Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Shameless Foundations: Part 2-Humanity

Part 1

So God is shaping the world out of the chaotic lump of cosmic stuff. Making progress, things are taking shape, then he gets to us.

God formed humanity out of the stuff of this earth. We are intrinsically part of this place. We do not belong somewhere else. This is literally our native ground.

Now, how the text talks about the establishment of humanity is important, and a little history is in order. In the cultures around which this story was written there were certain rituals for worship that are pertinent to the meaning of the Biblical story. When it was determined that a new temple was in order the first thing to be done was to plant a sacred grove, a garden if you will, that would demarcate the holy precinct. Then the priests would form the image of the god out of clay, or wood, or metal and would put it in the garden. Then the priests would perform a ceremony in which the breath or spirit of whatever god the image was of would come into the idol and the image would thereby become the very presence of that god in the earth. If you don't know the Biblical story take a look at it in the first two chapters of Genesis. Notice the similarities. The Genesis story was written to people familiar with these forms of worship. Notice how Genesis subverts the story and applies it to humanity. After establishing the the sacred grove, God himself forms the human as an image of himself, he places the human in the garden and puts his breath or spirit into the human and this breath is the thing that makes the human a living being. Let it hit hard: the human is the idol that God himself formed of himself and then put his own Spirit into to make the human the very presence of himself in the world.

By God's decision we are made of the stuff of this world, this is our place, and God has designed us to be his very presence in this world and in the beginning that is what we were. That is what we were intended to be. God also had a purpose for us. He made us for a job, a function, a task and not merely to simply be in some blissed out garden of Eden. First we were to tend the garden, then God gave us our orders. God formed us here and made us his very presence in this world to "go forth and multiply and subdue the earth."

Okay, remember that the garden was a special niche that God had carved out of the larger world which he was making, that is, wresting from chaos and futility. God could very well have fully ordered the whole thing completely but the way he did it is how he in fact decided to do it. In this context God forms us as his image, puts us that carved out garden, makes us into his very presence in the world and then commands us to complete the last bits of making this world. In us, God put himself into this world to finish making it but in such a way that we, this world's native inhabitants, get the huge dignity and honor and responsibility of fully participating in this act of creation.

What I have said here differs somewhat from most standard understandings on many points of this story. One big one is the "image of God." In most models the "image of God" is taken in terms of a reflection in a mirror or a painting. Such understandings work to find links between humans and God in terms of attributes (in the same way a picture is similar to the model that posed for it.) They derive principles of the divine nature from looking at the seemingly higher aspects of humanity: we are creative, God is creative therefore creativity is part of what it is to be the image of God the same with choice making, rationality, etc. What we end up with is a collection of observed human attributes that we project on or link to the divine nature (at least to the degree that we claim to know and understand it as such.) All this "image of God" does is ratify the human as defined by the human as next to the divine in the human's own eyes. What I am proposing is not some formal similarity but an actual presence. This actual presence constitutes the power by which we may accomplish the task for which we were designed--which brings me to the other difference I want to point out. In most models, humans are passive creatures put here kinda to just hang out and be mellow with God and stuff. What I am saying is that humanity is instrumental. God created us to a specific function within this creation. A function that if we don't do doesn't get done.

You are designed by God to be his very presence in this world, filled with his breath, to bring the perfection of this world to completion.

Part 3 
Part 4

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