Monday, July 22, 2013

The Image of God in Mankind

I have established, minimally, that the image of God in mankind is reflected in mankind's freewill. Furthermore, I implied that since God is more than his will, his image in mankind must include more than freewill. Love, creativity, reasoning, communicability, and dominion are part of the picture as well. To take it a step further, I think a very good case can be made that it was through the instrumentality of God's breath that the image of God was communicated to man (i.e. Spirit became spirit). He is spirit and so is man (in some respect) which is why man can be like him.

Of all the creatures God made in the physical world, mankind alone was said to be made in his image and given dominion. Angels are not mentioned at all in the creation account, but appear suddenly, without explanation or specifications, at the Fall of Man. Only much later in the record of revelation are we told they were made to be ministering (sacredly serving) spirits by God. Yet, even though salvation and redemption hold a fascination for them, they have no ability to be redeemed through faith.

Though they are spiritual beings, as is God, many of them fell into rebellion with Satan. Those, at least, had to have had some kind of freewill capacity (see this as to why), although we can only guess as to its nature. We don't know why unfallen angels did not fall, nor indeed, if they even had the capacity to do so in the first place. Regardless, we can be thankful they, at least, are faithful to God and serve the heirs of salvation amongst mankind to this day.

Mankind is a strange word to generically refer to all human beings with, but it is a biblical way of looking at things. Today's feminists may be bothered by designations that seem better suited to males than females, but believers in the Bible recognize that there is nothing inherently wrong with such. Men are made in the image of God and are tasked with dominion--some are male, some are female. There is absolutely no distinction in the image of God that either gender bears nor in the mandate of dominion they were given.

Only sin, followed by the curse and death has affected the relative status of both types of men. Enmity between the sexes exists, because under the curse, females were placed beneath males in the dominion mandate. In the perfection of God's created order before the Fall, male and female had no more significance than reproductive utility. In Christ, post-redemption, after the curse is no more, there is neither male nor female to any spiritual consequence, which will be particularly evident after the Resurrection.

Friday, July 19, 2013

What Is the Image of God in Mankind?

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.   Genesis 1:26-27 NASB

What does it mean that mankind was made in the Image of God? At its most basic, "image" as used in Genesis 1 refers to a rendering, something cut out like a sculpture or carving. Verse 26 uses "likeness" to describe the nature of that "image", which captures quite well the thought of resemblance. Therefore, the image of God in mankind is a representation in the created world that resembles God--an optical counterpart, if you will, which is not of the same stuff as the original but looks the same nonetheless.

However, God is not corporeal so the likeness in question cannot refer to the physical or tangible realm--it must refer to something metaphysical, something spiritual. Our physical being certainly says something about the attributes of its Creator, but our physical being is not what reflects the image of God. So what do we know about God that isn't physical or visible? He is spirit. He does as he pleases. He is creative. He is love. He reasons. He communicates. He has a will. And in the fullness of all that he is, he rules.

Now, it would be a mistake, in concentrating on that last characteristic, to assign the image of God primarily to the mere exercise of sovereignty or dominion. God's nature is not circumscribed by the attribute of sovereignty, and so being in the image of God cannot be solely about dominion. Besides, ruling, as commissioned in mankind, was concomitant upon them being made in God's image rather than being a reiteration of what it meant that they were made that way (i.e v. 26 is an expression of synthetic rather than synonymous parallelism).

But even if one were to insist on making this error, dominion, or ruling, is still founded upon the ability to do what one wants with what is dominated. The more limited a being's degree of freedom to act is, the less that being can be said to be exercising dominion. You see, sovereignty is really, at its most fundamental, about doing as one pleases with what one is sovereign over. Therefore, it is really no stretch at all to see that doing as one pleases, whether it is this or that (i.e. freewill), is essential to the nature of God, to the concept of sovereignty, and by implication, to the image of God in man.

In fact, a being cannot be said to be in the image of God without having freewill.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Letter to the Protestant Church, Part II

Continuing with our look at the Letter to the Church at Sardis...

Jesus' command to the Sardisians to remember is similar to his command to the Twelve concerning the Lord's Supper. In that case the subject of recall was Christ himself, in this case it is what the Sardisians had embraced (received) and understood (heard) as believers. This is not the first time a NT writer used recalling that which had been experienced by believers as a means of correction. It seems that Christians forget what they've seen and heard, and which elicited and strengthened their faith in Christ at their own peril.

Instead, the Sardisians were told to guard (keep, watch over) what they had embraced and heard. Finishing one's work certainly progresses toward that end, but it also means revisiting, checking up on, remembering the things by which we stood and continue to stand in faith. The celebration of Communion can help with this, so long as it isn't seen as making the bread and wine instill some spiritual benefit of themselves, rather than being a means of remembering the Lord and what he's done to save us.

The Christians of Sardis needed to change their minds about and attitudes toward (repent) what they had already heard and known. It is my sense that human nature has a ready appetite for the fresh, that we are more intrigued by the new rather than what we have already been exposed to. We can be dismissive and even disdainful toward what was once fresh but is no longer on the cutting edge. Disregard for the foundational and worthy of continued attention can not only lead to works going astray but also faith going dry.

"Wake up!" Jesus commanded the Sardisians. Really, watchfulness is the practical outcome of wakefulness which seems to be the point Christ was making--pay attention to your ongoing faith walk with Jesus. The mention of his surprise appearance catching them unaware is reminiscent of the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Whereas there, sleeping per se was not cast in an irredeemable light (as it is here), the force there and here is the faithless lack of attention and concern some have toward what they have and are expecting in Christ.

As in any church, not everyone part of the congregation is truly part of the Church of the First-born. Some walk unsoiled (in this case, that is equivalent to unsleeping) and will be at the banquet when the Son of Man returns, some will not. Regardless, the action, one way or the other, is not attributed to Christ but to the one wearing the garment. If one keeps his garment unsoiled (perhaps that is the only proper garment for the occasion), he will thus have white garments, akin to Christ's and appropriate for eternity.

Take special notice to the typical use of white here. This treatment is consistent with the other symbolic uses of "white" throughout the scripture, but especially that in the Apocalypse. White is always associated with the good and right, never with the evil and unrighteous. Which, incidentally, is the reason the White Horse cannot be interpreted as evil (i.e. as representative of the Antichrist), but only as good (e.g. the Church turned loose on the Great Commission).

That one can have one's name "unwritten" or erased is a slam-dunk destruction of the Once-Saved-Always-Saved doctrine. As is clear from this letter, one whose name was written in the Book of Life can have that name erased from the Book of Life. Since that book is the instrumentality of final judgment later in the Apocalypse, the message is all too clear. There is a possibility that those who would have been saved eternally at one time in their lives, can at a subsequent time lose that status: the saved can become the unsaved.

Since we are saved by grace through faith, the consideration above would seem to indicate that the faith in question is something in the purview of the believer rather than God. There is in the believer that responsibility in regards to faith which is his or hers and dependent upon him or her to execute and maintain. God will not believe for the believer, the believer, ultimately, must do that for his or her self (despite their need for God's enabling assistance). For those that make the good confession of faith before men, Christ will confess them as his at the end before God and the angels.