By Martin Morrison
The climax of God’s creative activity was the creation of human beings, and the way in which God expresses this high point is to describe them as having been “created in the image of God”.
“Then God said, Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness. So 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.
“There is more controversy today over the origin of human beings than there is over the origin of the universe”, Professor John Lennox, Oxford University. For centuries, one of the foundations of the western world, was the infinite value of human beings, as they were created in the image of God. Sadly, this concept is being aggressively attacked by the elite in our culture. “We can no longer base our ethics on the idea that human beings are a special form of creation, made in the image of God. Human beings are no more unique than animals”, Professor Peter Singer, Princeton University. “Many people have not given up Christianity’s cardinal error, the belief that humans are radically different from other animals”, Professor John Gray, London School of Economics.
Genesis affirms that man is both dust and spirit. Genesis does not deny what chemistry tells us, that all of life has a common chemical base. It is important to take note of the teaching of Genesis on this point.
“Let the earth sprout vegetation”, Genesis 1:11.
“Let the earth bring forth living creatures”, Genesis 1:24.
“Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature”, Genesis 2:7.
“Till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return”, Genesis 3:19.
The point being, that earthly life and human life, have a common chemical base. So in many respects, humans are no different from the animals. We eat, sleep, run, breathe, reproduce, have similar organs and similar diseases. The language of Genesis affirms this commonality, by saying that we are all derived from the earth, from the dust. We should therefore not be surprised when the heart valve of a pig can be used in place of a human heart valve!
However, the absolute uniqueness of man is affirmed, when the Scriptures affirm that we are not only made of dust, but also spirit, “and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature”, Genesis 2:7. That is never said of any animal or creature, only man. Only man has a spirit, a soul. You will never understand yourself, if you don’t understand that you have a dual nature. You are made of dust, you are made for this world. But you are also a creature of another world, you have a spirit, a soul. Which is why you long for something more than this world. Which is why your soul will never be satisfied with merely earthly things.
Just a quick aside. I am trying not to be a male chauvinist! I am using the term “man” in a generic sense, meaning both male and female. I am using it in the sense of Genesis 1:27, “So God created man, male and female he created them”. In Afrikaans, there is a wonderful term used when addressing a group of people, regardless of gender, “julle”. It is impossible to translate, but is similarly generic!! “Man” is the same as “julle!!”
What then does it mean that “man is made in the image of God?” Let me suggest at least 5 possible meanings, taken from Genesis and the rest of Scripture. Today, we look at the first.
Firstly, it means that man is a unique being. If you look at Genesis 1 as a literary unit, there is a steady progression of thought in the first twenty five verses, which comes to a high point in verse 26. In every other act of creation, God merely speaks and things happen. But here in the creation of man, which is the crown of God’s creative work, we have the majestic plural, “Let us make man, in our image”, Genesis 1:26. Unlike the rest of creation, it requires the full attention of the Trinity, to create man, both male and female.
This verse is quite critical in our understanding of ourselves and our self-image. It is an organizing principle for each of us in terms of our personal identity and sense of self-worth. It answers questions such as:
Who am I?
Where do I come from?
Does my life matter?
Do I have any worth?
Do I have any value?
Why am I here?
Evolutionary humanism says that man is merely an animal. No different in principle or essence from other creatures or animals. The human race has arisen by fate, chance or mutation. We have arisen from the primeval slime.
What that means, is that we are nothing more than a chemical equation, the sum total of atoms and molecules. This view is well expounded by Jacob Bronowski author of “The Identity of Man”, who says, “Man is a part of nature in the same sense that a stone is or a cactus or camel”. I would challenge him to hold to the same view, when you threaten to throw his baby granddaughter in a lake, as you throw a stone in a lake! It sounds so clever on paper, but most unlikely in practise!
The problem with this kind of philosophy is that logically, there is no basis why we should treat human beings with any kind of dignity or value or worth. If everything is governed by chance, if we are inherently no different from the animals, then there is no logical reason to treat people any differently than we do chickens or sheep or cows that get slaughtered at an abattoir every day by the thousands. Or Jews by the millions in a German gas chamber! In reality, not an academic paper, I am not sure Bronowski would want his baby granddaughter to be lined up with the cows!!
In total contrast, the Bible says that you are not an accident or a mere chance product of nature. No, you are unique. You are distinct from the rest of creation. You have intrinsic value. Why? Because you are made in the image of God, you bear the characteristics of God.
Perhaps as you are reading this, you may be struggling with a very low self-image. Perhaps you come from a dysfunctional family. Perhaps you have been abused physically or emotionally. Perhaps you have been told all your life that you will not amount to anything, that you’re a mistake, why can’t you be like your brother or sister? Perhaps you feel young and unwanted. Perhaps you feel old and unwanted!
You need to know, that you are no mistake! You are not a nobody! God does not make junk! You are infinitely precious. You have infinite value, infinite worth and infinite dignity. Why because you are made in the very image of God. You are so precious that God sent his only Son to die for you. That is mind-blowing!
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. While were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son”, Romans 5:8,10.