Thinking out loud...Choosing to be image-bearers

(Kendal Howard) #1

Hey! Wasup fam. So I’ve been thinking lately and have come to this conclusion that makes a lot of sense to me. So big bang, all kinds of life forms evolve. For millions of years, it was just plant life and reptiles and mammals (I think right?) and then the human species evolves. All other species are driven by instinct but humans, we have the ability of self-control (our large prefrontal cortex). The ability to curve our impulses is unique to only us (I read on psychology today). So for millions of years, earth was populated by vegetation and reptiles and mammals, etc but then humans evolve with the ability to enjoy life and the manufacture the world around them on a high, complex scale and to have an awareness (esp a religious awareness). We’re animals as well, and have natural instincts but with the ability to make decisions and curve impulses, we have a huge responsibility as the “crown of life” to reject negative impulses and choose good. Doing this human beings fulfill that mandate the biblical authors describe as “image of God” which is a vocation of authority and representation, “subduing” the land. So with the ability of self-control, we’re responsible to make decisions in light of God’s guidance and truth rather than follow the natural instincts of our “animal nature”. In this, we’re called to something higher. Does that make sense? Thoughts? Comments?

(Christy Hemphill) #2

I don’t think we choose to be image bearers. I think we were chosen to be image bearers. It is something we are elected to by God, not a capability we arrived at via natural evolutionary processes. We do choose whether or not to step into the calling. So, yes we are called to something higher and capable of responding to that call, but I think it is theologically important to keep that calling separate from our biology or evolutionary trajectory and leave it firmly in God’s plan for the world, which is ultimately not about us, but about his glory and the redemption/consummation of all creation.

(Ray Bailey) #3

Hi Kendall!
I agree with on the general direction of your post. I’d like to refine your observation with a Biblical source of “who we are” in the account of Genesis 2. What makes us different from animals? You have asked the question. Dolphins and Bonobos apparently have high-intelligence, and even show some , what we would call “moral thinking” (like rescuing a human from drowning by pushing him to shore).

Yet in Genesis it is clear that something different happened when God’s Spirit “…blew the breath of life” into us (whether Adam or our progenitor) – making us Human in the sense we are today. That appears (by the Trees in the garden) to require a moral choice.

I ascribe to one version of the image of God – Image of man, called the “psychological” image. Will, (Dream, Plan, Decide – Father), Action (Action on Choice, Do, Work ie. muscle – Jesus), and Emotions (feelings, love, desire about those choices – Spirit).
Each section of the Image requires us to be “obedient” to follow through on the choices in order to truly live in the Image of God.

This is not to say other versions are not also valid, God is so much beyond us we will never come to the end of his Image in all things!

Every choice we make, from eating to bearing a child, from the thoughts we entertain a second time, to our choice to believe in God, are as frequent as breathing. We live out choice to be int he mage with every breath we take! (I have a whole study on that one!).

Ray :sunglasses:

(Albert Leo) #4

Christy, I am not quite sure I understand what I highlighted in your quote above. I have been comfortable with following Teilhard’s lead in seeing the ‘evolutionary trajectory’ of the Cosmos was to produce a planet with the physical conditions conducive to the origin of living matter; next the Biosphere’s evolutionary trajectory was to evolve a life form capable of intelligence and communication with its Creator. Finally, in the final stage, that intelligent life form, humankind, learns from its Creator how to act in his image, become co-creators with him. I see this as what John was referring to speaking of in Revelations: I am the Alpha and the Omega with humankind in some way merging eventually with our ultimate Source.

So I a confused when you say: “It is ultimately not about us.” Do you mean “not about us, EXCLUSIVELY”?
God Bless
Al Leo

(Christy Hemphill) #5

I just mean I reject the idea that humans evolved the image of God, or that being image bearers is fundamentally a human choice.

Side note, I don’t think we know that humans are the only form of intelligence capable of communication with the Creator. I think humans were chosen by God to be his image bearers because that pleased God and fit his plan, not because humans somehow earned the job based on their intelligence, communication abilities, moral aptitude, or other development. That does not fit with my concept of divine grace.

(Kendal Howard) #6

Thanks for responding Christy! Great point! I’m not too sure where the difference is though. Maybe you could help me understand more from this response. I was more-so referring to what you stated as “stepping into the calling”. But what’s the difference between choosing to be image-bearers and choosing whether or not to step into the calling? So a person choosing not to step into the calling isn’t choosing not to be an image-bearer? I’m not saying the vocation of image bearing is a result of evolutionary processes, but humans having evolved with the ability to have self-control (which was on purpose I’m sure) is a capability to fulfill that “image-bearing” vocation bestowed on us by God; which is, biblically, to “subdue” creation aka harness it’s potential and to be royal representatives. I see God’s plan for the world as intricately tied to us and our personal choices, we being his agents of redemption and reconciliation. So I agree that it is a vocation bestowed upon us but I do see it also as the human species to have been purposely intended to have evolved with the capability to do such. Hope that clears up my point, thanks for everyone’s comments and feedback! I love to chat with you all because coming to the realization that I had been imposing a modern scientific view on Genesis was definitely enlightening but also has raised a ton of other questions that I am journeying through! This year has definitely been a life-changer for me!

(Christy Hemphill) #7

People mean different things by “image of God” and for a lot of people it means something like the qualities that make us human and set us apart from the animals; human consciousness, morality, an eternal soul, rational thought, etc. So some people talk about the image of God being a product of the evolutionary process. Kind of like when humans reached a certain point, God recognized some of his own qualities in them and decided to bestow “the image of God” as a reward for having arrived at the pinnacle of the evolutionary ladder. That whole line of thought I find theologically uncomfortable and hard to reconcile with what “image bearing” entailed in the ANE.

Like you, I think “image bearing” is vocational. So I think, although we are all called, some humans are clearly not bearing God’s image. You have to be careful when you say that because, with so many people operating out of the “image of God” equals “truly human” paradigm, there is lots of room for miscommunication. I think we can be truly human and fail to be faithful image bearers, and that is actually a good description of the human condition, and why we need Christ.

(Albert Leo) #8

Christy, it gives me a great deal of satisfaction that, although you and I approach it from somewhat different directions, I believe that our two world views are essentially congruent. As modern science views how animal life developed, we can see certain ‘moral properties’, such as self-sacrifice (often as motherly love and parental care), or empathy (an adult of one species adopting an orphan of another), or love beyond kinship–these ‘properties’ that we can associate with the ‘image of God’–they can contribute to species survival in a Darwinian sense. But only relatively rarely. Most generally evolution promotes , as Tennyson put it, survival “red in tooth and claw”.

So perhaps, some 50K yrs. ago, God saw that species, Homo sapiens, had a brain consisting of a large enough neural network that, if programmed, could operate as a super computer and provide sufficient intelligence to understand the idea of a Creator and His will. (Currently we have not figured out the biological mechanism He used to do this–make humankind as Adam & Eve–but we will someday.) Judging from cave artifacts, these early humans had only a vague idea of what their Creator was like or what was expected of them as creatures beyond that of passing on their genes. It is important to note that after killing an animal that provided their sustenance, they paid homage to its spirit. To explain the powerful forces that drastically affected their lives–storms, lightning, volcanoes, floods, but also beneficent ones like the sun and rain–they invented myths that featured god(s) that possessed both spiritual and material natures, but who definitely could interact with humans in both favorable and unfavorable manners.

This was the situation when, some 40K years after A&E, Abram had the vision of leading his extended family out of Ur to found a nation that would worship one God and make a covenant with Him. Their history, told as the Old Testament, seems to me at least, to still view God as a Judge to be feared, as a wrathful Being all too ready to destroy and punish those who went against his will. To correct this impression, God sent Jesus into the world to establish a New Covenant, one where humans could vision their Creator as a loving Father, one where ALL humans were the Father’s children and not just a few “chosen”.

Christy, I know you will not approve of the time line I’ve outlined above, but I do hope you can agree that the ‘theology’ I’ve expressed above (involving the development of modern human nature) can be accepted by (at least some) Christian evangelicals. I certainly agree with you that we did not ‘earn’ the sobriquet, “image of God”, nor did it just develop ‘naturally’ through evolution. If it makes any sense at all, it is purely a calling from God.
Al Leo

(Ray Bailey) #9

Bolded Mine

Thanks for that layout of ideas.

I would like to point out this detail in “God saw…” This triggers an thought I have long had that God did not create us in “package form” for (YEC), but then how did we become who we are?

Most theology presumes because God is omnipotent and omniscient that he “knows” everything, therefore his creation is a detailed plan from small to large. You get the feeling he sweated over the creation of every detail and larger component (and had to rest afterwards :grinning: ).

The evolutionary approach means that God created all the various physical “conditions” (laws) to allow the self-formation of the Cosmos, and is delighted (very good) with the results. Therefore the “choosing” of the highest developed being (as we are now) wasn’t pre-planned, but the result of the “cooking” process. Though he may have known how it would turn out, he somehow chose to be delighted with the results, (much like me being delighted in my flower garden).

I do not ascribe this as the “watchmaker” process of God being “hands off”. He was very interested and “fed” the process (somehow). We could have been more ape-like, bird-like, or whale-like. No matter! We are who we are because we “grew” out of the “Cosmic Garden” he grew.

I am not sure I am making myself clear here. Sorry about that.

Ray :sunglasses:


Whatever way you want to propose for creation to be performed God knew what the outcome would be before the Big Bang. God created time and exists outside of time. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow are all the same now to Him.

(Ray Bailey) #11

Yes, we are completely unable to speak clearly about things outside our physical cosmos. We don;t have the words!

(Albert Leo) #12

So True, and that is, for me, an impediment to building a satisfactory worldview on that basis. Human free will would then be illusory and God confined to a boring existence. (Of course He knew all the details of the recent eclipse, but I’ll bet He got a kick out how many people flocked to the path of totality to observe His heavenly wonders.

@Bill_II[quote=“Bill_II, post:10, topic:36492”]
Whatever way you want to propose for creation to be performed God knew what the outcome would be before the Big Bang. God created time and exists outside of time. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow are all the same now to Him.

Bill, you are in very good company in stating this belief. It is held by people of high intellect. But I prefer to take a more childlike view: What a boring existence that would be!! No pleasure in watching your plans develop. If there is any sense to the Scriptural term, imago Dei, God must take pleasure, as we do, in watching a beautiful flower develop from a tiny seed–to see how the general plan he initiated with the Big Bang actually has developed after passing thru the many contingencies faced over the eons of time.

Al Leo


But he can. He watched it yesterday, today, and again tomorrow. And He doesn’t have to rewind the tape between viewings! :wink:

(Albert Leo) #14

I see your point, but where we disagree is in the matter of Freedom. What makes sense to me is that God gave a measure of freedom to the Cosmos that developed after the Big Bang; i.e., it was NOT foreordained that the earth would be formed from the debris from one (or more) exploding supernova. The same holds for the Biosphere. It was NOT foreordained that free living precursors of mitochondria and chloroplasts would be ‘swallowed up’ by other cells and cooperate with them to start the line of multicellular organisms. And so on, and on.

I place my bet on God delighting in surprises. Anthropomorphic? Decidedly.
Al Leo

(Ray Bailey) #15

Yes! My thoughts too! Obviously we are speaking about the “inexpressible” concepts embedded in non Space-Time existence, but we do have the capability to conjecture! I find the wonder in that, and my life, as “rocky and rotted” as it sometimes has been, is still a wonder and Glory to my Elohim! In that “_I AM” expressing his Glory (image) in myself as I was created to do.

(just gave me shivers!)

Ray :sunglasses:

(Albert Leo) #16

Ray, on the first page of the first book I was given on the first day in kindergarten (the Baltimore Catechism) was this statement: “God made me to KNOW him.” Nothing I have read since has made a greater impact on me. But as I advanced in my education, I began to realize how difficult knowing God was going to be. Any such image of God that I conjured up had to be compatible with the Universe which he created and in which I lived. As a Christian, I believed that my forebears several millennia ago, in wrestling with this problem, were given a
revelation of what our relationship with God should be like, and it satisfied them in the times that they lived. As it turned out, this revelation, this first covenant was an imperfect guide for the human race to KNOW their God. And so he sent his Son, Jesus, to demonstrate his unbounded love for us! That was beyond any conjecture we would have dared to make! He was calling us to become image-bearers, co-creators with Him.

Obviously he did not make the offer of ‘Image-bearer’ to any of the other animals he created. What makes humans so special? Well, since God is True Spirit, we humans must posses at least enough intellect to comprehend the concept of a spiritual nature that can exist concurrently with a material nature. But what else? That has been the core of a controversy that has puzzled society and religions thru the ages. What does it take to be Human? Here again we are reduced to conjecture.

As a ‘materialistic scientist’ I see the fundamental core of a Homo sapiens is the genetic code that can be ‘shuffled’ thru sexual reproduction to produce a variety of contingent outcomes. Much more contingency in the final outcome is added as the zygote develops (evo-devo). Thus, in my view, God makes an invitation to the widest variety of possible outcomes as each of us develops into the final human we become. Anyone who can conceive of the fact that they are a Creature that has a Creator IS human. If, in addition, they rejoice in that fact and they thank their Creator for the privilege of being, so much the better. Putting on my “philosopher hat”, I concede that God is ineffable. But as one of his humble creatures, I rejoice that He is at my side when I face the problems of life.
Al Leo

(Ray Bailey) #17

Al, again, I sit at your feet listening with my whole being. Thank you for how you express these things so clearly. I am I too thank my creator , sometimes with every breath I take (YaH - inspire breath WeH - aspire breath).

An I rejoice that he is at my side, actually inside me at all times! “closer than a brother”.

Ray :sunglasses: