Refiner’s Prayer

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Sovereign God,

All praise and honor be to you, because you created all that is, was, or will ever be by your sovereign word and declared it to be good. Nothing in heaven or on earth can contend with you or harass us because of your almighty power and your creation of us in your image.

We confess that we act as if we were orphans, not under your protection and grace. Forgive our arrogant and neglectful sin when we fall short of your will for our lives. Forgive us when we tarnish your image in ourselves and others. Forgive us when will focus on circumstances and forget your untarnished image.

We give thanks for the many blessings that you have given us: life, health, family, work to do, and the community of faith to sustain us. Thank you especially for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that allows us to approach your mercy seat with confidence.

We lift up our families, communities, and country, plagued with besetting sins and moral corruption. In the power of your Holy Spirit, cleanse our hearts and draw us back to you. May the cure not kill the patient. Teach us the discipline of obedient children that we might grow stronger every day in your image.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Refiner’s Prayer

Also see:

The Who Question

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/HNY__2022

 


 

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Intrinsic and Market Values

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

 In the beginning, 

God created the heavens and the earth. 

(Gen 1:1)

This immense value of the human being arises from God’s immense power. The observation that God created the heavens and the earth means that they belong to him by creative right. God’s social position is second to none. Because God values human beings, their life has intrinsic value—value that does not change with circumstances—and that value is enormous. The concept of human rights arises from the intrinsic value of being created in the image of God. A tiny fraction of infinity is still infinite.

The Death Penalty

The derivative value of human life arises in the biblical discussion of the death penalty.  We read: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” (Gen 9:6) This implies that an attack on human beings is an attack on God himself, with explicit reference to the word, icon, used in Genesis 1:26-27. Taking human life is a sacrilege whose penalty is to forfeit your own life. Essentially, human life is sacred.

The hedge placed around human life is similar to the hedge that Moses placed around Mount Sinai. We read: “And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, Take care not to go up into the mountain [Mount Sinai] or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.” (Exod 19:12) This hedge is a consequence of God’s holiness because holy means both sacred and set apart.  Like diamonds in a vault, we protect things of value.

Why the high value of human life in Hebrew culture? We can only speculate that for a nation composed of ex-slaves who would have been abused in every possible way, placing a high value on human life (and by inference condemning any sort of abuse) would be a high priority. Abused people are often sensitive to being touched. The Biblical taboo on sexual deviance and abuse is rooted in historical experience of slavery.

Reducing penalties in capital cases has the practical advantage of reducing the violence targeting police as they apprehend murderers and reducing cost of conviction when prosecutors cut plea deals. It is also often argued that murder is often a crime of passion (or youthful indiscretion) where severe penalties provide no deterrent. Because almost all murder trials are highly publicized, the deterrent effect of a death penalty can be enormous. 

The Slippery Slope

Setting aside the practical benefits of eliminating the death penalty, reducing the penalty for murder has the direct consequence of reducing the sacredness of human life. If murderers can negotiate their way to a reduced penalty, then why not serial killers and mass murderers? This slippery slope is responsible for the increased social strife that we are now experiencing.

Reducing the penalty for murder also violates the social contract that gave the civil authority the exclusive right to yield power. Police officers carry both a badge (a symbol of authority) and a gun (a symbol of power). Prior to the Enlightenment, blood vengeance and honor fights, such as dueling, were the norm. When judges are viewed as unfair or too lenient on murderers, people riot. The riots following police shootings raise the specter of this violated social contract. This is not racial issue, per se. 

The sacredness of human life requires justice. If the justice system employs market values rather than intrinsic values in determining penalties, then murderers will be punished according to the financial and social status of their victims. If you compare the Ten Commandments with other legal systems in the ancient near east, they differ in having only one set of laws for everyone. The other systems all embody one set of penalties for aristocrats and another set for everyone else (e.g. Arnold and Beyer 2002, 104-117). Judges need no victim impact statements if life is sacred. Racial differences in penalties mirror this increased reliance on market rather than intrinsic values.

Human rights—a concept based on intrinsic value—exist because we are created in the image of a Holy God. If the sovereignty of God or his existence is questioned, then the sacredness of human life is diminished as we slide down along the slippery slope. Milestones along the slippery slope include less concern for discrimination, injustice, abuse, mistreatment of prisoners, weapons of mass destruction, euthanasia, abortion, designer babies, and a host of other detestable practices.

Shouting louder about any of these issues is a vain exercise if we disrespect God and forget that we are created in his image.

Intrinsic Versus Market Value

Our capitalist society focuses, not on intrinsic values, but on market values. Market values change with volatile circumstances. Your market value as a person implicitly depends on your productivity. If you are young, old, or unable to work, then you are a dependent and a burden on working people. The focus on market values inherently disrespects God’s image. When God is not honored, neither are we.

The strong influence of market values on our self-image explains, in part, why depression rates tend to be highest among population groups who are unable to work. The rate of depression, suicide, anxiety disorders, addictions, and divorce appear to be correlated with changing job prospects. Is it any wonder why elderly people become so depressed that they need to be medicated? As their physical and financial strength wanes, their mental state declines under a market value assessment..

Economists value human life by asking questions like: How much life insurance do you purchase? This is a market-value measure of self-worth. Market values go up and down. At age 25, I might only buy a little life insurance while at age 40 I might buy considerably more. Circumstances change our assessment of both perceived needs and self-worth.

God’s Sovereignty

God’s sovereignty is our sovereignty. While God’s domain is the universe, our domain is our family, the church, and work in the community. In God’s economy, we are sovereign in our domain analogous to God’s sovereignty in his domain. Our self-image should reflect this sovereignty even though, in Christ, we yield it with humility, much like our Heavenly Father.

References

Arnold, Bill T. And Bryan E. Beyer. 2002. Readings from the Ancient Near East. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.

Intrinsic and Market Values

Also see:

The Who Question

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/HNY__2022


 

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Heart and Mind: Monday Monologues (podcast), January 17, 2022

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 By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on Heart and Mind. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Heart and Mind: Monday Monologues (podcast), January 17, 2022

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Holistic Prayer

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty Father, Beloved Son, Spirit of Truth,

All honor and praise to you for your Triune unity unites heart and mind in undergirding law and modeling mercy, grace, patience, love and truth. May we be and do no less.

Forgive our divided hearts and minds, our disrespect for law and our willingness to practice mercy, grace, patience, love, and truth when it suits us. Be our guide; be ever near.

Thank for the example of Jesus of Nazareth who in life modeled a sinless life,  who taught us about your heart and mind, and who died on the cross that we might draw closer to you as sons and daughters.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, may our daily disciplines become habits, and our habits grow into holy lifestyles that model your image to all those around us.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Holistic Prayer

Also see:

The Who Question

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/Christ_2021


 

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Heart and Mind

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“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and 

that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 

And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and 

it grieved him to his heart.” (Gen 6:5-6)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Because we are created male and female in the image of God, it is important to understand this image. Because God’s image is closely tied to the giving of the law (Exod 20), the church has often concentrated on a cognitive interpretation. God’s revelation of his attributes in Exodus 34:6, however, introduces a more emotional  interpretation of God’s person. Thus, we see in the Godhead of scripture a more complex image of God than is normally pictured, where heart and mind are integrated closely, a characteristic that theologians sometimes refer to as Hebrew anthropology. In a postmodern context, we might describe the Triune God as emotionally intelligent.

Hebrew anthropology (the study of human beings) refuses to separate feelings and thinking. Heart and mind are inseparable. Greek anthropology separates the two, vacillating between giving priority to one or the other. Because Greek anthropology dominates the modern era (think about the division of labor among professionals), it is hard for modern people to understand Biblical writing—when Jesus talks about the heart, he means the whole person, not just the organ pumping blood or mere feelings. 

Limits to a Cognitive Approach

The cognitive approach often assumed in theological discussions cannot fully inform our faith because it is based on faulty Greek anthropology. As theologian James K.A. Smith (2016, 2) writes:

“Jesus is a teacher who doesn’t inform our intellect but forms our very loves…His teaching doesn’t just touch the calm, cool, collected space of reflection and contemplation, he is a teacher who invades the heated, passionate regions of the heart. He is the Word who penetrates even dividing the soul and spirit; he judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Inherent in this statement is the Hebrew view of anthropology—note the two references to heart. What Greek would talk about “the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb 4:12)? Drawing attention to this anthropology, Smith (2016, 5) asks: “Do you ever experience a gap between what you know and what you do?” If he had the rational mind in view, no such gap would exist but, of course, we all experience this gap.

This line of thought leads Smith (2016, 7) to observe: “what if you are defined not by what you know [the mind] but by what you desire? [the heart]” If our desires are reflected more in our actions than in our words, then this Hebrew anthropology leads us immediately into an inconvenient, but vital, discussion of ethics because our hearts are not lily-white clean as our words. It also forces us to discuss how we know what we know (the epistemology question), because our hearts are not so easily persuaded to follow even our own thoughts. Suddenly, much of the New Testament language sounds less churchy and more informed by an alternative world view, one decidedly not Greek.

The Cognitive Theory of Emotions

The heart and mind dichotomy is described alternatively as feeling versus thinking or body versus mind, emotions versus logic, or even the male versus female stereotype. The terms used are less important than the concept. The postmodern concept of emotional intelligence builds on Hebrew anthropology.

While this subject is very timely, it is not new. Theologian Jonathan Edwards (2009, 13), writing in 1746 about the effects of the Great Awakening, noted that both head and heart were necessarily involved in effective discipling. Thus, he coined the phrase “holy affections” to distinguish the marks of the work of the Spirit from other works and associated these holy affections directly with scripture.

Elliott (2006, 46-47) distinguishes two theories of emotions:  the cognitive theory and the non-cognitive theory. The cognitive theory of emotions argues that “reason and emotion are interdependent” while the non-cognitive theories promote the separation of reason and emotion. In other words, the cognitive theory states that we get emotional about the things that we believe strongly. Our emotions are neither random nor unexplained—they are not mere physiology. Elliott (2006, 53-54) writes: “if the cognitive theory is correct, emotions become an integral part of our reason and our ethics” informing and reinforcing moral behavior.

God’s Wrath

God’s wrath in the Old Testament and Jesus’ anger in the New Testament suggest consistency with this cognitive theory of emotion. Unlike other gods in the ancient world who behave badly and inconsistently, God gets angry primarily over sin, as cited in the Genesis 6 passage above. The Bible often refers to this trait as righteous anger.

The only passage in the New Testament where Jesus gets angry occurs in the story of the healing of the man with the withered hand:

“Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, Come here. And he said to them, Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill? But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, Stretch out your hand. He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.” (Mark 3:1-6)

In the story, Jesus asks the Pharisees if it is right to do good on the Sabbath?  In other words, is Sabbath observance more important than caring for one another?  Their unwillingness to answer incensed Jesus and he gets angry because of the “their hardness of heart”. In his anger he heals the man. The object of Jesus’ anger is accordingly a hardened heart (Elliot 2006, 214).

Emotional Intelligence

If God acts not out of impulse, but out of concern for the law and righteous, then the cognitive theory of emotion provide important insight into the character of God. Our beliefs should likewise inform our emotions.

Emotional intelligence, as it is normally interpreted focuses on employing our intuition about other people’s emotional states in crafting our response to them. This is an application of Hebrew anthropology because emotions and thinking are treated as integrated, but the concept is less fundamental to our thinking than Hebrew anthropology, which is more of a philosophical approach. 

Emotional intelligence says nothing, for example, about the righteousness of the emotions observed or the purpose to which this intelligence is put to use. People talented in intuiting emotions may become people pleasers or be tempted to use this talent in devious ways. Consequently, it is probably best to describe God’s character as holistic rather than emotionally intelligent.

One in Christ

The unity of head and heart in Hebrew anthropology is usually thought of in individualistic terms, a kind of holistic worldview, but the social implications run deeper. The Apostle Paul writes:

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and call were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.” (1 Cor 12:12-14)

When Paul talks about slave or free, he forbids class distinctions. Unity of head and heart poetically removes the class distinction between managers and workers, who are now one in Christ. Democracy is rooted in Hebrew anthropology.

References

Edwards, Jonathan. 2009. The Religious Affections (orig pub 1746). Vancouver:  Eremitical Press.

Elliott, Matthew A. 2006.  Faithful Feelings: Rethinking Emotion in the New Testament.  Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic and Professional.

Smith, James K. A. 2016. You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press.

Heart and Mind

Also see:

The Who Question

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/Christ_2021


 

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Heart and Mind Prayer

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Father God,

We praise you for your consistency in heart and mind. Your immutable character is eternal and unchanging with the seasons. Your judgments enforce justice and your mercy supports life itself. Help us to model our behavior after yours.

We confess that we are like reeds blowing in the wind, sinning when it suits us, and when we find advantage. Forgive our sin and teach us to live without it.

We thank you for the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ who redeems us from bondage to sin and gives life meaning.  Help us to accept his love and learn from it.

In the power of the Holy Spirit, help us to model ourselves after you, to pattern life on earth with that in heaven, and to show mercy, grace, patience, love, and faithfulness to those around us.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Heart and Mind Prayer

Also see:

The Who Question

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/Christ_2021


 

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Surface and Depth

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The tension between the visual image and the need for the spoken word arises because images require interpretation. The Bible itself can be described as an interpretation of the image of God that we see in Genesis. Interpretation implies multiple explanations exist of any give image. Some interpretations fit the image better than others. Because language itself changes over time, each generation must find its own best explanation of God’s image.

Interpreting Visual Images

This interpretative problem arises immediately in Genesis 1 where we find, after creation, God involved in two interpretative activities: separation and naming.  We read a series of these separations and naming conventions, as in:

 “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” (Gen 1:3-5)

God creates light, declares it to be good, and names it day. He then follows suit to distinguish the day from night. Likewise, God distinguishes evening and morning, heaven and earth, and dry land and water. Different aspects of light are repeatedly discussed—days, light, greater lights, lesser lights.

These separations highlight the interpretative problem. How does one describe a world forever in shades of twilight? Image a child trying to describe times and seasons without these distinctions? 

I am reminded of the Iraqi war veteran in the film, The Hurt Locker (2008). After facing death and destruction every day in the war as he disarmed improvised explosive devices (IEDs), on returning home his wife sends him to the grocery store for cereal. Walking down a long aisle of cereal brands in the store, he is unable to decide what to buy. Overwhelmed with choices, he grabs the nearest box and leaves. This problem of choices highlights the moral dilemma of insisting that every action we undertake be parsed from every possible social perspective.

The seriousness of the interpretation problem is underscored in Genesis when Satan asks Eve: “Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” (Gen 3:1) Here even God’s words are being twisted. How much more can a visual image, such as the image of God, be twisted by those unable to make appropriate distinctions and are generally unprepared for the testing?

Authenticity

Beauty is almost indistinguishable in biblical use from the modern concept of authenticity. In both concepts structure and character complement one another. The surface appearance reflects a harmony within. The beauty we observe in nature reflects fingerprints of our divine creator. Dyrness (2001, 80) writes: “the biblical language for beauty reveals that beauty is connected both to God’s presence and activity and to the order that God has given to creation.” 

The call for authenticity begins in the third verse of the Bible: “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.” (Gen 1:3) Unlike our proclivity to sin as revealed in our flaws, God’s words (Let there be light) and actions (and there was light) are in perfect harmony. The contrast between heaven and earth could not be greater. Unlike heaven, which Revelation reminds us needs no light other than God (Rev 21:23), earth requires illumination that God immediately creates.

God’s pre-existence relative to creation is underscored in the name that he gives Moses in the burning bush. ‎אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה (Exod 3:14 WTT) that can be translated either as “I am that I am” or “I will be who I will be.” Or in vernacular English: “I am the real deal” that implies authentic being—something original that cannot be wholly copied. By contrast, human beings, created in the image of God, possess only the potential for authentic being because sin gets in the way.

Jesus talked a lot about authenticity and about its inverse—hypocrisy. Perhaps his most famous statement about hypocrisy began with an admonition: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt 7:1) We frequently judge people by our own estimate of the degree of their hypocrisy. In a book with an ironic theme of authenticity, Howard Thurman (1996, 106) observed about the woman caught in adultery: [Jesus] “met the woman where she was, and he treated her as if she were already where she now willed to be. In dealing with her he ‘believed’ her into the fulfillment of her possibilities.” For Jesus, the tension between our desires and actions measured not just our authenticity, but also our proclivity to sin. Anger leads to murder; lust leads to adultery (Matt 5:22, 28).

Superficiality

The Bible describes human beings as created in the image of God, but with sin this image is quickly tarnished and other images quickly morph into idols and detestable things. Superficiality literally means a focus on the surface appearance. It breaks the biblical link between heart and mind.

Think of pornography as converting human physiology from an image of God into a object of our own desires. The conversion may be prompted by particular poses or behavior, but the conversion itself takes place not in the physical form but in eyes of the observer. Pornography perverts the mind more than the body. 

The idea of luck likewise focuses on outward appearances. Here God’s blessing is seen merely as a fortunate accident, whose origin is neglected. Superstition likewise denies the stewardship and sovereignty of the Holy Spirit over the created realm and, in many cases, abandons God in favor of evil spirits or worse.

Heart and Mind

Being created in the image of a living God, begs the question of life itself. Life is the ultimate union of heart and mind—the body and the spirit cannot be separated. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ testifies to the unity of heart and mind in Christian thought.

The human spirit, although undefinable, is obvious by its absence. A beautiful, living human body emptied of its spirit is no more than a repulsive corpse. A body without the spirit is a zombie; a spirit without a body is a ghost. 

References

Dyrness, William A. 2001. Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue. Grand Rapids:  Baker Academic.

Thurman, Howard. 1996. Jesus and the Disinherited (Orig Pub 1949). Boston: Beacon Press.

Surface and Depth

Also see:

The Who Question

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/Christ_2021


 

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Image of God: Monday Monologues (podcast), January 3, 2022

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 By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on Image of God. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Image of God: Monday Monologues (podcast), January 3, 2022

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Mirror Prayer

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Holy Father,

All praise and honor be yours as you created us in your image to bring your light and rule sovereignly as your regent in a dark world.

Forgive our unwillingness to be light, to stand up to evil, and reflect your goodness where there is none.

Thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus Christ, to mirror your character and to save us from ourselves.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, be ever present in our lives, grant us spiritual gifts to serve your church, and  to empower us for ministry.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Mirror Prayer

Also see:

The Who Question

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com


 

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Image of God

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Then God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth. (Gen 1:26-28)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

What does it mean to be created in the image of God?

Meaning of The Image

The context of our creation as an image of God here is important. We are in the first chapter of the first book in the Bible, so every implied by these three verses about what it means to be created in the image of God has to appear in the prior verses. Knowing who God is has a direct bearing on who we are (Hoekema 1986, 1). So how does the text describe God?

Consider these four attributes:

  1. Verse one tells us that God is a creator who, being eternal, sovereignly stands outside time and space.
  2. Verse two shows us that God can through his spirit enter into his creation.
  3. Having created heaven and earth, verse three describes God speaking to shape the form of creation beginning with light. Note the exact correspondence between what God says (“Let there be light”) and what he does (“and there was light”). God is truthful, authentic.
  4. Verse four tells us that God judged it to be good, and he separated it from darkness—God discriminates good (light) from the not-so-good (darkness).

Clearly, God cares about ethics.

The Ethical Image

God later describes his ethical character in detail to Moses after giving the Ten Commandments a second time, as cited earlier in Exodus 34:6. God’s self-disclosure was important for understanding how to interpret the Ten Commandments, should questions arise, but it also underscores the creation account providing insight into whose image we are created to reflect.

Going back to Genesis 1:26-28, two aspects of God’s image are highlighted in our own creation description. We are created by a sovereign God who creates us to participate in his creation in two specific ways: we are to “have dominion” over the created order and we are to “be fruitful and multiply.” How are we to accomplish these things? Following God’s ethical image, we are to be discerning of the good, merciful, gracious, patient, loving, and truthful.

The Charge and the Test

Although God created animals prior to Adam and Eve and they were also commanded to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:22), the animals could not reflect God’s ethical image and God did not give them dominion.

At this point in Genesis, God also intended us also to share in his eternal nature. However, before God conferred immortality on us, he posed an ethical test. Would Adam and Eve reflect God’s ethical nature?

The test came in the form of a command:

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, you may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. (Gen 2:16-17)

Satan tempted Adam and Eve to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and they ate. Because Satan had done this, God cursed him: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen 3:15)

The “he” in this verse is singular and points to a future redeemer (Job 19:25), who Christians identify as Jesus Christ (John 1:1-3). After this point in the narrative, God cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, where they were subject to the curse of death. We thus see that the original sin of Adam and Eve separated us from the Garden of Eden, eternal life, and fully reflecting the image of God.

Image as Parallel Ministry

Jesus underscores this image theology in several important ways. First, he is revealed as the ethical image of God with God during creation:

He [Jesus] was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John. 1:2-5)

Second, Jesus uses image theology in teaching prayer to his disciples: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10) Note how earth is patterned after heaven just like we are patterned after God.

Third, just like Jesus asserts God’s sovereignty over heaven and hell in his death on the cross, the disciples are commissioned to assert God’s sovereignty over the earth after the ascension (Matt 28:18). Right before he ascended, Jesus said: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

This parallel ministry is also discussed in John’s Gospel: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21) In other words, the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”, is not an incidental footnote in Jesus’ ministry or a latter addition to the text as some allege, it is a direct consequence of the image theology in Genesis 1. Likewise in the Apostle Paul’s writing we see a dichotomy between a putting off of the old self and a putting on of the new self in Christ (Eph 4:22-24), as we are transformed by the image of the living God.

References

Hoekema, Anthony A. 1994. Created in God’s Image. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Image of God

Also see:

The Who Question

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com


 

 

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