Creation 2.0: Creation; Man

I’ll not be attempting to follow a conventional outline of Orthodox thought. Not exactly. In fact, I’ll toss some very non-Orthodox ideas in as we go, because my goal isn’t to teach lessons Orthodoxy. I just want to figure out what the Bible teaches about the Creation and what it means for us today.

Therefore, I may skip some areas of Orthodoxy that I don’t agree with — such as their exalted view of Mary — and not bother to critique their views, because that’s not really my purpose here.

But I’ll be borrowing heavily from the Orthodox teachings. After all, most of us already know the Western church’s perspectives. In an effort to gain some objectivity, we have to look at the scriptures through unfamiliar eyes.

I take as my source The Orthodox Faith by Thomas Hopko, Dean Emeritus of St. Vladimir’s Seminary. It’s available at the website for the Orthodox Church in America, which strikes me as an Orthodox branch that understands the gospel better than some others.

And we start, of course, with the Creation. Where else? And it seems that the Orthodox agree somewhat with my earlier posts in this series dealing with the “powers” –

In addition to the created spiritual powers who do the will of God, there are, according to the Orthodox faith, those who rebel against Him and do evil. These are the demons or devils (which means literally those who “pull apart” and destroy) who are also known both in the Old and New Testaments as well as in the lives of the saints of the Church. …

The ultimate victory belongs to God and to those with Him. Satan and his hosts are finally destroyed. Without this recognition—and still more—the experience of this reality of the cosmic spiritual struggle (God and Satan, the good angels and the evil angels), one cannot truly be called an Orthodox Christian who sees and lives according to the deepest realities of life.

Most Protestants wouldn’t greatly argue with this point of view, but few would see the Bible’s teachings on demons and the devil as particularly important.

Man is God’s special creature. He is the only one “created in the image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:26). He is created by God from the dust at the end of the process of creation (the “sixth day”) and by the special will of God. He is made to breathe “the breath of life” (Gen 2:7), to know God, to have dominion over all that God has made.

This idea is common to Catholicism and Protestantism as well. However, most Western teaching makes little of the fact that man is to have dominion (or to rule or reign over) the Creation.

This is, however, a key part of the thinking of the Orthodox as well as that of N. T. Wright in his recently published Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters. (We’ll return to this topic.)

As the image of God, ruler over creation and co-creator with the Uncreated Maker, man has the task to “reflect” God in creation; to make His presence, His will and His powers spread throughout the universe; to transform all that exists into the paradise of God.

Really? Is man a “co-creator” with God himself? Not a co-creator of the Creation, of course, but rather does man participate with God in continuing to create?

And if so, is it truly man’s purpose to transform the universe back into Eden?

It is the Orthodox doctrine that one can understand and appreciate what it means to be human only in the light of the full revelation of Jesus Christ. Being the Divine Word and Son of God in human flesh, Jesus reveals the real meaning of manhood. As the Perfect Man and the Last Adam, the “man from heaven,” Jesus gives us the proper interpretation of the story of creation given in the book of Genesis. For as the Apostle Paul has written, Adam finds his significance as “the type (or figure) of the one who was to come,” namely Jesus Christ (Rom 5:14).

Now, this is unfamiliar thinking but surely right. Jesus is the ultimate Example of who man was always meant to be. He is, after all, the very Image of God — which is what man was created to be. It fits.

According to Orthodox theology, to bear the image of God is to be like Christ, the uncreated Image of God, and to share in all of the spiritual attributes of divinity. It is, in the words of the holy fathers, to become by divine grace all that God Himself is by nature.

Amen. Again, it’s unfamiliar teaching in most Western churches, but it’s a doctrine we’re finding more and more of via narrative hermeneutics. The Orthodox go quite far with it –

If God is a free, spiritual, personal Being, so human beings, male and female, are to be the same. If God is so powerful and creative, having dominion over all creation, so human creatures, made in His image and according to His likeness, are also to exercise dominion in the world. If God exercises dominion and authority not by tyranny and oppression, but by loving kindness and service, so are His creatures to do likewise. If God Himself is love, mercy, compassion and care in all things, so must His creatures, made to be like Him, also be the same. And finally, if God lives forever in eternal life, never dying, but always existing in perfectly joyful and harmonious beauty and happiness with all of creation, so too are human beings made for everlasting life in joyful and harmonious communion with God and the whole of creation.

Makes sense.

Human nature, therefore, is created by God to grow and develop through participation in the nature of God for all eternity. Man is made to become ever more Godlike forever, even in the Kingdom of God at the end of this age, when Christ will come again in glory to raise the dead and give life to those who love Him.

Hmm … To participate “in the nature of God” is not to be all-powerful so much as to take on the personality and character of God himself — it seems.

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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11 Responses to Creation 2.0: Creation; Man

  1. John says:

    Wonderful post, especially the emphasis of “exercising dominion through kindness and service”.

    However, I wish to point out one thing I believe is missing, and that it is the importance of creation, the universe, and our participation in the creation of the kingdom or paradise of God comes through our recognition of God in creation and creation in God. Notice, I did not say God “is” the creation (pantheism), but God is in creation (panentheism).

    Evangelicals have a problem with the “God in all things and all things in God”. They see it as pantheism which I pointed out it is not. And they also see it as a form of universalism, which it is not. I see it as recognizing God as God; that any view that sees God over there while we are over here sees God through the wrong end of a telescope. When we experience God in all things we experience a continual Consciousness of God, a continual consciousness of all people as God’s offspring, a continual consciousness of kindness and service . Anything less leaves room for much forgetting.

    A final thought. If all things are held together by the power of God, and what believer would deny they are, then how can God not be where God’s power is?

  2. Zach says:

    That last part reminds me of rabbi irving greenberg’s For the Sake of Heaven and Earth when he talks about God’s covenants from adam->noah->abraham->moses were about man’s growing and developing responsibilities and relationship with God.

  3. Adam says:

    The German Jesuit Karl Rahner has really brought this idea into the Western Church with his trinitarian theology – the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity, and the immanent Trinity is the economic Trinity.

    For me, anyway, it helped to begin to see Christ not just as God for us, but as Catherine LaCugna says, us for God – showing us who and what God is as he “shows” God who and what humanity could be.

    I also love how the Orthodox are more comfortable with the “mystery” of the above statement without having to parse it into a purely intellectual realm.

  4. Zach says:

    John–it’s a difference between the presence of God, embodying the holy spirit and the physical manifestation of God eg Jesus– all very diff things. I would say the presence of God encompasses all of creation, but only man is endowed with the holy spirit and there is Jesus who might have inhabited a garden but not the oak tree in your backyard.

  5. Price says:

    Wonder how the concept of moving more toward being Christ-like and the relegation of the Holy Spirit to Biblical times only figures into our development ??

  6. John says:

    Zach, when I think of the God-head or the trinity I do not think of three separate indviduals. I think of God as ONE, who manifests self in three ways and works; as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When the Gospels speak of Jesus being taken up by the Father I do not see a human image seated at the right hand of a literal throne. I do see Jesus as one with the Father, but how that is is a mystery. Still, one God.

    That said, you may see your oak tree comment as being a bit clever and humorous. But when we allow ouselves we see the same God in a star, a stone, in a speck of dust or in a lump of clay called “humanity”, and THE difference is that we are aware. The bottom line is that is what salvation is about, aware that we are God’s, keeping that awareness alive and creating. That is what Jesus did for those whom he taught and healed

  7. Robert says:

    When it talks about us being made in the Image or likeness of God, what,
    if I may ask, do all of you think that this means? Were we the only creations made in this manner? I was taught that this meant that we were created with a Spirit in the likeness of the Creator. That their are others made with a Spirit being. Take for example the Angels and the Fathers heavenly Hosts. Clearly our flesh restricts us from the abilities of those just above us.(the angels) Clearly they have the ability to transform their appearance when needed. Our flesh also limits us from seeing them in their spiritual likeness. So if by “likeness” or Image as mentioned above we should note that there are others made with a Spiritual likeness / image of God.

  8. Alabama John says:

    Price,
    It’s obvious we have lots of things mixed up and with no answers for much of what is asked by our fellow humans. Your question is one been debated many times. How our beliefs and laws required to be followed have changed in importance up and down in my lifetime.
    Humans are bad at confusing things, always have been and always will.
    We better pray we are judged on how we obeyed what we thought was the right thing to do and not on whether we obeyed or not something we didn’t even know existed.
    I call that our God judging us all who lived on this earth by Available Light.
    God help us if that is not true as we all are bound to of missed something.
    Let the one that thinks they have it all perfect please stand!

  9. Alabama John says:

    Robert, that includes the devil and his bunch too.
    next life will not have tears, that is a big plus.
    Spirit like God is right. We will live eternally. Where exactly, who knows.

  10. Larry Cheek says:

    Alabama John

    Said; “We better pray we are judged on how we obeyed what we thought was the right thing to do and not on whether we obeyed or not something we didn’t even know existed.
    I call that our God judging us all who lived on this earth by Available Light.”

    It may be important that we change, instead of what we thought was the right, to , what we could prove was right. Would you truly believe that Satan would not think he was right? We might change, Available light, to, God judging us all who lived on this earth by how we obeyed our searched out proven truth from his Word. Of course the effort that we used in searching would be a factor in avoiding being judged by an unknown.

  11. Robert says:

    So then if I understand things written under my post. I here is “We better pray we are judged on how we obeyed what we thought was the right thing to do and not on whether we obeyed or not something we didn’t even know existed.” I think their is no need for worry if your sealed. or have received the gift offered by Jesus through repentance, belief,
    and Baptism into Christ Jesus. If I am correct after you have achieved the seal you have also received you name into the book of Life and judgment has no sting because your sins are remembered no more. This is only achieved via the Holy Spirit Praise the Lord!!

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