Chapter 2 - Image Bearers

09/11/2015 13:38



Crawlin about like a snail in the mud,

Covered wi clammy blae,

ME, made after the image o’ God -

Jings! but it's laughable, tae.  

                                    — Joseph Corrie, The Image O’ God


“They will be Mine,” says the Lord of Hosts, “a special possession on the day I am preparing.“

            — Malachi 3:17a




Question #1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The approved answer is “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”[1] The first part of that response seems to me vague and unfulfilling. Don’t get me wrong. I do believe we were created for God’s glory. But, then, so were the heavens (Psalm 19:1). The stars, the sea, the mountains, and the angels—everything was created for God’s glory! If all were created simply for God’s glory, why, then, did God not stop on the fifth day of creation or simply end with the animals on the sixth? What was the purpose God had for humanity apart from everything else in a creation that was all intended for his glory? It is the second part of the catechism response that begins to deliver a little more clarity, although still weakly. To enjoy God is certainly a biblical emphasis, but the answer is a little one-sided. Surely God does mean for us to enjoy him forever, but didn’t God create not only for us to enjoy him but also so that he could enjoy us?

In our last chapter, we discussed God’s glory, describing it as the expression of his truth, goodness, and beauty in love. We found that love—the communicating of God’s truth, goodness, and beauty for the benefit of those to whom it is communicated—is central to God’s activity. Certainly it is no surprise, then, that we find in God’s revealed Word an emphasis on love and relationship as the purpose for his creation and interaction with it.

Consider Job 7:17-18. Job is here speaking out of frustration, but even in his struggle, he asserts an unequivocal truth about God. Grumbling against God’s heavy hand, Job says, “What is man, that You think so highly of him and pay so much attention to him? You inspect him every morning, and put him to the test every moment.” Although Job protests the constant attention (evidenced in his verse 16 cry, “Leave me alone!”), he, nevertheless, does recognize God’s observant, meticulous interest. Why is God so interested? The reason, I believe, relates to purpose.

Throughout both testaments God’s interest centers on relationship. In the Old Testament, God calls Israel not just his servant or subject, or even merely student or assistant. He calls the nation his wife to illustrate his purpose of having an intimate love relationship. The delight in the Song of Songs and the heartache in Hosea both relate to this idea of intimate relationship intended for joy and glory. Countless times God calls Israel to draw near. He promises that he will dwell with them, showing himself not as an unapproachable, disinterested chieftain but rather as a care-giving friend who is willing to share knowledge of himself: “For I desire loyalty and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6).

Christ enters the world as Immanuel—God with us. Again, Jesus focuses on the intimate knowledge that elevates us from servanthood to friendship: “You are My friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father” (John 15:14-15), and further, “May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You, may they also be one in Us” (John 17:21). Just as Christ embraces us now, throughout history he embraced those of faith as friends (James 2:23). And it is for friends that Jesus says the greatest love is made evident: “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Paul identifies the true Israel of God as all those joined with him in faithful relationship, which is, in fact, the direction of his thought in Galatians that concludes, “May peace come to all those who follow this standard, and mercy to the Israel of God!” (Galatians 6:16). This true Israel of God is his bride and his wife, portraying the intimate relationship that we, devoid of sin, will share with God forever in joy and glory (Revelation 21:9). That is the purpose of reconciliation to which the whole Bible points—the very purpose for creation in the first place. Humanity’s chief end and God’s eternal purpose in creation are the same from either perspective—to rejoice in everlasting love and to glorify the worthy God who is infinite truth, beauty, and goodness. 

Sovereignty and the Problem of Evil

Purpose provides context, and we need to hold that purposeful context tightly while examining the Genesis account of creation. Soon after God creates and pronounces it good, sin arrives to spoil the scene. From our perspective, sin has already made its ignoble entrance. We know the consequence of its judgment: an eternal relationship breach from the true, good, and beautiful one. The absence of God results in a radical void of all who God is. By definition, eternal judgment means no good, no beauty, no joy, no mercy, no love. Death—this separation from God—appears not only unlovely but thoroughly oppressive. The Bible paints it with words of fire to display its torment. But the torment travels beyond the mere physical pain from burning. Unfettered anguish, both mental and physical, erupts in the absolute absence of good. Removal of infinite joy in the presence of God demands infinite misery in his absence. The difficult question, then, is why did he create in the first place? Why would God, seeing beforehand the stranded millions in the ultimate torture of death, not change his plans? After all, he doesn’t need us. In the face of unbridled misery, wouldn’t a merciful God simply choose not to create?

The answer, although easily stated, may take some serious contemplation to grasp fully. We can start from the simply understood statement that good is better than evil. Once that value is secured, we can examine it more intricately. God, in his essence, is truth, goodness, and beauty. He holds that in faith and hope, and he communicates it in love. That communication of his truth, goodness, and beauty, then, by our value statement is better than evil. Therefore, the infinite evil of everlasting death cannot overwhelm the infinite good of everlasting love. Not only does God do good, but he also is infinite goodness. He absolutely chooses for good in spite of the existence of evil. This answer provides a solution to the age-old problem of evil.

The problem of evil has plagued the world’s thinkers for centuries. Atheists use it to attack the existence of God. Theists grapple with it in trying to understand the balance between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. Some Christians resolve the problem with a shrug and advise us to just trust God. And it is true that where God is silent, we may do well to take a lesson from God’s response to Job: trust the almighty, omniscient Creator. However, the multitude of commands to read, study, and know the Bible should also encourage us to exhaust our resources before declaring that we simply cannot know something.

The problem of evil is often intricately syllogized; however, it basically includes three propositions: (1) an all-powerful God could prevent evil; (2) an all-good God would want to prevent evil; and yet, (3) evil exists. The atheist argues that these three propositions cannot possibly all be true at the same time. If an all-powerful, all-good God exists, evil cannot. Conversely, if evil exists (and we know that it does), an all-powerful, all-good God could not. In other words, the propositions conflict. The Christian’s first response is often that God will ultimately punish and imprison all sin, doing away with evil. However, eventual elimination of evil is not the point. The point is that it exists now and at the same time that the all-powerful and all-good God exists. How do we justify the existence of our infinitely good, all-powerful God with the current existence of evil? To find the answer, I believe, we must return to examine those original three propositions. I believe a misstatement or misinterpretation of the propositions leads to the supposed conundrum. The misstatement is the result of confusion concerning sovereignty.

Sovereignty means supreme rule in power and authority. God, we say, is sovereign because he alone rules with supreme power and authority. But does the existence of sin—which is rebellion against the rule of God—nullify God’s sovereignty? If we answer no, one of two conditions must be true: either God causes evil and, thus, it his will, or God allows evil for some purpose in the course of his will. Considering the former, some Christians on the extreme end of Reformed Theology actually do assert that God’s determinism ordains sin. If God is sovereign, they argue, God must determine, or cause, everything that happens. What he ordains, including evil, will eventually lead to the highest good—the most glory for God. Therefore, while we may not be able to reconcile God’s judgment on evil with his hand in its cause, we know that God, being good, will eventually work all things for that highest result of good.

     That reasoning, however, is incoherent. Evil violates God’s essence (i.e., goodness, righteousness, justice, mercy, etc.). God is equal in his essence and existence. In other words, he does good because he is good. He cannot do otherwise. Therefore, God cannot will to violate his will. That makes no logical sense, and our God is a God of reason.

Denying that God is the cause of evil leaves us with the second option: God allows evil for some good purpose in the course of his will. Let’s consider God’s decision in eternity past as he prepared to create. How God moves along a decision-making process is beyond the scope of our discussion. We’ll put that aside, then, and simply follow the biblical example in discussing his decision using anthropomorphically constrained time terminology. So, then, God in eternity past determined to create. His purpose? As already noted, he wants everlasting love relationship with his creation to bring about the greatest joy and glory forever. Since love includes a giving of self, its highest, purest form cannot be coerced and still be love. Therefore, in order for God to bring about this ultimate goal, his creation must be able to offer that love freely. He knows, too, that this freedom will produce sin, will require sin’s just eradication, and will require him to actively involve himself in sin’s purging. Nevertheless, the end result—this highest good—is of more value than choosing not to create. Therefore, God creates. He sovereignly chooses to create to obtain the highest good by forming image-bearing, relational creatures. He knows these creatures, through loss of faith, will move away from God, but—again through faith and God’s own pure, just removal of evil—he will restore them to that perfect love relationship that will be enjoyed for eternity to come.

This, then, is why the problem of evil is not so devastating as the atheist imagines. One of its propositions is not true in an unqualified sense. Yes, God is all good. But his goodness does not necessitate that he will immediately prevent evil if, in his ultimate plan, allowing evil is the only way to bring about the highest good—that which is of highest worth. Therefore, God maintains his sovereignty by determining the course of creation, including the allowance of evil without being the immediate cause of it.

Here is the point, and I don’t know how we can resolve the problem of evil in any other way. Those who believe that God must determine every action fall headlong into the impossibility of an inconsistently good God. My answer recognizes purpose in God’s allowance of evil but maintains distinction from identifying God as the direct cause of evil. Remember, evil is not a thing to be created. It is a possibility that is actuated by rebellion. If I leave the keys in my unlocked car, I am not the cause of its theft. The thief stole it. Through my action, the possibility existed, but the thief was the actuator.

Certainly this may not sit well with some Christians who define sovereignty differently. However, pure sovereignty is not simply absolute will; it is absolute control. A sovereign may be faced with a choice between two or more logically incompatible desires. For example, we could say that God desires glory from every created being every moment of existence. We can also say at the same time that God desired restoration of sinful people. Now, that restoration of sinful people required Jesus (God) to humble himself to come to earth to die. Notice, though, that the result was not a nullification of God’s sovereignty. Rather, God exercised his sovereignty in control of all events to accomplish his prioritized will. When God’s desires seemingly conflict, God will act according to his own established priority of what he determines as the greatest good.

God, then, exercises effectual sovereignty in the following manner: God is (recall the great I AM) according to his attributes of truth, goodness, beauty; God wills according to his essence; God, then, prioritizes according to his will; and finally, God controls according to his priority. The result (said another way) is that God sovereignly controls to accomplish the priority of his will in accordance with who he is.

Looking back at the propositions in the problem of evil, we realize that the second is false, or at least false in our presumption. It is not necessarily true that an all-good God would want to immediately prevent evil if his overall goal of relationship would be harmed by its immediate destruction. Therefore, he may allow sin based on his priority of the relational good he wants accomplished. We can review what we know about God and how he has performed and conclude this choice of priority.

     In the following chart, we follow God’s decision of creation scenario from essence to control.

God’s Essence

Pure love relationship

God’s Will

Create for pure love relationship

God’s Priority

Uncoerced love, thus allowing sin

God’s Control

Defeats sin through Christ

God controls the sin that he allowed (not caused). He does so to accomplish his will of creating for pure love relationship—a relationship mirroring his own essence/existence.

A question may arise as to whether God is just in allowing sin to occur (a question that goes back to proposition 2 of the problem of evil). The answer is yes. God is just in doing so. Romans 3:21-26 explains that God overlooked sin in the past because of the coming righteous working of Christ in atonement and final judgment.

We can conclude that sovereignty is God’s control in accomplishing His prioritized will. We must hold this important concept at the front of our minds as we discuss the development of God’s plan and how God deals with relationships in this sin-cursed world.

Created in God’s Image

Few Christians puzzle over why the New Testament begins with four Gospels. With just a little reflection, we figure it is that each Gospel presents a unique perspective. One alone could not adequately present what the four do together. We should conclude the same thing when confronted by the two creation accounts at the beginning of the Old Testament; each provides unique perspective. The first account includes all of Genesis 1 and ends at verse 3 of Genesis 2. God highlights mostly process in this account. The second starts with Genesis 2:4 and continues through the end of that chapter. In this account, we find a focus on relationship. And yet, the two are not so dissimilarly cut and dried. Certainly we find aspects of process in the second account; and importantly, we find relationship in the first.

Genesis 1 begins with God, and we see creation unfold from his perspective. Exactly how God created is currently a matter of vigorous debate among believers. In fact, many Christians today smile condescendingly on others who still seemingly naively hold to a literal interpretation of the creation days. But rather than sweep aside traditional Christian understanding with the broad brushstroke of presumed scientific maturity, we should evaluate whether we truly are to understand these six days as longer periods of time rather than mere literal days. In other words, are the reasons for an old earth not only compelling but also not harmful to other certain doctrines necessary for a fully Christian perspective? Should we believe that the creative accounts of fish, birds, and animals are meant to show evolutionary progression, or do they depict direct acts? It is no longer a question of liberal unbelief versus conservatism that draws the dividing line. Many Christians who share a faith in fundamental gospel doctrines differ on these points of the Genesis creation.

Against a strengthening undertow of theoretical scientific embrace, I still favor the young earth model. First, I find no compelling scientific necessity for shifting to an old earth model. But the second and more persuasive argument for me is how death enters and completes the picture. This argument will be more fully engaged later, but for now let it suffice to say that so intricate is the purpose of relationship in God’s creational intent, that the very definition of life itself seems necessarily to include relationship with God. Thus, its antithesis—death—opposes this relationship, resulting in an understanding of non-relationship with God. If life means relationship and death means non-relationship, how then can we blithely presume that death (non-relationship with God) is a matter of creational intent? The insistence on death as part of the normal course of life seems a position that totally misunderstands the purpose of death. And surely as we research verse after verse, comparing passage after passage, we find that death is consistently, repeatedly, and absolutely presented as God’s ultimate displeasure pronounced on that which does violence to his intent and purpose—that which is good and true and lovely. Death is separation from God. This did not occur until God’s image bearers (those God put in dominating control of all other creation) broke fellowship with him by their own sin. The consistent picture of death throughout Scripture is in association with sin’s consequences. From the first animal death in Genesis in order to provide clothing for the fallen Adam and Eve to Paul’s sympathy with creation’s groaning for resurrected relief in Romans 8, death appears exclusively as a troubling consequence of the fall. An old earth understanding requires death not as consequence for sin, but rather as part of the natural order in the created ideal.

Furthermore, the image of an old earth does not require an actual old earth. What I mean is that our presumptions rather than science may be what is at fault. According to current scientific awareness, we have information gathered that through carbon or other dating methods may register an old earth. But our conclusions based on that science is wholly dependent on the presumption that situations as we view them now have always existed.

A young earth created with the appearance of age would register no differently from what we have here in reach of our senses and judgment. This is not as odd or “deceptive” on God’s part as some charge and as it may first appear. Think of other parts of the creation story. Assuming a young earth, if you could have walked up to Adam the moment after his creation, you would find a man who appeared fully grown, yet at that point, he had not grown at all. In other words, he simply had the appearance of age. If you ran a battery of medical tests on him, they would undoubtedly verify a person of age. Nothing would be wrong with the tests or instruments used. All the testing equipment would perform exactly as designed—to interpret based on a set of factors presumed consistently similar to current observation. Nothing, then, would argue against Adam’s age as about 30-something even though he had just come into existence and the world had not swung round the sun yet even once. God simply created Adam with the appearance of age. Think also of the fully grown tree in the middle of the Garden, already sprouting fruit, to which God pointed as he issued the command not to eat of it. If you had cut its, say, ten-inch diameter trunk, no doubt rings would have been there. That the stars, though light years away, could almost certainly be seen in the night sky the first evenings after creation, prompts the conclusion that God made the light rays along with the stars themselves so that no lapse of time was necessary for Adam and Eve to watch them twinkle. (Perhaps God made the light rays even before the sun and stars, which would explain the light created on the first day though the source of light was not formed until the fourth day.)

But should this possibility be denounced as disingenuous? Should we charge the Creator with falsifying scientific data for some practical-joke hoax played on his newly made image bearers? I think not. There is no reason to determine deception for selfish or evil intent. All these appearances of age were not some cunning trick by God to delude us about the age of the universe. They were simply practical means to provide a functioning earth and universe for God’s crown of creation—his image bearers. The perplexing question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, is perplexing only because of slavish devotion to witnessed and chronological constancy in what is now normal. But if God created a chicken and an egg simultaneously, and then set in motion the normal birth-to-life pattern that we have witnessed, why must we presume that God could not have done so? A functioning universe and earth could very well have been, and seemingly was, set in motion for the benefit of the newly created image bearers to enjoy life and continue with life in time to come.

I think we Christians think evolution makes more sense because we are used to the idea that nature seems so much more powerful than our human existence. But that, again, became true only after sin entered the world. Before sin, God had his image bearers in charge. Only after the fall does the Bible indicate that we became subject to nature rather than the other way around.

However, even if you disagree about the earth’s age, we can still proceed together in our discussion. I have brought up this point because I think our discussion of death and life—of their definition and consequential impact on relationship with God—is vital for a full understanding of what relationship means. However, since our premise is that the Bible is God’s Word—inspired, true, and authoritative—whether we understand the six days literally or figuratively, our positions will not necessarily distract us from agreeing on some truths that emerge from the creation accounts.

In Genesis 1—in the first creation account—the first truth that strikes us is that God did involve process in the earth’s physical development. And that process carried purpose. Obviously, an omnipotent God did not get so tired from creating the sun that he had to rest up that evening before forming the birds the next day. The purpose of process, then, was beyond the need of God. Instead, God intended process for his creation’s sake. Moses, the author of Genesis, was not around when God made the sun, moon, and stars. So, this was not merely Moses reminiscing. God included the narrative for our benefit. By his intention, activity, patience, and review, he demonstrated to us how he would work with us, his creation, through progression for our growth. His progression through the week resulted not only in the reality of physical creation, but also in the typification of spiritual development. Even before sin entered the world, we find spiritual development to be progressive, both in revelation given by God and in the understanding acquired by Adam. Adam learned of his responsibility in creation (dominion of the earth), subordination to God (forbidden tree command), and need for relational love (animal naming exercise) all through progressive revelation by God.

The days of creation also teach us a little of relationship. In each day, God’s pattern was to create both one thing and its complement. God created the earth and the heavens. He gathered the seas apart from the dry land. He made the sun and the moon. He created birds above and fish beneath. Thus, the complement of God’s creative process informs us of God’s intent in drawing the dissimilar or differing strengths to united purpose.

Not only do we see this complementary creation in each day, but God also demonstrates the entwining of all creation in relating days to each other. The fourth day’s sun, moon, and stars ruled the first day’s light and darkness. The fifth day’s birds and fish populated the second day’s atmosphere and waters. And the sixth day’s land creatures and image bearers made their home on the third day’s dry land on which the vegetation also grew.

Thus, we see consistent pattern when the crown of creation—God’s image bearers—appears as a pair in complementary relationship. Before discussing how they complement each other, we should note how they are the same, especially in light of the emphasis in the text: 

 Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.’

     So God created man in His own image;

     He created him in the image of God;

     He created them male and female.

God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.’ God also said, ‘Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth, and every tree whose fruit contains seed. This food will be for you, for all the wildlife of the earth, for every bird of the sky, and for every creature that crawls on the earth—everything having the breath of life in it. I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Evening came, and then morning: the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26-31)

In the portion of Genesis 1 quoted above, God presents himself as plural though acting as one—a brilliant example of the Trinity in form and function from the outset of Scripture. This is no mere use of the majestic plural—that is, a plural pronoun referring to a single person holding high office, such as a monarch or pope. A person of high official rank may use the majestic plural to speak to those who venerate that high position. But, in contrast to this purpose, in this passage, we find that God spoke to himself, not to others—not to those who might or should venerate his position. God here speaks to himself and, not as a mere musing of thought, but of one Person to another. The verse definitely hints at the unity of the Trinity in operation. And this is for purpose—instructive purpose. God presents his Three-in-One unity in order to show its reflection in his two-in-one creational image (“He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female”). Although they are two, God assigns responsibility to them as one—to subdue and rule the rest of creation.

What exactly is the image of God that man or humanity (the two-in-one) bears? Notice first that the image is not tied to maleness. Both the male and the female are made in the image of God. Any attempt to rip apart that unity in this creation account does violence to the context. From the Genesis 1 account we can no more understand the image as including only maleness than we could understand the responsibility of subduing and ruling the rest of creation as a male-only task. The context proclaims the two—male and female—as one both in image bearing and in functional responsibility.

That these creatures specifically image God distinguishes them from everything else “having the breath of life in it” (1:30). We can notice those image qualities from the creation account narratives. God gives us the creation accounts not just to satisfy our curiosity (he skips way too much history for that). We actually learn about God in these accounts; specifically, we learn who we are (i.e., our image-bearing qualities) because of who he is. The image we bear necessarily involves relationship. In creating us for the purpose of relationship, God necessarily would have to create us as relational creatures—creatures able to relate to him—in order for his purpose to be fulfilled.

Now, we know God possesses attributes of transcendence (e.g., eternality, infiniteness, immutability). We also know that God holds attributes of condescension (e.g., love, justice, holiness), each to a degree of absolute transcendence. In other words, for example, not only is God just, but he is also infinitely just. Not only is he holy, but he is also immutably holy. I’m saying this, however, not merely to categorize all that we know and appreciate of the attributes of God. Rather, I’m trying to highlight the fact that we indeed do know this about God! We humans hold knowledge about God that the other creatures of the earth can’t and don’t even imagine. Again, this speaks to our image bearing.

God, in his essence, is truth, goodness, and beauty, and all God’s condescending attributes flow from these three. But significantly for our purpose here, we need to focus not on the fact that God is truth, goodness, and beauty, but rather that we can know God is truth, goodness, and beauty. We know what truth is. We can sense what is good and what is bad. We can appreciate beauty in its appearance around us. What a waste to us (and how unlike God we would be) if we could not recognize and understand this truth, goodness, and beauty of God. We would not be able to relate with or reflect God were we not able to understand these of his essential qualities. Therefore, the qualities we hold as image bearers that I’m intent on highlighting are not the truth, goodness, and beauty themselves, but rather our ability to apprehend that truth, goodness, and beauty. In the apprehension—in our understanding—we are able to image our God.

Of course, everything issues from God. Everything we know and see and live among proceeded from his hand. As God reveals and as we learn, we gain context of both the universe and life itself. We learn truth from God. Therefore, truth recognition is part of our image. We’ve been given the image-bearing quality of a conceptual intelligence.

Both as we read the Genesis 1 creation account and as we study the creation about us, we realize its perfection in macro and micro detail. In perfection there is satisfaction and fulfillment. God pronounced each day of creation not merely done, but good. As he made his image bearers on that sixth day, he pronounced the creation very good—a degree of goodness indicating a scale of judgment by which he measured his satisfaction in the activity. We learn goodness from God; we’ve been given the image-bearing quality of a conscious morality.

God’s creation functioned not only in practicality, but also in artistry. God’s Eden presented to the senses of Adam and Eve sounds, smells, and sights that delighted as well as nourished. God told us, “The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He placed the man He had formed. The Lord God caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food” (2:8-9, emphasis mine). We learn beauty from God; we’ve been given the image-bearing quality of a critical aesthetic.

Through conceptual intelligence, conscious morality, and critical aesthetic, we apprehend truth, goodness, and beauty. Does that mean we always receive and incorporate truth, goodness, and beauty as they are purely and perfectly revealed? Not necessarily. It may be that sometimes we accept. But it may be also that sometimes we reject. Of course, God wills according to his perfect intelligence, moral being, and sense of aesthetic. But we believe and will and hope in response to our limited and not so perfect intelligence, morality, and aesthetic. Thus, those image-bearing qualities of apprehension are met by image-bearing qualities of approbation. Therefore, not only does God involve himself with his creation crown in revealing and enlightening and then in creating us so that we would be able to apprehend his revelation, but he has also created us so that we may respond to what he presents. Responding, however, can be in appreciation or rejection. Thus, we’ve been given the image-bearing quality of a concluding faith—a judgment upon that which we apprehend as to whether we embrace that provided to us or reject it in favor of our own self-determined truth, goodness, and beauty.

Through the progression of creation, the command to fill the earth and subdue it, the preservation of life through the food God provides, and the anticipation of rest, God shows how he has built into our existence a forward-looking hope that stems from, in, and toward relationship with him. In this, we’ve been given the image-bearing quality of a continuing hope. This hope holds fast the truth, goodness, and beauty apprehended of God and in which we have placed our faith, and pursues it through the course of our lives—our existence—our desired goal.

Finally, once revelation is apprehended and approbated, we can put in practice revelation learned and appreciated and believed. In the very act of our creation and through his interaction with us, God revealed to us his truth, goodness, and beauty. The intention of each for the benefit of each other is the heart of the multiple-in-one concept of love. Love foregoes the selfish interest for the benefit of the whole. This is God’s example, and this is God’s directive. We mirror him by our love. Therefore, we’ve been given the knowledge and experience of the image-bearing quality of cooperative love.

In these six qualities, all presented in the creation accounts (and repeated countless times throughout Scripture), we image God. The first three (conceptual intelligence, conscious morality, and critical aesthetic) we use to understand or grasp righteousness, and therefore we may collectively call them qualities of apprehension. The next two (concluding faith and continuing hope) are our approval or commendation of that apprehended righteousness. Thus we call them qualities of approbation. The sixth and last image-bearing quality (cooperative love) is the clear expression of the apprehended and approbated righteousness. This quality is that of articulation. The following chart graphically presents these six qualities of our imaging.

APPREHENSION – understanding of righteousness



Conceptual Intelligence



Conscious Morality



Critical Aesthetic


APPROBATION – approval/commendation of apprehended righteousness



Concluding Faith



Continuing Hope


ARTICULATION – clear expression of apprehended and approbated righteousness



Cooperative Love


So far we have discussed foundational elements of the creation accounts. These are necessary bedrock on which to build a correct understanding (especially as we enter Genesis 2—the second creation account) of what the accounts teach us of relationship between the sexes—the parts of the two-in-one image.


[1] “Westminster Shorter Catechism Project,” accessed April 4, 2015,