Recently I was invited to speak at church about the passage in Genesis chapter 1 where the human race is introduced, and the much-pondered words “in the image of God” are written. You can find the text and some accompanying pictures here:
imagodei_blog [3 MegaBytes; Microsoft Word file]
Our church web-site also has recordings of the sermons, and this one will be there for a while. The link is here (click ‘Talks’):
In this post I will simply share a few images and brief comments.
The image at the top of the post is a reminder of the first three creation ‘Days’. I comment in the talk about these, and about the fact that the things seen there can serve as symbols or pointers to help us think about God, but, significantly, the heart of what God means is seen in something less abstract and less about power: just ordinary people, male and female.
(The talk includes a brief comment on the fact that I don’t think the ‘Days’ were ever intended to be taken literally, but they do function well as a way to signal that the world originates in an orderly progression, not a fight.)
I then comment on the ideas of “dominion” and “subdue”, themes that are widely misunderstood. A good way to grasp the overtones of these words (in the ancient Hebrew approach to the natural world) is to think about what it takes to get to grips with the natural world and make it serve a creative purpose. A helpful thought for us is, I think, the idea of the study and hard work that is necessary to master a musical instrument. We are invited to “master” the world in the sense of understand it and put it to creative uses, helping it to realize the potential that it has but could not otherwise reach.
This is what that word “subdue” is about; the word is used because this work is difficult (as any farmer knows). And this is where science comes in, of course. To ‘master’ the world involves figuring out what is its structure, and how it works, and how we can work with it.
I finish with a summary list of thoughts that emerge from this passage of Genesis, and the first chapter more generally. (Click to enlarge)