Nutshell Theology: Anthropology


A Collection of Nuts

Big Picture

Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7, 20-25 describe the creation of Adam the first man and his wife Eve with a surprising lack of intricate detail. It is from the first chapter that we gain our strongest statement that mankind is made in God's image. It is a repeated lesson in many different parts of the Bible and as such many other doctrines depend on it.

What does it mean to be made in the image of God? It must mean more than the "form" we take by having two arms and legs, a face with two eyeballs and so on. Jesus told the Woman at the well in John 4 that God is Spirit (John 4:24). He's not some celestial giant who looks as we do. Monkey's have the same basic body structure we do but they are not described as being made in the image of God. The image of God therefore must be something more than body shape. It must include the invisible characteristics of God.

A portion of God's Personal image remains in us after the Fall (Gen 9:6; James 3:9) and thus to speak against or harm that image is a sin – because it is an assault on the image of God. When we sinned however, a portion of God's "moral image" was lost to us. Some of which is restored to us when we repent and turn to Christ. Part of being made in God's image then are attributes of Truth, Righteousness and Holiness (Eph 4:23-24; Col. 3:10).

God's image therefore is less our appearance (Two arms and legs) and involves more our internal capacity or at least comprehension of intangibles like righteousness, goodness, holiness and truth; not to mention the eternality of our soul and the basics of personhood which are usually classified as will, intellect and emotion.

As has already been alluded to the image of God in us has been broken because of the Fall. As a result we 1) are Separated from God, 2) Must endure physical death (Gen 3:19) as well as 3) Spiritual death (Gen 2:17). Since Adam's sin we who share not only his physical Genes but also his Spiritual 'genes' are born spiritually dead. That spiritual death and the broken image of God is so extensive that we literally lack the ability now to do good and be godly or righteous without a complete rebirth. Theologians call that "Total depravity" which doesn't mean we're as bad as we can get, but rather that we can't get any better without a miraculous work – the work of re-creation in Christ.

Daily Life

It was probably Socrates who first uttered the well worn phrase, "Know yourself." Whoever it was, they were right. We need to know ourself – but not as an end, rather as a means to an end.

A repeated theme in the "Star Trek" shows is that the human race is getting better all the time. The basis for such a belief system is not the realm of science fiction writers or even of science – it all stems from the evolutionary hypothesis that disorder turns to order. Given the evolutionary gods of "time" and "chance" random chemicals will turn to proteins which turn to amino acids, DNA, cells, eyeballs, monkeys, fish and people. The apparent reasoning is that if it's true of physical things, it must also necessarily be true of our spirituality.

The Bible, however teaches that we are evil from birth and that we have no hope of getting better. It is this which makes knowing yourself change from eastern philosophical navel gazing into a recognition of our need of salvation. We are broken people.

Since we are no longer who we were created to be, understanding who we are should drive us to restoring the image of God by turning to Him in repentance.

Memory Verse

Jeremiah 17:9

"The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

Questions For Personal Study

  1. What does Genesis 1:26, 27 indicate that it means to be made in the image of God?
  2. Why does being made in God's image bring meaning to debates about Abortion, Murder, Drug or Alcohol abuse, physical abuse or even the way we talk about other people?
  3. How would you answer a person who believes people are getting better?
  4. How does being made in God's image impact your view of self?
  5. Do you think God made other creatures in his image? Explain.