For most people of faith, Genesis Chapter One pretty well describes the creation of all things. In the spirit of transparency, I will admit my intellectual bias at the beginning of this brief article. I am one of those who do not have enough faith in over-achieving pollywogs to be convinced the complexity of the human body was a result of innumerable random coincidences. So I find myself more in agreement with David who wrote: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalms 139:14 NIV.
I reject the premise that there must be a choice between faith and science, and also recognize that “scientific” dogma is of no greater value to human kind than “religious” dogma. Paul, in his closing thoughts to Timothy at the end of his first letter, said, ”Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge” 1 Timothy 6:20 NIV.
That sentence begs the question of what has been entrusted to care of people of faith includes but is not limited to the idea that God is the creator, designer of all that is. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” Genesis 1:1 NIV. When reading through the remaining verses of the creation account, which I recommend but do not have space for here, there is a key phrase that is repeated so often it is worth noting. Beginning with verse five and ending in verse 25 is the phrase that appears five times: “And God saw that it was good” referring to His creation. Then in verse 26 we read, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.’”
This simple statement could bring no small amount of confusion if the words image and likeness were interpreted as physical characteristics. Jesus, speaking of God as recorded in John 4:24, declared “God is spirit.”
It may be of help to consider that in the ancient world an image such as an idol was believed to carry the essence of the respective deity. This would not suggest that the image could do what the particular deity could do, or even that the image looked like that deity. Rather, the deity’s work would be accomplished through the idol, such as fertility or increased crop productivity.
God used that cultural understanding to make clear the point that man is the image of God by virtue of his spiritual nature. While the creation narrative is important, even more significant is the rest of the story. We know that Adam sinned against God in chapter three through willful disobedience. Satan deceived Adam into believing he could become like God, and as a result, was not only thrown out of the garden but brought damage to the spiritual image that was part of God’s original design. The restoration of that image would come through the sacrifice of Jesus.
I would suggest that you read all of Paul’s letter to the churches at Colosse. But in chapter three, he emphasizes the idea of the new man in part, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” Col 3:9-10 NIV.
The opportunity to regain that spiritual image lost in the garden comes as a result of connection in Christ. As Paul explained to Timothy: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” I Tim 2:5 NIV.
Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.