- Imago Dei: The Way Out of Your Identity Crisis
- Imago Dei: The Way Out of Your Identity Crisis, part 2
In addition to being fortified with a mind and a heart, each human being is endowed with a will, the attribute of purpose. Man is in possession of volition, he is free to make choices that create history.
Have you ever thought of that? You have the ability to make decisions that not only affect your own life, but the lives of your family, friends, community and even your nation. You have the ability to make decisions whose consequences can go on forever. We were made by God to make history!
The human heart, mind and will may be seen as internal capital, the internal assets that God has given his vice regents that allow us to govern God’s creation. These are the ways in which man is like God and thus enable him to function as a steward of creation. It requires internal self-government of the mind, heart and will for the external stewardship of external capital, to fulfill human beings purpose here on earth.
The relational view – Community: Male and Female
Because God is Trinity – the One and the Many, before the creation of the world there was community, communion and communication. When God created mankind in His image, He made them for relationship. Because God’s basic nature is community, to be the image of God means we have been made for relationships. The essence of this understanding of Imago Dei is community. This is the social aspect of our being the image of God.
Because God is community, the male alone cannot reflect all that it means to be made in the image of God. Neither can two men nor two women, because neither male nor female alone can reflect the fullness of God’s nature. It took male and female to reflect all that it means to be made in the image of God. And it takes male and female to procreate human communities.
In creating a physical universe, God made a being, in His own image, that could straddle the boundaries of earth and heaven, of time and eternity. There is a transcendent nature behind the physical nature of human beings. Behind our complementary biology of female and male there is complementary transcendent nature, the eternal feminine to reflect the maternal heart of God and the eternal masculine to reflect the paternal heart of God. Let’s look at each of these.
The eternal feminine reflects the maternal heart of God:
- Self-sacrificing love
- The heart of God: responds, intuits, senses, perceives
The eternal masculine reflects the paternal heart of God:
- Kinsman redeemer
- Head, or servant-leader
- The mind of God: initiates, defines, organizes, brings order, sets boundaries
For more on this see Male and Female: The Imagination and Image of God.
We have been made in the image of God, female and male, to fulfill the cultural mandate to procreate, create families, and govern the creation. This may also be called the social view and is related to the first part of the Creation Mandate, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28).
This Social Mandate is to have children and extend the human family. This means to procreate God’s image and likeness. It means the procreation of immortal beings. This stands in contrast to the materialist who believes that having children is creating more mouths to feed.
There is a complementary nature to male and female. Theologian Paul Jewett writes:
His sexuality is not simply a mechanism for procreation which Man has in common with the animal world; it is rather a part of what it meant to be like the Creator. As God is a fellowship in himself (Trinity) so Man is a fellowship in himself, and the fundamental form of this fellowship, so far as Man is concerned, is that of male and female.
As we have indicated above, it takes both male and female to reflect the whole nature of God. As Elizabeth Eliot has said, “It tells us, too, that it took two different modalities to represent this divine image. It took male and female.”
It takes male and female to create natural families. The Trinitarian Family of Father, Son and Holy Spirit created the human family – mother, father and children. The family is the smallest relational community, it is the foundational building block of the larger society: communities, churches and nations.
The social mandate to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth leads to the fulfillment of the third aspect of our being in the image of God, the functional view.
The functional view – Stewards of creation
We are here for a purpose, to be stewards of creation. We are to take what God has given us and work it and take care of it in a way that causes the earth and humankind to flourish. This mandate in Genesis 1:26-28 has been described by different terms: the Cultural Mandate, the Cultural Commission, the Development Mandate and the Creation Mandate.
Adam and Eve were given the mandate to steward or govern creation. The social view described above makes it possible to fulfill the second part of the Creation Mandate, to “fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over” the creation (Genesis 1:28).
Humankind was made for a function or purpose. It is a shared purpose. The Imago Dei of male and female have the co-responsibility for stewarding creation. They have a common origin and a common destiny:
- Co-create – procreate
- Co-rule – serve as vice-regents
- Co-steward – fulfill the development mandate
This is not a man’s world, it is God’s world. And he has made female and male to share and fulfill the mandate.
What God had made perfect in creation, was not finished yet. There were families to be born, people groups to be established, nations to be built. The imago Dei was to populate the earth. There were seeds to be planted, vineyards to be established, music to be scored, dances choreographed, poems to be written, ballads to be sung, art to be sculpted and painted.
Women and men share the same purpose. The woman is not an object but a subject. She is not the property of man. She is equally imago Dei, equally valued and equally purposed. In God’s design, the responsibilities of pro-creation and governance are joint responsibilities.
When God finished His work of creation the raw materials were in existence. At that point it was up to humankind to take what God had made and do something with it. The imago Dei creatures, male and female, were to use their internal capital, to function as the Kings and Queens of creation. They are God’s vice-regents, created to rule in His stead.
Habakkuk describes mankind’s purpose: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). We will find the fruits of humankind’s fulfillment of the Cultural Mandate brought into the City of God at the end of history, as gifts for Christ on his wedding day and to adorn our eternal home.
In summary, this is what it means to be made in the imago Dei: We have been made “like God” (Structural View) to fulfill the Creation Mandate by filling the earth with Community (Relational View) in order to fulfill God’s purpose to develop the earth (Functional View).
This stands in stark contrast to the purposelessness of the human life as found in both the modern and postmodern concepts of human beings and reality. May this short series on the imago Dei bring hope and encouragement to those who are struggling with their identity!
- Darrow Miller