Once, however, Logos as a prominent dimension of God’s nature starts fading from Western culture’s horizons, what is left? There appear to be three possibilities. One is “God-As-Will,” but untethered to reason. This is a God who acts arbitrarily, one whom we must simply obey. Freedom is thus found in unquestioning submission, no matter how irrational the divine command. Another is “God-As-Love,” but without reasonableness. This is a being who, like an irresponsible parent, simply affirms his child’s choices, no matter how foolish or evil such decisions might be. A third possibility is “God-Beyond-Reason.” This produces a narrowed understanding of human reason itself: one that confines our rationality to the verifiable scientific method, and thereby declines to permit it to ponder the bigger questions opened by the intriguing possibility that Divine Reason exists. –Public Discourse
Tag: image of god
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27
Genesis 1:27 is, mostly likely, one of the most often referenced verses in my study of worldview and Christian thinking (the others are 1 John 1:9 and Romans 12:1-2, in case you’re curious). Why? Because one of the major underlying problems with any worldview outside Christianity is a serious downgrading in what it means to be human. No other religious system outside Christianity and Judaism have any concept of man as being made in the image of God, nor the level of value invested in personhood this identity with God implies. As a recent example, take a map of “male/female equality,” posted recently on a the Washington Post (a generally progressive news source), and then reposted, with comments, by a conservative one (The Federalist).
The writer at the Federalist nails the bottom line problem with this map, saying:
OK, friends, this is a great example of why you always need to look at what’s actually being measured. If you think “equal rights” means “equal outcomes,” this is a great map. If your understanding of “equal rights” is about “liberty” or the freedom to make your own decisions, it’s a train wreck. Equal rights doesn’t mean we all work the same job at the same number of hours for the same pay and that none of us get to choose to care about homemaking. That’s not what equality means.
But the typical conservative reply, while it gets much right, misses the crucial point. For instance, the chart below is one response.
In the progressive mind, equality always means equal outcomes. If you take two children of the same age, no matter what their backgrounds, no matter what their family life, no matter what they choose for themselves in life, no matter what school they attend — at any given age in life after a certain point, those two children should grow into adults who have the same income level, the same beliefs (at least as they relate to the society around them), and the same future. In other words, the only equality progressivism knows is the equality of uniformity among everyone. You’re allowed (even encouraged) to like different foods, drive a different car, express your “sexuality” in different ways, but you really must be just like everyone else in terms of the major points of life results. Your religious belief must be buried in your “personal realm,” and not allowed to “leak” out into the “political realm,” as well.
But this doesn’t just destroy freedom. It also destroys the image of God that Christianity so highly values. The image of God means we are co-creators with God, creating our own lives, each in an individual way. God doesn’t create a well organized garden full of petunias, he creates a riot of color and sound and variety. Progressivism’s insistence on equal outcomes not only tells women who stay at home by choice that they’ve failed, it also says that every human is exactly identical and interchangeable.
This is an internal contradiction within progressive thought itself, which believes strongly in evolution as a path forward for mankind, and hence the constant search for those who are smarter and purer among us to “build the next generation through leadership.” We are all identical units of meat machines except those the progressive deems “the next evolutionary step.”
But this concept that outcomes must be equal if lives are lived equally is a also, and more importantly, a diminution of the human spirit, and hence a denial of the image of God within each of us.
Conscience and Its Enemies
Robert P. George
The Christian worldview, in essence, is centered around the image of God in man. From the idea of moral law, which can be framed in the context of relationship with a holy God, to salvation, which can be framed in the context of restoring this broken relationship, to the idea of natural law, which can be framed in the context of the God’s attributes, the entire scope of law, justice and relationship must be placed into the bedrock of the image of God in man to make any sense. And yet, there are few Christian writers who discuss the issue at this level, who take the issues of the day to their core, the image of God in man.
Robert P. George is, fortunately, one of those writers. George’s book is a tour de force through many controversial issues of today, from abortion to redefining the meaning of marriage, all examined from the point of view of human dignity and worth, and idea explicitly tied and grounded in the image of God in man.
George begins his book with an examination of something that seems to be trivial at the outset, but looms larger as he digs farther into the subject: the alliance of economic and social conservatives in the political sphere. The author’s answer to why this alliance is important is the underlying themes around human dignity found in both camps. The social conservative sees human dignity as the origin of laws about life and justice, while the economic conservative sees this same origin for supporting the free market as the best known way to produce a flourishing life for as many as possible. Both of these are attacked, as well, by the illiberal left by cutting human dignity out of the picture — ironically in the name of human dignity itself.
But this raises the question: on what is human dignity founded? What is the sure platform on which human dignity may be raised? The rest of the book addresses this very question with an answer as old as Adam: the image of God.
The first section of George’s examination includes the limits on written law in social orders, the problems of “private acts,” the way the liberal arts interact with the social order, the role of the courts in upholding the rule of law, a close examination of affirmative action, and the problems surrounding “open borders.”
The law is a teacher. Either it will teach that marriage is a reality in which people can choose to participate but whose contours people cannot make and remake at will, or it will teach that marriage is a mere convention that is malleable in such a way that individuals, couples, or, indeed, groups can choose to make of it whatever suits their desires , goals, and so on. The result, given the biases of human sexual psychology, will be the development of practices and ideologies that truly tend to undermine the sound understanding and practice of marriage, together with the development of pathologies that tend to reinforce the very practices and ideologies that cause them. -page 140
After examining these more specific issues, the author moves into a second section which finds the common thread among all these issues. Here he covers the idea of natural law, and the foundation of the natural law in the image of God. The third section returns to specific issues to deal with matters of life and death, such as assisted suicide and abortion. George wraps his book up with an examination of several of the leading thinkers who have influence social movement in the last hundred years.
This is an important book, one every person should read, whether conservative Christian or liberal atheist. This is the argument the liberal must answer in the public square. It’s not going to be an easy argument to answer.
I’m going to be blogging through the worldview class I’m teaching for our homeschool coop through the next year in this series of posts. Each week I’ll post the class outline and notes.
Thoughts From this Week’s Class
- Tolerance is a major catchphrase in our world — in fact, it’s like the water we swim in. This tolerance isn’t real tolerance, though, it’s a modern tolerance notable for its lack of tolerance to those who don’t agree with the idea that all truths are somehow equally true.
- Why am I here? To glorify God. How do I glorify God? The primary means given in the Scriptures is through relationships with God, the Earth, and other people.
- What’s wrong with the world? Sin!
- What is sin? There are a number of ways in which this questions can be answered, such as simple disobedience, falling short of God’s moral code, or simply falling short. All of these can be traced back to the idea of failing a relationship, however — this becomes crucial when we get our examination of the basis of morality in the Christian worldview.
- We create our own standards of good and evil, rather than living in God’s moral universe.
Now, get past that wrenching feeling in your gut and tell me why sex selective abortion seems so wrong.
If you can’t, then it’s time to take a long hard look at your worldview.
If you’re counting on an emotional reaction to tell you this is wrong, then you’re counting on a chimera that will soon fade over time. Just as we have “gotten used to” abortion over time, we will “get used to,” sex selective abortion —if we live with it for long enough.
On what, then, should we based our outrage at sex selective abortion? Because abortion is being committed unfairly, for something the child can’t choose? How is this different than aborting a child because they have some disease, or some genetic problem? Do we really think there should be affirmative action in abortion clinics? That just as for every male athlete we must have a female one, for every female abortion, we must have a male one?
On what, then, should we base our objection to sex selective abortions?
Let’s start here: By choosing to abort girls and not boys, we are saying boys are worth more than girls. But there is only one way to justify this train of thought —by arguing that people have no intrinsic value outside their sex. This is the nub of the problem with sex selective abortion, isn’t it? That ultimately it can only be justified in a world where people are only valued for their external qualities, their sex, or the color of their skin, or their heritage.
So sex selective abortions are wrong because they violate the intrinsic value of the person by treating a person as no greater than their gender.
Then why are abortions right in the first place?
If the little girl in the womb is a person who shouldn’t be aborted simply because of her sex, then how is the little girl in the womb who’s aborted because she’s not convenient right now any different? Doesn’t abortion, itself, presuppose that these little blobs of tissue aren’t people? Doesn’t abortion, itself, presuppose that the value of a person is only found in the value of that person to other people? That if your life is somehow inconvenient to others, you simply shouldn’t be allowed to be born? Is what we’re truly objecting to the statement by a mother that a little boy is more convenient than a little girl? More desirable?
Our modern worldview has tied us in a knot this time. How can we, as a culture, outlaw same sex abortion without taking a long hard look in the mirror, without rethinking our entire concept of what being a person means?
Or maybe it’s time to reconsider our entire postmodern, relativistic worldview —sex selective abortion is just the tip of the iceberg.
Created in God’s Image
Anthony A. Hoekema
This 220 page book deals primarily with the doctrine of anthropology, or rather the position and place of man in God’s creation. The language is not heavily technical, so its suitable for the average reader, and not just for those who are steeped in theological thought.
Dr. Hoekema begins his book with an explanation of why the doctrine of man is important. He cites the focus on self centered, or man centered, questions being asked in our culture, and that studying the doctrine of man can bring us to God through the door of self. While older cultures focused on more ultimate questions, and hence could approach God through those avenues, today’s inward focus on the state of man provides us with another approach.
The author then moves into the doctrine of man itself, dealing first with man’s status as a created person. In the next chapter, he shows how man goes beyond created person, and into the image and likeness of God. He focuses first on the question of whether or not man still bears the image of God. By surveying the Tanakh and the New Testament, he comes to the conclusion that man does, in fact, still bear the image of God.
Once past this point, Dr. Hoekema begins to come to grips with what the image of God means. He provides a historical survey of the idea, working through Irenaeus, John Calvin, Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, and various others. The author then works through a theological summary of the image of God, dealing with structural and functional aspects, Christ as the true image of God, man’s threefold relationship, the original image, the perverted image, the restored image, and the perfected image. The result of this investigation is that this image is a holistic attribute, rather than being centered in any particular part of faculty of man, or even men and women.
The most helpful chapter in the book follows, a chapter on the relationship between the self-image and the image of God. This is followed by several chapters on sin, including the origin of sin, the spread of sin, the nature of sin, and the restraint of sin. The book concludes with one chapter titled The Whole Person, followed by a chapter on The Question of Freedom.
There are some points where the logic falls through. For instance, the author claims the current age is uniquely man centered, but seems to miss the entire episode of Diogenes using his lantern to search for a human being, showing the Greeks were often just as man-centered as we are. Dr. Hoekema uses Romans 9 for the common proof of predestination, although its easily shown this particular Scripture has nothing to do with salvation. The section on the unpardonable sin is completely missing the Hebrew cultural context.
Overall, however, this is a well written book, and well worth reading.