The Glory, Dignity and Dislocation of Man (with some signposts to Man's Healing)
Genesis Chapter 1:1-5, 26-31, Chapter 2:4-9, 15-25, Chapter 3:1-8
- "Lets' start at the beginning" - we are fascinated with the future - we should be just as much fascinated with the past, because it is the only place we can find meaning.
Myth? - 2 meanings
- a sacred story of the origin of universe and mankind
- a fictitious story, believed by many - but it never really happened.
Need to be careful which meaning we are using. Eg, "urban myth" ("you only use 10% of your brain" or "you can run your car on water" - BOTH WRONG!) is the 2nd meaning. Now just about every culture has its Creation myth (Greek, Chinese, Jewish-Christian, Norse, etc.) & how are we to understand them?
Eros makes everything from the Egg of Night, from chaos. Later, lesser gods made man from clay, and Eros breathes life into them. Sound familiar? Or Pandora, the woman who opened the forbidden box and released all evil into the world (yet even here, there was Hope, the last thing to be let out of the box). Sound familiar?
Pang-Gu the first, in a cosmic egg, with all elements intermixed. Separated earth & sky, wet & dry, male & female, light & dark, Yin & Yang. His exploding body formed everything else, and his fleas became the people of earth! Sound familiar? ( "Pan-gu." Encyclopedia Mythica from Encyclopedia Mythica Online.. Or Huang-Di, who created man of earth, and waited for world's breath to bring them to life. Or Nu-gua, the goddess who made men of mud. Sound familiar?
Odin and his brother gods made the world from the dead body of Ymir, the primordial giant. One day, Odin, Hoenir and Lodur were travelling across the barren earth and came across two trees with life-less twisted trunks. Odin shaped each of the trees into a man and a woman, and gave each of them breath. Hoenir gave them a soul and the ability to reason. Lodur gave them warmth and the fresh colours of life. The man was called Ask and his wife was Embla, and they proceeded to create the race of men.
Parallels with Genesis are striking
(though of course there are many differences)
- Mankind made from the earth itself
- Given the breath of life (ie, a living soul, intelligence and reasoning)
- Evil enters via the temptation of the first woman
- There still remains hope
- The process of separation, eg, of earth and sky, day and night
Why more than one account of creation? Which is correct? Why say "Genesis is the true one"? The true account of which the others are but corrupted copies?
- The Genesis account is clear, not vague - "in the beginning God created...". No confusion of different overlapping tales, and no unexplained pre-existing matter.
- The Genesis account has historical witness - the line comes from Adam, Abraham, Israel, Jesus, His followers down to today. Jesus quoted 1:27 and 2:24 as one historic whole.
- The Genesis account alone answers the real questions - "Who am I?", "Why is the world like it is?", "What is love", "What is beauty?", "where do death, despair, disease come from?", etc.
A panoramic look at the first chapters of Genesis (like from a mountain look-out) - the good, the bad and the ugly.
- God is separate from the creation - God is there; God is not just some picture of nature, in every grain of dust and in every man, like a divine gas. God is a Person; therefore he can speak to his creation, to us.
- God creates out of nothing - He did not need anything, and thus He explains everything.
- Plan and method - God has a purpose, and is orderly - the poetry of this chapter shows this
- Repeated "Let there be ..."
- Repeated "and God saw that it was good" - ie. perfectly suited to God's purpose
- He brings about increasing diversity ("and God separated...", v4, 7)
||Animals ("Let us make man in our image")
- He is full of life - therefore lavish in His creating - "Let the waters swarm..." v20, "Be fruitful and multiply..." v22
- He is full of love and communication - "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness". Revealed at the creation of man - for now there is the need - man is made to love and communicate.
|...to love... ...and communicate
- Focus is now on the creation of Man (Chapter 1 is the "global" picture of the whole of creation, of which man is the crown)
- V8 Focus is now in one place - the garden God made for man to live in and look after - "Eden" = delightful
- V7 - Made from common dust (not gold dust!) - thus man is one with all nature, and unlike God - yet he has the breath of God, thus also like God
|In God's Image
|Man is like God
||yet unlike God
|Able to know, love & communicate
||Truly, yet not fully
||Yet must use what God has made
|With real freedom to choose
||Yet with boundaries "you shall not" v17
- More diversity - the first thing "not good" v18 - for man to be alone; man is not yet complete. God creates woman, as the fitting counterpart and complement for the man, so that mankind is complete and balanced
- See here the glory of man - he is God-like, he is great.
- See here the dignity of man - he loves, he communicates (with God, with men, with the animals), he works. Man is not worthless, he is not junk, he is not part of some machine (atoms + time + luck).
- The greatest question is "Who am I?" and it has its immediate and powerful answer is "I am God's creation, made to know and love and enjoy Him and everything else forever".
- See here the wholeness of man - in harmony with God (spiritual harmony), with himself (psychological harmony), with others (sociological harmony), with nature (physical harmony).
|The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
- The tree - the test of man's free choice to love God. "Knowledge of good and evil". They knew good already (they were surrounded by goodness). The forbidden thing was not irrational, not like the joke "It is forbidden to throw rocks at this notice!". Here they had real moral choice (nothing physical prevented them from breaking the command); to trust God or distrust Him. There was real evil to be "gained"
- The lie dressed up with a flavour of truth. It was true that Eve would learn something she would never have learned otherwise - a horrible, useless, cruel and terrible experience of evil. It was not true that it would make her like God; she was already! And could only fall away from that likeness. No truer than what she had, and disastrous (for us all).
- "Don't go near the fire - it will hurt!". But the child does, falls in, and dies in agony. The child has learned something it would not have learned otherwise, but what knowledge! (Schaeffer - "Genesis in Space and Time" p57).
- Nothing physical prevented Eve from taking the fruit (whatever it was; the Bible does not tell us) - she had hands to grasp, arms to reach, mouth to bite and stomach to digest. Only the moral dimension guarded the tree. God had said "you must not..."
- She eats, and Adam eats.
- They know evil now - they have become it, and cannot turn back.
|They are afraid of God now (v10)
||They are afraid of self - "they knew that they were naked" v7
||They blame each other - v12
||They must labour, suffer pain, and finally die (v16-19)
||psychologically dislocated - they knew shame
|lost communication with Love himself - gained real guilt.
||who now has unbroken peace of mind? No one is wholly true to themselves.
||and see its horrible development in ch. 4 - hatred, murder and violence - right up to now - right where we live. It's not bad government; it's not bad education; it's mankind gone bad
||weeds, pain, death, the very earth cursed
|"The curse is come upon me..."
Thank God, his image is still there, though rusted & dirty. Man is still worth something, He is still great (eg, art, science, discovery)
Signposts to Healing (there is hope!)
The final answers to our spiritual, psychological, sociological and physical dislocation.
- God Himself took the initiative - he came, he called to them 3:8,9 (though he knew well what had happened)
- God clothed and fed them 3:19 "you shall eat bread" & 3:21 "the Lord God ... clothed them"
- God promised to send someone to conquer all evil 3:15. This is expanded later until it is a clear spotlight falling on Jesus, the Messiah, God's son. Eg. Genesis ch.18:18, Psalm 22, Isaiah ch.9:6,7, ch.40, ch.53, Daniel ch.7:13,14, Micah ch.5:2-5.
History in two Verses
In Eden, sad indeed that day,
My countless blessings fled away;
My crown fell in disgrace.
But on victorious Calvary
That crown was won again for me;
My life shall all be praise.
Faith, see the place and see the tree,
Where Heaven's Prince instead of me
Was nailed to bear my shame.
Bruised was the dragon by the Son;
Though two had wounds there conquered One,
And Jesus was His name.
(William Williams, Pantycelyn,1717-1791, "the sweet singer of Wales")
Honour and Shame
"'You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,' said Aslan. `And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth.'" --- C.S.Lewis - Prince Caspian, ch. 15
The Joy of Obeying
"Where can you taste the joy of obeying unless He bids you do something for which His bidding is the only reason?" --- C.S.Lewis - Perelandra, ch. 9
Plagued by the Question
"Modern man is deeply plagued by the question, `Where do love and communication come from?' Many artists who pour themselves out in their paintings, who paint bleak messages on canvas, many singers, many poets and dramatists are expressing the blackness of the fact that while everything hangs on love and communication, they don't know where these come from and they don't know what they mean. The biblical answer is quite otherwise: something was there before creation. God was there; love and communication were there; and therefore, prior even to Genesis 1:1, love and communication are intrinsic to what has always been." --- Genesis in Space and Time - Francis A Schaeffer p12
"But there is one thing that he did not lose, his `mannishness', his being a human being. Man still stands in the image of God - twisted, broken, abnormal, but still the image-bearer of God. Man did not stop being human. ... Modern man does not see man as fallen, but he can find no significance for man. In the Bible's teaching man is fallen but significant." --- Genesis in Space and Time - Francis A Schaeffer p70, 71
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Last updated: 09 Aug 2021
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