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October 20, 2012 - Mankind: God’s Handiwork



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Lesson 3   20 October, 2012
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Mankind: God’s Handiwork

Major Texts: Gen. 1:27; 1:26; Mark 12:13-17; Gen. 2:19-25; Acts 17:26; Rom. 5:12-19

This week the focus of the lesson is on origins, particularly the origins of humans.  In opening up this topic, we immediately run into the big debate that continues to swirl around the question of origins in our society and time.  But we are not going to look at the controversy itself as much as we are going to try to look at the implications that accrue to humans from the issue of origins.  In particular, we are going to look at the question of origins as laid out in the Bible.

Perhaps the place to begin this discussion is with the observation that, in the Biblical account, the whole matter of origins rests with the sovereign action of a sovereign and supernatural being - God.  Interestingly, the God of Genesis is very different from the other perceived gods of time.  He has no consorts, no peers, no paramours, no spouse, no enemies, nothing.  God stands sovereign in Himself with no contenders.  And He is powerful, so powerful His word is able to accomplish what he says. God speaks, and what He says comes into being.  By this means, God creates our place and order.

It is worth noting that God created a dualistic reality, not dualistic in the pagan sense, but dualistic in a biblical sense.  The pagans saw a dualistic universe where the material world was bad and needed to be escaped.  But in the Bible, the dualistic world is by design and it is good, a realm of the Creator, and a realm of the creature.  Both realms are good, and they relate to each other.  And the cardinal wrong would be for a creature to try to enter or usurp the place and prerogatives of the Creator.

Part of the created world, and a final and grand part it is, involved the creation of “mankind,” said in Genesis 1:27, to be made in the “image of God.”  How do you understand this?  Does this refer to some physical attribute?  Does it have to do with the way the human mind works?  Is it the power of personhood, the ability to relate to other sentient beings?  Does it speak of some inherently divine or immortal element in human makeup?  Is this reference to some spiritual capacity, the capacity to believe and have faith?

  • Some thought should be given here to the implications this “image of God” factor has upon the perceived value of human beings.  If we are here by mere chance, just organisms that arrived by random biological, what might be said of our inherent value?  If we are in the image of God, what might be said of humanities inherent value?  And, if we are in the image of God, what implications would that have for the way we treat each other?
     
  • The image of God in humans is clearly something that draws a distinction between humans and the rest of the created order.  It is because of this “imageness” that humans were given “dominion.”  What are the implications of this for humans and their relationship to the rest of the created order?  Is the earth our to pillage and use up as we please?  What does it mean to have “dominion” over something?  If the creation was by design, does it not also have inherent value and purpose?  Why do you think creationists have not been not in the forefront of creation care?
     
  • What does the idea of being made in the image of God have to say about human conflict and war? Can there really be a “just war” if it results in the killing of other sentient beings made in the image of God?

The Genesis account indicates that the creation of earth was purposeful, done by God deliberately.  And, if (since) God made the earth, one would presume that the parameters in which life was to be lived were properly provided by the Creator, just as one would expect the maker of something like an automobile would provide the parameters in which the vehicle would be best driven or used.  What implications might the purposeful actions of God in creating humans have in terms of providing humans with purpose?  How would this compare with the sense of purpose that came from believing we are here by mere chance?  And what implications would this have on the ability to find meaning in life?

There is a lot of discussion about the historicity of Adam and Eve.  If they were real persons, actual people, what implications would that have for us today?  If they were not real people, as many today believe but only mythical beings representative of our early ancestors, what would that mean?

  • See how many texts you can find in the New Testament that refer to Adam as if he were a real person.

In Genesis, the account of origins, which resulted in a creation that was “very good,” is followed by a very sad story of its corruption, by what is often called the “Fall.”  Because of sin, Adam and Eve fell from their designed place in creation, and creation itself became corrupted to the point that now, everything is broken!

  • What implications does the fall have for the debate between creationist positions and evolutionist ones?  Does the fall allow us to look deep inside ourselves to find some pristine remains of ourselves?  Or is the human heart something that has been so corrupted it is unsafe to follow its inclinations?  Do you know what theologians mean when they use the phrase “total depravity?”
     
  • How can God be charged with culpability due to the suffering in the natural world when, according to evolutionary theory, suffering is merely part of the natural order?
     
  • What are the effects of evolutionary theory on the idea of salvation when salvation is God’s work of saving humans from their fallen estate?  Is not salvation a plan to restore humans (and creation itself) to the position held right after creation?
     
  • What does the Bible mean when it speaks of having the image of God restored in humans?  How can we best participate in this process (event?) of restoration.  What kind of tensions do you think people who are being restored face from day to day?

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