Archive for October, 2008

Imago Dei and Public Policy

October 20, 2008

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. . . . And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him. Genesis 1:26-27

What does it mean to be created in the image and likeness of God? Theologians have kicked this question around for centuries. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t explain the image of God in detail.

The two phrases “in Our image” and “in Our likeness” are parallel expressions. The Hebrew word for “image” comes from a root that speaks of carving. It suggests that man is somehow carved into the shape of God. Is this carving physical, biological, emotional, intellectually, relational, spiritual, moral, or what? How are we like God?

John Calvin said, “The image of God extends to everything in which the nature of man surpasses that of all other species of animals. . . . And though the primary seat of the divine image was in the mind and the heart, or in the soul and its powers, there was no part even of the body in which some rays of glory did not shine.”

I love Calvin’s phrase “rays of glory.” The rays of God’s glory shine upon us as human beings and clothe us in dignity. Whatever it means to be created in the image and likeness of God, it is high and lofty and sacred. No plant, animal, bird, or fish shares this carving, nor can such creatures evolve into the likeness of God. The divine image is something that God uniquely impresses on humans. It is what defines our identity. It sets us apart from every other aspect of God’s creation.

Anthropology and theology must begin with Genesis to fully understand the nature of man. The image of God explains our moral consciousness, creativity, and capacity for intimate relationships. It explains the higher dimensions of our intellect and emotions. Our language and communication skills are a reflection of our God-likeness. Even the desire for a personal relationship with our Creator says something about us possessing the divine image.

It is because we are created in the image of God that life is sacred and should be treated as such even as we consider public policy. In an article for the Washington Post, Michael Gerson made this important connection. He writes, “If religious belief about the dignity of human life were illegitimate as a basis for public policy, there would have been no abolition or civil rights movements. The idea of a divine image found in every human being is one of the main foundations for the American tradition of liberty, tolerance and pluralism. Religious duty motivates millions to love and serve their neighbors – and thus to respect their neighbor’s rights of conscience.”

Gerson is spot on. When we move away from the idea of a divine image being found in every human being, life becomes cheap and disposable. Then atrocities like abortion on demand, euthanasia and a host of other crimes against humanity become easier for society to accept. When that happens we deface the image of God. It’s like spraying graffiti on his likeness.

Sun Worshippers Beware!

October 13, 2008

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth; and so it was. Genesis 1:14-15

On the first day of creation, God said, “Let there be light.” On the fourth day of creation, he added, “Let there be lights.” Light reflectors and generators in the expanse replaced the intrinsic light force that God created on day one. The stated purpose of the sun, moon and stars was to divide, direct, and dazzle.

Besides dividing the day from the night, the luminaries in the sky set the seasons and serve as signs. By day four if not before, the earth is tilting on its axis and unveiling the cycles of spring, summer, winter and fall to the new planet. The beautiful seasonal changes on earth provide variety and a spice to life.

In what way do these lights serve as signs? Of course, for centuries sailors have used the stars in the sky as navigation points. Scientists and astronomers study the stars to determine tides, eclipses, seasonal changes and so on. But is there something more to this? Some say God wrote the gospel in the stars but that the signs of the zodiac have been corrupted by pagan astrology. This theory has huge theological problems but it does make for interesting discussion.

God never intended for us to worship the sun, moon and stars. But the history of humanity demonstrates how prone we are to worship the creation rather than the Creator (Rom. 1). In Greek mythology, for instance, Apollo is the sun god and Artemis is the goddess of the moon. The Greeks also worshipped a number of lesser “sky deities.” Hindus worship Aditi who is the mother of the sun and moon gods, Mitra and Varuna. Eskimos worship Akycha, the sun spirit. The Mayans worshipped Ah Kinchil, the god of the sun. Ama-Terasu is the Japanese sun goddess. And the list goes on and on.

Sun worshippers beware! Some speculate that the reason God did not create the sun first is because he knew we would worship it. No matter what day he made the sun, we are still prone to wander from our Creator, aren’t we?

Ron Jones is a pastor whose greatest passion is to introduce people to Jesus Christ through anointed biblical preaching that transforms lives.


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