Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Creation of Mankind

Q. 10: How did God create man?
Answer: God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

The doctrine of man is a major area of conflict in our day. Who are we? Who decides who we are? Should we seek to live up to some universal moral standard, or should each of us create his own? Should we seek to fulfill some God-given purpose, or is each of us left to create one's own purpose for one's existence?

This simple but powerful answer from the Westminster Shorter Catechism states that (1) God created mankind, (2) he made mankind male and female, (3) he made mankind after his own image, (4) this image is expressed in man’s knowledge, righteousness, holiness, and dominion. The first three assertions can be found in Genesis 1:26-28, and the fourth can be found partly in the same passage as well as in two verses which describe the renewal of this image: Colossians 3:10 and Ephesians 4:24.

God made us male and female. He formed Adam's body from the dust of the ground and formed Eve's body from his side, and he named them accordingly. There are two sexes, and these identities are given to us, ingrained into our bodies, not left to the choice of individuals. This sexual identity, as man or woman, is a good part of God’s creation and should be affirmed. Sin seeks to blur the distinctions God has appointed, and the more it holds sway, the more it distorts human desires, destroying natural orientations (Rom. 1:26-27) and natural affections (Rom. 1:30-31). In our day, this distortion is not merely something individuals might deal with, but an ideology being promoted in our society. One of the ways to resist this ideology is to affirm our God-given identities and demonstrate the beauty and goodness of his design in our lives as we are renewed by his grace.

God created man, male and female, in his image. We are the image of God. This means two things. First, it means we represent God. To mistreat man is to attack God (Gen. 9:6, Prov. 14:31). Man is God’s representative on earth, his vice-regent. Just as a king might set up statues and flags and images on coins to assert his reign - the violation of which is taken personally - so God has set up man as a symbol of his royal authority on earth. Second, it means we resemble God. This is connected to the first point. We resemble him to display his glory on earth. Particularly, we resemble him in knowledge, righteousness, holiness, and dominion. (There are certainly some differences as well: unlike God, we are physical, visible, and finite; unlike us, God is infinite and eternal in all his attributes.)

Sin distorts the image of God. Humanity still has some dignity as God’s image (and should be respected as such, Gen. 9:6), but man has marred the image and acts contrary to it. He remains a rational, moral, religion, and productive being, but his thinking is blind to God and futile, his righteousness is filthy rags, his religion is idolatrous, and his dominion is ultimately vain and often cruel. But thanks be to God that he sent Jesus Christ to save his people that they might “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10).

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