Image as Humanity


By Dr. Ron Galloway

In this post, I want to present a trans-cultural view of the human condition before and after humanity was driven out of the presence of God. Consider whether it portrays an accurate diagnosis of the human condition or not. But first let me define what I mean by trans-cultural and elaborate on this as the post proceeds. Very simply, trans-cultural refers to anything that does not originate in culture, nature, naturalism, environmental determinism, or finite human conception. Rather, it is derived from the supernatural.

Even the very first book of the Bible, Genesis, reveals humanity as incredibly precious and special beyond anything in the animal kingdom. For it describes man and woman as made in the image of God. Genesis begins by recording all that God created, and then steadily builds to the moment of God's greatest creation, the creature made in the image and likeness of God: humanity.

Contrary to what many have thought, the thing that makes humanity different from animals in the Bible is not the fact that people have a soul. In the original Hebrew of Genesis, it is particularly clear that not only human beings become living souls, but also the animals and all the other creatures God makes (Genesis 1:20,21,24,30). What makes humanity different is that we are made in the image and likeness of God.

For this reason, in the Bible, human beings are far superior to all the other creatures that God has made. Genesis and the implications of the entire Bible are very clear in this regard. God gives people dominion over all the other creatures (Genesis 1:26). But that is not all. We learn from the book of Genesis that the male, Adam, is not the full creation of humanity, but only one half. According to Genesis, Adam is simply the male part. Adam is not humanity, in the completed sense, until the creation of Eve. She is by no means his inferior, but rather his helper counterpart. In Genesis 3:27 we read: "God created human beings in his image, male and female he created them."[1]

Thus Genesis makes clear that humanity is not the male or the female, but rather the combination of both. This profound and unparalleled conception of humanity is even more wondrously articulated in Gen. 5: 1-3. There we read:

This is the book containing the records of Adam in the day God created humanity. In the image of God he made them. Male and female he created them, and he called their name, Adam.

Here, Adam means humanity. Contrary to what many people have thought and impressions conveyed by extreme feminist movements, both males and females are created in the image of God. Together they make up the human race.

There is an incredible wonder and sophistication in the Genesis account. In comparison to the Near Eastern cultures and civilizations surrounding them, the Hebrew people who followed their God Yahweh (Jehovah) brought a staggeringly advanced understanding of God, humanity, and creation into history. Why this is so, I will soon explain.

But let us leave former cultures and civilizations aside for a moment. What about the present? Where in all of the history of humanity past, present, or future has there ever been such a profound conception of both man and woman as is contained in the Bible, particularly in Genesis? Where else do we see such a high regard for living creatures, and yet a far higher regard for humanity?

It is therefore not surprising that this truly trans-cultural view of man and woman should be found in an account of creation equally sophisticated and far transcending any Near Eastern cosmology ever discovered in our studies and researches into the ancient world.

Not only does it transcend anything in the ancient world, the Genesis account beat science to the punch by many thousands of years. Why do I say this? Well, the first one to write of this phenomenal reality was Harvey Cox in his work titled ''The Secular City''.[2] In that work, Cox pointed out that in Genesis we see a complete separation between God, man, and nature. Unlike the rest of the ancient world, we find in Genesis no mixture of nature with the gods, whether in the form of polytheism or animism. No Near Eastern source of that time, nor even the most advanced state of the Greek or Roman civilization, was ever able to conceive of such a separation of the gods and nature. Genesis spoke of this many thousands of years in advance of science or the men who were science’s precursors.

Even in the Renaissance era, people still felt that the stars were angelic beings. Aristotle and Plato were the likely source of this continued misconception. This misconception was not put to rest until the coming of precursors of the scientific method such as Roger Bacon and Copernicus. Both of them believed in God, the Lord Jesus, and the Bible.

It is therefore not surprising in light of such an incredibly sophisticated description of creation, that we view this unrivaled, unmatched, trans-cultural view of the value of both men and women. Of course, one might ask, how could a tribal people ever come up with such a conception of man, woman, and creation on their own? Throughout the compilation of separate writings written over a period of eleven hundred years, the answer is obvious. Whether you ask Moses or the prophets, the answer was that Yahweh God (elohiym) came to them.

According to the Religious Humanist (now called Secular Humanist), relativist and Darwinist, every view or reality must be culturally derived. The trouble is, there is nothing like this in the cultures surrounding Israel, and nothing like it at all until the advent of science. Even the Epicureans and other Greek skeptics did not deny their nature god and goddesses were real. Indeed, it has been well argued by many that science itself could never find entrance until it was clear that the investigation of nature would not bring the wrath of the gods and spirits of nature. This, the argument goes, was only made possible through the Judeo-Christian worldview. Proponents of this view argue that science began to make sense only when it was clear that nature was not a fusion of gods, spirits and men, but not until then. I happen to be one of those proponents. This points to the obvious reasoning that Genesis offers us a truly trans-cultural view of the universe. Any persons informed by a trans-cultural speaker can then be a revealer of that which transcends human understanding. That, of course, is what the Bible writers purport to be.

The appointment of man and woman as rulers of the earth that God made did not imply, in any sense, that Adam "He" or Adam "She" were free to pillage or pollute the earth. Humanity, meaning both the first man and woman, were in perfect harmony with creator and creation. When God conferred this position of dominion, the being in the garden referred to as the "serpent" had not yet persuaded humanity to worship themselves and nature as divine.[3] It was only after Adam and Eve disobeyed God by taking the fruit on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that nature began its descent into imperfection, instability, and disorder. Genesis describes this descent with the expression: "Thorns and thistles will grow up" (Genesis 3:18). After Cain slaughtered his brother Abel, he and the generations after him ceased to call on the name of God. Like Adam and Eve before him, Cain dehumanized himself by denying God his creator. He was left only with the worship of himself, and a creation radically changed because of human betrayal and disobedience. With God out of the way, in their minds, Cain and those who followed began to blend in with nature, and in the process lost that true harmonious blend between man and woman that preceded the taking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Before long, man made nature his god. Such was the mentality of Cain, and the murderous generation he spawned (Genesis 4:7-25). Now for men like Cain and Nimrod the plunderer, status and worth depended on how many human beings you could slaughter in battle. So Humanity went from garden to the gutters of war. But when I say garden, or I say Eden, I can almost hear the skeptics laughter. But then again, Hawaii attracts the most skeptical of souls.

Ironically, things have not changed much. Like Cain we have immersed ourselves in nature, even contending that nature is all there is. Now, unlike the original couple, we no longer rule nature. We are like they were after they were cast out of the garden. We too struggle to survive its dominion and its chains, both in life and death. We are lost within it, and define ourselves by it, and so we have no self or worth that we can intellectually sustain. However, the wars of today are far more lethal than those committed in the generations after Cain. Now war is not only barbaric but technological. The present technological rape of culture, human identity, and human worth derives from the contemporary decision to worship either our own self-fashioned, impersonal, impotent gods or no god at all. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they dehumanized themselves. They chose to embrace their own idea of good and evil, to do what was right in their own eyes. This generation appears to be no different: as described in the Bible, we do what is right in our own eyes. Only now we call this ancient evil against our creator, relativism. Now man and woman are both reduced to the subjective preference of a society so committed to neutrality that identity itself, whether man or woman, may soon be neutered. Some call that progress, but it appears in many ways to be a return to the first day of creation when all was formless (tohu) and void (bohu). Rather than being progress, it is a reversal of all God has done from the sixth day on. If the serpent of Genesis is as real as Genesis implies, then no doubt the serpent is pleased with the present reversal. Genesis reversed, chaos restored.

[1] Biblical quotations are the author's translation.

[2] Harvey Cox, The Secular City (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966).

[3] In the first two or three chapters of Genesis, we are informed that the serpent was craftier than any beast of the field. This need not imply that the serpent was a beast, any more than if I said Adam was wiser than any beast of the field. Nor could the serpent be a snake, for we are told that it crawls on its belly only after God brings judgment upon it. Thus the meaning of serpent seems more likely to refer to a highly intelligent, evil being, rather than to a beast.