So the first major takeaway from creation theology is the fact that we’re special—specifically, that we’re in the image of God.
Before we get to what that means, I’d like to take a post to note whom it involves.
It involves every human—everyone who’s descended from Adam and Eve.
First, it includes sinful humans, and that’s all of us, of course. Every descendant of Adam and Eve is sinful, in at least three ways:
- We’re guilty of Adam’s sin, because Adam was our representative in the Garden. Paul tells us that in Adam, “all sinned” (Rom 5.12)—not “all sin,” or “all will sin,” but “all sinned.” There are different theories as to how that works, but no orthodox theologian denies the fact that the guilt for Adam’s sin has been imputed to us.
What’s that you say? That’s not fair? Sure seems like it, doesn’t it? But let me encourage you to take a look at the whole picture. Adam’s guilt is imputed to you; that really hurts. But your sin is imputed to Christ (Is 53.4-6), and that’s not “fair” either. And the coup de grace is that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us (2Cor 5.21), so that God sees us through Christ-colored glasses.
That’s quite an arrangement.
You can whine about fairness if you want, but this is the best deal in the history of ever, and you’d be a fool not to take it.
- As descendants of Adam, we’ve inherited his sinful nature, so that we’re inclined toward sin; we naturally lean in that direction (Rom 8.5-8; Eph 4.22). We like it.
- And we sin. Even if Adam’s sin weren’t on our account, we have plenty of our own to answer for. We’re guilty (Rom 3.10-18), as guilty as sin. And if you don’t think so, consider how you’d feel if your thoughts were broadcast, 24/7, to everyone you know. I sure wouldn’t like it. I’m not the only one like that, am I?
But here’s remarkable thing. Even as sinners, we’re still in the image of God (Gen 9.6; Jam 3.9). God’s image in us is so powerful, so deeply embedded by his sculpting hand, that all the sin in the universe can’t blast it away. God is bigger than sin, and so is his image in us.
And one more thing. At the moment he placed that image in us, he said specifically that it involved both kinds of humans: male and female (Gen 1.27).
No, the woman wasn’t an afterthought. That’s ridiculous; God doesn’t have afterthoughts. She’s in the image of God too. I’d go so far as to suggest that neither sex completely reflects the image of God; the image is most clearly and completely displayed by the two together. Which means, I suppose, that the sexes image God most clearly when they’re friends, not enemies.
So why did God delay the creation of Eve? He didn’t say, but as a teacher, I have a suspicion.
He wanted Adam to realize his own incompleteness before he completed him with Eve. He wanted him to treasure what a remarkable and perfect gift she was. So he set him out to name all the animals (Gen 2.19), and here they came, two by two, each male with his perfect female complement. And Adam noticed the obvious: there’s no one like that for me (Gen 2.20). He recognized his need. (Discovery learning!) And when God met that need, perfectly (Gen 2.21-22), Adam burst into poetry (Gen 2.23).
Men have been writing poems to women ever since, with varying degrees of skill. And reception, alas.
Now, how do you treat the image of God?
Well, suppose I’m in London, and I see a bust of the Queen. And I spit on it.
I’m going to have to do a lot of explaining to a lot of Brits, some of them undoubtedly in an official capacity.
And what if I say, “I didn’t spit on the Queen; I spit on a chunk of marble”?
Nope. That excuse is not gonna fly. It’s a piece of marble that looks like the Queen, and that’s the whole point. My treatment of the image can reasonably be taken to reflect my attitude toward the original, the person depicted.
That’s why murder is wrong, you know. Not primarily because the human has a right to life (which he does), but because murder is an attack on, a defacing of, the image of God (Gen 9.6).
So how do you treat the image of God that you see every day? In the rich? The poor? The white? The black? The male? The female? The stronger than you? The disabled? The respectable? The death-row inmate? The countryman? The refugee?
Images of God. All of them. Better not spit on them, or you’re going to have to answer to the Original, and he’s not going to be happy about it.
You disrespect certain kinds of people? Then you need to ask yourself why you despise God so much. You need to repent, and you need to make restitution. You need to repair the damage you’ve done.
Creation theology means that there shouldn’t need to be #metoo hashtags. Or any other campaigns to end abuse, physical or verbal, or even simple disrespect. It’s all ungodly, and in that sense it’s also subhuman.
Get with the species.