these things lest our god -- namely, ourselves -- should be dethroned. And so we have exalted ourselves at the cost of true glory as the crown of creation, and did not ourselves desire to regain the true image of God at the expense of being humbled.

Index for systematic theology series

5 comments:

James Fletcher Baxter said...

Consider:
The missing element in every human 'solution' is
an accurate definition of the creature.

The way we define 'human' determines our view
of self, others, relationships, institutions, life, and
future. Important? Only the Creator who made us
in His own image is qualified to define us accurately.
Choose wisely...there are results.

Many problems in human experience are the result of
false and inaccurate definitions of humankind premised
in man-made religions and humanistic philosophies.

Each individual human being possesses a unique, highly
developed, and sensitive perception of diversity. Thus
aware, man is endowed with a natural capability for enact-
ing internal mental and external physical selectivity.
Quantitative and qualitative choice-making thus lends
itself as the superior basis of an active intelligence.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. His title describes
his definitive and typifying characteristic. Recall
that his other features are but vehicles of experi-
ence intent on the development of perceptive
awareness and the following acts of decision and
choice. Note that the products of man cannot define
him for they are the fruit of the discerning choice-
making process and include the cognition of self,
the utility of experience, the development of value-
measuring systems and language, and the accultur-
ation of civilization.

The arts and the sciences of man, as with his habits,
customs, and traditions, are the creative harvest of
his perceptive and selective powers. Creativity, the
creative process, is a choice-making process. His
articles, constructs, and commodities, however
marvelous to behold, deserve neither awe nor idol-
atry, for man, not his contrivance, is earth's own
highest expression of the creative process.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. The sublime and
significant act of choosing is, itself, the Archimedean
fulcrum upon which man levers and redirects the
forces of cause and effect to an elected level of qual-
ity and diversity. Further, it orients him toward a
natural environmental opportunity, freedom, and
bestows earth's title, The Choicemaker, on his
singular and plural brow.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. Psalm 25:12 He is by
nature and nature's God a creature of Choice - and of
Criteria. Psalm 119:30,173 His unique and definitive
characteristic is, and of Right ought to be, the natural
foundation of his environments, institutions, and re-
spectful relations to his fellow-man. Thus, he is orien-
ted to a Freedom whose roots are in the Order of the
universe.

Let us proclaim it. Behold!
The Season of Generation-Choicemaker Joel 3:14 KJV

- from The HUMAN PARADIGM

codepoke said...

I like your comment in your profile, Mr. Baxter. :-)

My 'Johnny-One-Note' message: "What is man...?" God asks and answers - Earth's CHOICEMAKER!"

I think I had already gotten that point. :-D

(Are you emoticon literate? If not, :-) is a happy face, and :-D is a big-laughing face.)

neuron said...

as a professional of law, I wonder how you come to the conclusion that there is such a thing as an a-priori definition of "good",
all we know is that the instrument of Law stems from morality, and this is just the result of kin relations and reciprocity in lower animals.
All rules of morality have changed along history, imagine what kind or rules we humans had during several million years of cannibalism (by the way cannibalism can also be seen in the text of the bible as practised by some chosen people).
No, a serious exposition of the subject requests serious study of the antecedents of law.

Another thing is God, for I believe in Him, but, how can we relate God (Love in the Spirit), with something that is so changeable as the rules of good and bad. By the way, have you considered that God permitted this matter of cannibalism during so long a time in evolution, without delivering to humans such a simple thing as agriculture, which is a recent discovery.

neuron said...

as a professional of law, I wonder how you come to the conclusion that there is such a thing as an a-priori definition of "good",
all we know is that the instrument of Law stems from morality, and this is just the result of kin relations and reciprocity in lower animals.
All rules of morality have changed along history, imagine what kind or rules we humans had during several million years of cannibalism (by the way cannibalism can also be seen in the text of the bible as practised by some chosen people).
No, a serious exposition of the subject requests serious study of the antecedents of law.

Another thing is God, for I believe in Him, but, how can we relate God (Love in the Spirit), with something that is so changeable as the rules of good and bad. By the way, have you considered that God permitted this matter of cannibalism during so long a time in evolution, without delivering to humans such a simple thing as agriculture, which is a recent discovery.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi there

I hadn't checked this post for ages; had no idea there was a new comment on it until tonight.

I think few things distort our sense of good as much as modern human legal systems. I do not define good in terms of human legal systems, but am looking at that which precedes the existence of any human legal system -- call it the primordial good, if you will. It is defined more in terms of love, peace, joy, and purity, less in terms of law.

Human law presupposes that there is a foundation of goodness apart from "right and wrong" or "legal and illegal", a goodness which is not established by the law but only recognized by it. The most fundamental "right" is to recognize the pre-ethical/existential goodness of existence, to love it and be glad in it.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF