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The Creation of Man

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
February 25, 2023 12:01 am

The Creation of Man

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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February 25, 2023 12:01 am

According to one popular theory, human beings are mere accidents who emerged from the slime and evolved into our current state. Today, R.C. Sproul critiques this view and reminds us that we are much more than "grown-up germs."

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Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

Today on Renewing Your Mind… Since the fall, do we still have the image of God?

Or was that image not only marred, but was it obliterated by the fall so that we are no longer the image bearers of God? R.C. Sproul answers that question today from his classic series, Foundations. Welcome to Renewing Your Mind on this Saturday.

I'm Lee Webb. This is a comprehensive series in which R.C. addresses the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. He looked at how we got the Bible, the nature of sin, and the return of Christ. And in today's lesson, he examines exactly what it means when Scripture states that you and I were created in the image of God. When we looked at the doctrine of creation, I introduced that particular lecture by calling attention to the crisis in our day and how so much of the criticism leveled by atheism and secularism against Judeo-Christianity fixes its gaze on the concept of creation, understanding that if they can cut the rug out from underneath creation, the whole system of Christianity collapses with it. But not only are we faced with the crisis concerning the creation of the universe, creation in general, but specifically in our culture, we have seen a radical shift in understanding the origin of human beings. We now have seen the advance of various types of theories of evolution, everything from microevolution to macroevolution and a host of nuances in between, which theories have significantly undermined human confidence in the dignity of our beginnings. We frequently hear ourselves described as being cosmic accidents who emerged fortuitously out of the primordial soup, as it were, into our current evolutionary stage. And I remember one philosopher who described the human situation as this, that we are at best grown-up germs who have emerged from the slime gratuitously, and we are sitting on one cog of one wheel of a vast cosmic machine that is destined toward annihilation. And so, with that view and with the widespread influence of pessimistic forms of existential philosophy such as that indicated by Jean-Paul Sartre, who defined man as a useless passion and whose final comment on the meaning and significance of humanity was the one word, nausea. And so, we have been bombarded in the 20th century with extremely pessimistic views of the nature, the origin, and the significance of human beings. And yet ironically, at the same time, we've seen a renaissance of naïve forms of humanism that still celebrate the dignity of human beings and who protest around the world in behalf of human rights as if we were more than grown-up germs. But I've been saying, as others have for years, that humanism in its naivete has both of its feet planted firmly in mid-air.

They're on a roller coaster without brakes because what they're doing is living on borrowed capital. Their Pollyannaish view of the dignity of human beings rests ultimately on capital borrowed from Judeo-Christianity that sees the dignity of the human species established by God's act of creation. It is the sanctity of human life whose sanctity is not something inherent or intrinsic, but rather our sanctity is derived from God's declaring value and worth to this particular creature that we call man or mankind. And this is part of the whole narrative of creation as we encounter the creation of the human race in the very first chapter of the book of Genesis as the narrative follows the six days of creation wherein God on various days creates various elements of the universe. Then we read in verse 26 of the first chapter of Genesis these words, then God said, Let us make man in our image according to our likeness.

Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. And so God created man in His own image. In the image of God He created him. Male and female He created them. And then God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and multiply.

Fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth. We live in a world now that puts more value to fish eggs than to human embryos, more dignity to whales than to humanity, which is a reversal of the order of creation in which God creates mankind and mankind alone in His image. And it is to human beings that God gives dominion over the animals, over the birds, over the fish, over the earth.

And in a sense God creates man and woman as His viscergents, that is His vice kings, His deputy rulers over all creation. And this goes with the status that is accorded to humanity by being made in the image of God. Now in theology we have a technical term that should be easy to understand, and it's simply called the imago Dei, which means the image of God. And one of the great questions of theology is the question, what is the image, what is this distinctive dimension of human beings that makes them differ from all other members of the animal kingdom that distinguishes them by virtue of this image?

And there's been much speculation in the history of theology and an attempt to locate the distinctive characteristics of the image of God. Now part of the problem is found in the first chapter in the text in verse 28 where we read, Then God said, Let us make man in our image according to our likeness. So two words are used here with respect to this initial account of the creation of human beings, the word image and the word likeness.

Two different words, Salem and Dimut in Hebrew, and in the Greek likewise two distinctive words. And the Roman Catholic Church historically has said that what the Bible is describing here is not one specific characteristic of humans, but two, that there is a difference between the image and the likeness, the image referring to certain aspects that we have in common with God such as rationality and volition and so on, and the likeness corresponding to an original righteousness that was added to our human nature in creation. But historically Protestant interpretation of this statement in the book of Genesis differs significantly. That what the Protestant interpreters say is that what we find here in Genesis 1 is an example of what is called a hendiadis. And a hendiadis is simply a technical term for a grammatical structure where two things or two words are mentioned both referring to the same thing.

The word hendiadis means one in two-ness. That is, we go to Romans 1 for example where God's wrath is revealed against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men. Is His wrath directed at two distinct things, one of which is ungodly and another is unrighteous?

Or is His wrath focused on one thing that can be described either by the term unrighteous or the term ungodly? And so the consensus among Protestants is that this is a grammatical construction called the hendiadis and that what you have here in Genesis 1 is two words both referring to the same thing. That whatever is our image, whatever the sense in which we are the image of God is the same sense in which we are in His likeness and vice versa. So we look not for two distinct things but one particular thing. But again we're still left with the question, what is it that constitutes being made in the image of God?

Again, medieval theologians introduced an idea that in the 20th century has come under sharp attack principally by neo-orthodox theologians and in that case chiefly by Karl Barth. And that is the idea of what is called the analogia entus, the analogia entus which being translated means the analogy of being. That even though the Scriptures make it very clear that there is a wide gap between the nature of God and the nature of any creature and a huge abyss that separates the nature of God from the nature of human beings. Nevertheless, there is some way in which we are like God. Not that we are God, we're creatures, and there are massive ways in which we are unlike God. But at the same time there is some way in which we are like God. Now that's what's been attacked by neo-orthodox theology and the very popular term that it's worked its way into the church and you'll even find it being used frequently by orthodox people I'm ashamed to say is that God is wholly other. This is an effort to call attention to the majesty and the greatness of God and the sense in which He transcends us and is different from all creatures in the zeal to protect His transcendence and build a barrier against confusing God with anything in the created realm and escape all forms of immanentism or pantheism. I use this phrase that God is wholly other. Now if you take that literally it would be fatal to Christianity because if God is completely, totally, and entirely different from us there would be no possible common point of contact between the Creator and the creature, no possible avenue of communication. If the two beings are utterly dissimilar there could never be communication between them. That's why it's so crucial to Christian thought that we understand that there is some likeness, some similarity between God and man that makes it possible for God to speak to us even though He speaks to us in our language and on our terms. Nevertheless what He says is meaningful because we share some similarity, but we still haven't located the nature of that similarity.

And various things have been done historically to pinpoint that point of contact or that similarity. The most popular view historically has been that the imago or the image is made up basically in the constituent aspects of our humanity in terms of our rationality. And our volition and our affection and chiefly the first two that we are said to be rational in a way similar to God. God has a mind and we have a mind. One of the problems with this of course is for centuries people have assumed that other animals can't think at all. And when you put the rat through his paces in the maze or you give various instructions to a dog who has been carefully trained for a police corps duty or as a guide dog for the blind or whatever, the idea is that whatever they do, they do by this mysterious power called instinct, but they certainly aren't thinking. And even though you can see rats making decisions between going in one passageway or another in the maze that they point through, they only do this by instinct.

They're not really making a conscious decision. Now that becomes pretty difficult because for all outward senses it seems as though animals do make conscious decisions. And we know that they're awake and they're asleep and that they respond, they can hear, they can do all these other things. And so for the most part this idea of an absolute divide between rationality limited to humans and instinct for animals has changed to where people are saying that the real distinctive among human beings is the far advanced degree of our reasoning capacities compared and contrasted with lesser animals. And I don't know how we're going to solve that question ultimately, but for one thing we know for certain and that is that God has a mind, that God has knowledge, and that God does complex reasoning, and that we have minds, we can acquire knowledge, and we have a power of contemplation and radiocination that is unique in the animal world. Not only that, God has a will and we have the faculty of choosing. We are also volitional creatures. Now to be moral creatures one would have to have a mind and would have to have an apparatus called a will. And many have said it's because God has a character as well as a being, a moral character, and so do we. We don't put mice on trial and we don't speak of a highly ethically developed sense of morality in our dogs and so on. And yet we hold human beings accountable for the choices they make, for the decisions that they use because they are moral agents.

They are volitional creatures, and God gives the directive to human beings to be holy even as He is holy and to reflect something of His righteousness, which reflection we couldn't possibly do unless we were rational creatures and unless we were moral creatures and unless we had some sense of feeling or affection. And so for the most part, as I say, the church has looked at these characteristics that we find in God and that we find also in a highly developed stage in human beings as being the very essence of the image. Again, Karl Barth challenged that, saying that in creation man is not just made as man, but man is made male and female. Both the male and the female are created in the image of God, both image bearers of God. And the term, of course, in Genesis, the term here of man, is used generically, that man incorporates both male and female, and that all human beings participate in this status of being made in the image of God. Well, Barth says that because the male and femaleness is included in this, that he says that what the analogy here is not an analogy of being, but an analogy of relationship.

He calls it the analogia relazionis, the analogy of a relationship that just as God has interpersonal relationships within Himself, in the Godhead. So, the uniqueness of us is that we have the ability to have interpersonal relationships among ourselves. Well, that's interesting, and it's certainly true that we do have the ability to have interpersonal relationships, but so do animals.

And also, we're still left with a problem. If that's the only point of the analogy, one of the interpersonal relationships we wouldn't possibly be able to have would be to have one with God, because there would be no means to communicate with Him. But in any case, we see that of all the creatures in the world, there is a unique responsibility given to the human person, and with that responsibility is a corresponding ability.

In fact, responsibility includes the idea of ability. And part of the uniqueness of the human race is the unique mission that we have received from God, to be His representatives to the rest of the creation, and to mirror and reflect the very character of God. Now, one of the ways we learn that is by reasoning back to Genesis from the New Testament picture of Christ Himself, who is the last Adam, or the second Adam, to whom we see the perfect fulfillment of what it means to be in the image of God.

As the author of Hebrews tells us that He is the brightness of God's glory and the express image of His person. In Christ's perfect obedience, we see the fulfillment of the human mandate to mirror and to reflect the holiness and the righteousness of God. So I'm convinced that what we find in the image, basically, is a unique ability in creation to mirror the character of God, so that the rest of the world should be able to look at humans and say, that gives us a message of what God is like. Unfortunately, when the world looks at us now, they don't see much of a message of what God is like, because now the whole creation is groaning and travail together, waiting for the redemption of people, because now the image is so marred and disturbed by the fall. And when we look at the question of the fall of the human race into sin, and look at the nature of sin, we will have to revisit this question of the image of God, because the question persists, since the fall, do we still have the image of God? Or was that image not only marred, but was it obliterated by the fall so that we are no longer the image bearers of God?

In quick terms, I will answer that by way of preview by saying that orthodox Christianity insists that even though the image of God has been blurred and muddled and marred seriously by the fall, it has not been destroyed, and that even sinful human beings walking around in our world today are still creatures made in the image of God. And that leads to the necessity of distinguishing at some point between the image of God in the narrow sense and the image of God in the broader sense, or the image of God in the formal sense and the image of God in the material sense, because even though we are fallen, we still can think. Our minds have been infected by sin, but we still have minds, and we still can reason.

We reason fallaciously frequently, but we still have that ability. Also, even though we're in bondage to our sin, we still have a will, and we still have the capacity to make choices. We look at this more carefully in a fuller study called A Shattered Image, where we go into much greater detail about the whole concept of what it means to be in the image of God and what has happened to that image since the fall.

That's R.C. Sproul helping us look past humanist definitions of who we are as humans. As he pointed out, we need to look at this in terms of our dignity as creatures made in the image of God. Today's message is from Dr. Sproul's series, Foundations, an overview of systematic theology. Each Saturday here on Renewing Your Mind, we bring you another message from the series, and over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting the section on anthropology, our biblical understanding of man.

If we get this doctrine wrong, we will misunderstand our need for a Savior. When you contact us today with a donation of any amount, we will be glad to send you the entire series. You can find us online at In this series, Dr. Sproul answers questions about the origin and authority of the Bible, the Trinity, man, sin, and salvation. And by the way, this is a special edition set that includes 60 messages on eight DVDs, along with a PDF of the study guide and questions for group discussion. We hope you'll contact us with your gift of any amount.

And again, this is an online offer only, so go to to make your request. You know, Dr. Sproul said that right thinking precedes right living. What we think about God shapes who we are and helps determine our values, goals, and decisions. We like to say here at Ligonier Ministries that we focus on three things, theology, theology, and theology. And when you make a financial donation to Ligonier, you're helping distribute sound theology to millions of believers around the world. On behalf of all of my colleagues here, thank you. Well, if mankind was created to have perfect fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden, what went wrong? Next Saturday, Dr. Sproul will focus on the nature of sin. So I hope you'll join us for Renewing Your Mind. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-25 03:29:07 / 2023-02-25 03:37:07 / 8

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