Thursday, October 27, 2011

Christian Believer: Week Eight {Humankind}

This week's topic was "Humankind: Made in God's Image" (Created in God's Image).  I think I'm going to start sharing a verse from one of the hymns they include each week.  I love hymns and it's really neat to see how they relate.  I may even go back and add some to my previous posts!

I have to be honest, this week was one of the more dry lessons.  I have no idea why, but it just wasn't as interesting to me and that seemed to be the general consensus of the group.  There was still some good stuff, though, of course!
O God who shaped creation
At earth's chaotic dawn,
Your word of power was spoken,
And lo! the dark was gone!
You framed us in your image,
You brought us into birth,
You blessed our infant footsteps
And shared your splendored earth.
["O God Who Shaped Creation", William W. Reid, Jr.]

Of course, we began by watching the video.  The video began by saying that perhaps the notion of "in the image of God" tells us more about God than about us.  It defined the Latin phrase Imago Dei as meaning (the image of God) and say that this asserts the intrinsic value of every single person.  The video did also list two concerns with this teaching: first that it would lead to denigration of the body and a rejection of the importance of the natural world and second that it might promote human arrogance. We discussed each of these a bit.  Finally, it shared a quote from John Wesley- "The great end of religion is to renew our hearts in the image of God." I really liked that.

We then moved to the reading and discussed what being made in God's image actually meant.  Our workbook shared several different ideas:
1. Being made in God's image suggests personhood and that we have relational qualities.
2. It indicates that we can control our conduct and take responsability for our actions.
3. It means we are capable of communing with God
4. It gives us the inclination to worship.
5. Finally, it means we have the potential to be Godly.  This is also becomes our most seductive temptation.

It went on to say how we are made from dust, but have the breath of God in us and how we are in a constant struggle between the flesh (dust) and the spiritual (God's breath).

It discussed our social nature and how it is our gory and joy, but also our peril.  Jelousy and envy are sins that would not exist without our social nature.  However, because we are social, we care for one another and our noblest deeds spring out of our social nature.  Finally, because we are social creatures, we struggle with "the oldest human malady", lonliness.  The book made the excellent point that even before the Fall, there was lonliness and that's why Adam needed a companion.

Of course, man, made in the image of God did not last long in his original state.  It was not enough to be made in God's image; he wanted to be equal to God and thus rebelled.  The only cure for this rebellion was God Himself becoming human and freeing us from sin and death.

The book went on to describe how this doctrine should affect our treatment of others.  How can we bless God and curse a creature made in His image (James 3:9-10)? And also, if we are made in His image, what is expected of us?

It ended by saying that "to view ourselves from any other perspective is to miss the wonder of our orgins, the magnitude of our potential, and the reality of our destination.  From any other perspective we would also miss the degree of distress involved inour fally short of our divine potential."

We discussed the Scripture readings next.  We read Psalm 8 and talked about how it says man was "made lower than the angels".  This was kind of confusing because it appears in the New Testament that we will be above the angels when we die.  It seems to reconcile, though- we were created as lesser than they; but when we reach our home in glory, we will be greater.

I also really liked the reading from 1 Corinthians 15:
"All flesh is not the same: men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds have another, and fish another.  There are also heavenly bodies and early bodies, but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another." (1 Corinthians 15:39-4)  and "So it will be with the resurrection of the dead.  The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).

There were several readings from the text that I really enjoyed, too.
"The opinion of Augustine...and the early doctors is that the three faculties of intellect, will, and memory, which are distinct and yet constitute the one soul, are a similitude of the one God in respect of the existence and the trinity of the Persons.  This I do not dispute, so long as we are not led astray by the three faculties and imagine that in God as in us there is a conflict of will...I do not reject ht opinion of Augustine, but I think the are many things which give us an awareness of the divine likeness apart from those which Augustine singled out as the chief.  The is in particular that looking to God and the the words of God which is a sure sign of the divine relationship, image and similitude within us...-Ulrich Zwingli

"Wherefore that image of God in which Adam was created was a workmanship the most beautiful...while as yet no leprosy of sin adhered either to his reason or to his will.  Then all his senses, both internal and external, were the most perfect and the most pure.  His intellect was most clear, his memory most complete, and his will the most sincere, and accompanied with the most charming secure, without any fear of death and without any care or anxiety whatsoever. ...For I fully believe that, before his sin, the eyes of Adam were so clear and their sight so acute, that his powers of vision exceeded those of the lynx.  Adam, I believe, being stronger that they, handled lions and bear, whose strength is so great, as we handle the young of any animal". -Martin Luther

" [God created man in His own image.] "...Not barely in his natural image, a picture of his own immortality, a spiritual being endued with understanding, freedom of will, and various affections; not merely in his political image, the governor of this lower world...but chiefly in his moral image, which according to the Apostle, is 'righteousness and true holiness'...Otherwise, God could not have pronounced him as well as all the other works of His hands, 'very good' (Genesis 1:31)  If we suppose an intelligent creature not to love God, not to be righteous and holy, we necessarily suppose him not to be good at all; much less very good." - John Wesley

"The image must be seen in man's threefold relationship: towards God, towards others, towards nature. When originally created, humans imaged God sinlessly in all three relationships.  After the Fall, the image of God was not annihilated but perverted, so that human beings now function wrongly in each of the three relationships.  In the process of redemption, however, the image is being renewed, so that man is now enabled to be properly directed toward God, others, and nature.  The renewal of the image of God is seen in its riches form in the church.  The image is therefore not static but dynamic0 a constant challenge to God-glorifying living.  In the life to come the image of God will be perfected; glorified human beings will then live perfectly in all three relationships.  After the resurrection, redeemed man will be in a higher state than man before the Fall, since he will no longer be able either to sin or to die." -Antohony A. Hoekema

"We know from a psychological standpoint that there is a profound sense in which who we are is only revealed in our relationships with others.  When we enter into a relationship with someone we become who we could not be otherwise and learn things about ourselves that we did not know before.  Not uncommonly we are surprised to realize how we tend to interact with others.  In being children, and having children, in being loved, and living another, in being rejected and misunderstood, as well as in being accepted and welcomed, we develop self-awareness and self-understanding, and the promise of our won life becomes as story." -Christopher Morse

We ended our discussion by talking about some practical aspects of our being made in God's image- our charge to be good stewards of the Earth and its resources and the value of human life.  Such interesting discussion, even on a "slow" night!

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