IN THE IMAGE OF GOD

 

Man is typically treated as the primary subject of Genesis 1:26 and 27. This passage is routinely viewed as descriptive of the manner in which God created man to reflect certain attributes of His own. These attributes are generally considered to be related to character and intellect, chiefly man’s personality, rationality, and morality.

And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

Reference to man’s gendered creation is usually omitted or, at best, treated as incidental. But there it is in Scripture, in black and white, in a context that discourages it from being disregarded with such appalling ease. This passage speaks as much about God as of man. The attribute of gender isn’t trivial, but instead is presented as among the most profound of the attributes of which man was made in God’s image.

And to what end have we denied this beautiful attribute to God? So that we may maintain a distance from Him in direct opposition to what He desires in His relationship with us? So that we can equate purity with chastity, when the two are manifestly different concepts? The key to this blatant falsehood is found in the end of the passage above: . . . “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”

As I had noted in Marching to a Worthy Drummer, it is the shame, not the act, that has driven us to think of gender as inappropriate to God. And the shame came not from God but from Adam’s fall. It persists to this day, and prevents most of us from perceiving the Trinitarian Godhead in all its beauty and glory.

In Genesis 2:18 and 21-24 is another passage that tends to be trivialized. As is commonly accepted, God the Father existed forever. Our minds, particularly in the material realm, are too limited to grasp any more of the nature of the Father, the Divine Will. But that same limitation doesn’t apply to the Holy Spirit, as Scripture itself gives us a clue as to Her origin. In Genesis 2, Scripture brings out details for emphasis of Eve’s creation out of Adam. This account of the creation of Eve out of Adam is commonly but quite mistakenly treated as a secondary or afterthought account of the creation of man, simply providing additional detail to the first account in Genesis 1:26 and 27.

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help fit for him. . . And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.”

But the repetition of the latter part of this passage by both Jesus, in Matthew 19, and Paul in Ephesians 5, places it far above the trivial in importance. This account of the creation of Eve out of Adam, rather than furnishing incidental details of man’s creation, was far more likely to have been included in Scripture for emphasis as describing the romance of the loving formation of the Holy Spirit out of the essence of the Father.

The thought that this portion of the creation epic might be descriptive of the Godhead Itself points back to the very beginning, Genesis 1:1-5:

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”

In this first passage of Scripture, the Holy Spirit is seen responding to the Father in giving birth to the first spoken Word of God, the Light. But that is precisely what John said in verses 1:1-5 of the Prologue to his Gospel of Jesus Christ:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shone in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

We in the Church have been conditioned to believe, in opposition to the notion of Jesus being a created Being, that Jesus eternally co-existed with the Father. But that comes from the various Christian creeds, not from Scripture. Scripture itself, in Revelation 3:14, stands in plain opposition to that notion:

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write: These things say the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.”

Can it be that the Holy Spirit, in union with the Father, did indeed give birth to Jesus Christ? John, in Chapter Three of his Gospel, attributes spiritual birth to the Holy Spirit. The details of the Holy Spirit’s participation in creation are provided in Proverbs 8:22-31:

“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth – when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, was I brought forth; while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there; when he set a compass upon the face of the depth; when he established the clouds above; when he strengthened the fountains of the deep; when he gave to the sea its decree, that the waters would not pass his commandment; when he appointed the foundations of the earth,

“Then I was by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him, rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delight was with the sons of men.”

Why did God emphasize the detail of Eve’s formation out of Adam? And why, if it was not good for the man to be without a complementary woman, would it be good for God Himself to be so, as theologians commonly assume? Could it be that at one stage before the beginning of time all the attributes of the Godhead resided within the Father alone, and that in self-denial the Father parted an element of Himself to form the Holy Spirit as a separate but complementary Entity in order that love transcend all other attributes of God? Could it be that what He lost in the parting He regained in love according to the words of Adam that a man shall cleave unto his wife and they two shall be one?

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