February 18, 2011

GEN 1-3: ‘Image Bearers In Grace’:

This post and the one following are brief 'notes' taken from Peter Jensen’s 2 opening talks at the launch of Moore College’s Priscilla and Aquila Foundation.

Complementarianism is the biblical orthodox view that needs to be explained and addressed in our new culture; there is a painful disjunction between the Bible and the community. If it is Biblical we will be serving the community.

OVERTURE: Gen 1-3:

Gen 1-3 is a profound passage in the scriptures. It is the beginning of a great journey that will shape what follows. Gen 1-3 sets the journey going; it’s the place we look to gather where we are going, much like rowing in boat, we take our direction from looking behind.
But it is not THE journey as such, for there is so much more to come.

So WHAT is Gen 1-3? And HOW should we read it?

* As a proto-history with symbolic naturalism? As a theological polemic against naturalism?

But Gen 1-3 is theocentric before it is anthropocentric.
It is about God before it is about us. Who is he? What has he done? Why has he done it?
And it touches on a myriad of other things…
-it deals with the nature of work
-the origin of sin
-God’s judgement
-other gods
-creation …etc

* Gen 1-3 is also part of a story not just a philosophical snapshot; and as such it has movement in it. 

Therefore, the key to reading it is within the larger context of the whole of scripture. Scripture gives us the Holy Spirit’s interpretation (eg. we find Jesus’ teaching in Matt 19 on marriage and divorce as it relates to the original intention found in Gen 1-3. Here Jesus takes the hearers back to the fundamentals of these chapters as the context for thinking about divorce. In looking back on Gen 1-3 Jesus reinforces the ‘principle’ of marriage in Matt 19 i.e. the commitment to marriage as something intended to be permanent and life long).

* So, how do you intend to listen to scripture?
Will we recognise God as our creator and humans as his dependant creation? Will I submit to God’s rule?  His kingdom? His word? His trust? trusting in His wisdom?
To listen to the Word of God, to listen with a ‘faith that obeys’.



* Gen 1:26: “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,
                   and let them rule over the fish of the sea
                   and the birds of the air, over the livestock,
                   over all the earth, and over all the creatures
                   that move along the ground.”

We note that Adam is not named, rather the title ‘Adam’ is being used as a generic title for ‘humankind’. (cf 5:1-2 “he called them ‘man’ or ‘Adam’). The title points to a role that he has been given, a unique role, a ‘singularity’ if you like.

And the ‘image’ language used here is meant to show the uniqueness of this humankind, a term not given to the plants or the animals. There is uniqueness to the human being. A preciousness to God, and therefore we are to understand that there is a preciousness to all of us. 
It sets a protective circle around mankind, around men and women, and this is the case even after the fall (9:6).

The image language also points to the sovereignty of human beings over the world in which we live. We rule as God rules over his creation, we rule under God’s authority and rule.

So, to summarise: these are the 2 elements of the ‘image’ language: uniqueness and rule.

* Gen 2:5: and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth
                 and no plant of the field had yet sprung up,
                 for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth
                 and there was no man to work the ground…”

Here we find that the created earth cannot fulfill its potential without its ‘image bearing man’. It demonstrates that part of the continued blessing of God on the world is the ministry of man.

*Gen 2:7: the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed
                into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being”.

Adam is created from dust. He is NOT the creator but a living creature entirely dependent on the God who created him. And Adam, so created, is to ‘work and guard the garden’ (2:15), he is called to exercise his ‘dominion’ by ‘caring’ for it. Here the man is entirely under the rule of the word of God. Listening to, and obeying God’s word is part of his role.

* Gen 2:18: The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.
                   I will make a helper suitable for him.”

The words ‘not good’ are a comment on the arrangement that man should be ‘alone’. He is described as ‘incomplete’. Not emotionally, but for the job he's been given (i.e. filling the earth and subduing it). He cannot tend and care for the garden 'alone', or on his own. The point here, is that Adam cannot fulfill his potential without ‘another’ beside him.

* Gen 2:19-20:  Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name…”.
Adam names the animals as part of the work he’s been given to do. 
Here we all own Adam and from him we all come.


* Gen 1:26-27: So God created man in his own image, 
                        in the image of God he created him; 
                        male and female he created them”. V27.

Eve likewise, is also created in the ‘image of God’, and, as with Adam, she is equally and uniquely precious to God. She is also equally and uniquely involved in the task of ruling the world under God.

* Gen 2:18: “The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (or, ‘fit’ or ‘corresponding to’ him).
What does it mean that God made a ‘suitable helper’?
The reference to needing a helper here is really a word about Adam rather than Eve. It shows the 'incompleteness' of Adam i.e. his inadequacy in the task he's been given without Eve. Nothing hierarchical is in the word.
The reference ‘suitable’ or ‘fit for him’, signifies someone who is- ‘not the same as’. One who will NOT be IDENTICAL with him (as with a duplicate, as with another man), but one who will share his essential being.

The woman is essentially always ‘one with man’, equally made in God’s image and equally partaking in man’s full humanity.
In their humanity there will also be no confusion of the sexes, for they are made ‘male and female’. These are the principles set down in the creation, they are both one in full and complete humanity, where the woman is not the same as him, but they are distinctly male and female.
So, are all women helpers by role or by nature?

Yes, in the sense that all men are incomplete without women FOR the task God has given. ‘Helper’ applies to women here in the context of men not being able to rule 'alone' (and this is especially in the task of ‘fruitfulness’, or ‘filling the earth’).

We also see that both the man and woman are not alien to each other, for unlike Adam, she does not come ‘from the dust’ but is taken from ‘his side’. Thus indicating a prior unity, and an ongoing unity. Men and women are not a different species from each other, but like man, women are distinctly separate from the animals, just as he is.

Nor is she just a friend. She complements the man; she does not just repeat him. 
The man recognizes her with joy as ‘from him' and ‘with’ him.

She is also to be seen as essential to the task of mankind. Men and women are to treat each other uniquely, women are not to disappear from social constructs, rather, she is to work with him, especially in the procreative element of ruling.

Does man’s naming of her reflect order?

It is likely to be the case, but this is not so much the teaching of the passage, but rather the underlying assumption. The man does have a unique responsibility (and authority, for authority comes out of responsibility).

Is there a difference in responsibility in the role of the man and the woman?

This also fits the N.T passages, where the N.T makes a theological point out of the priority of man in 1Tim, and also out of the source of the woman in 1Cor 11. Here we see that theological weight is given to the man’s priority in creation and the woman’s source of creation being from the man.

* The next post will be Peter’s second talk: ‘Image Bearers in Disgrace’:

No comments:

Post a Comment