Category Archives: Creation

Essential Latin for Reformed Christians: “Imago Dei”

Though it’s been a dead language for centuries, Latin continues to be bandied about in theology.  And in Reformed churches, we love our theology, which means we’re going to inevitably encounter some Latin.  Today’s expression is not a difficult one to figure out:  imago Dei.  The first word is clearly related to our English word “image,” and “Dei” is a form of Deus, “God.”  So:  the image of God.  Why not just say “the image of God”?   I don’t know for sure, but you do save two words, five letters, and two spaces!

Imago Dei is used in reference to humanity.  Human beings are “the image of God.”  It’s easy to say that; it’s much harder to explain.  At the very least, it means there is something in humanity that reflects God.  God has some attributes that cannot be reflected in human nature — for example, we cannot reflect his omnipresence or omniscience (comprehensive knowledge).  But we can, in some measure, reflect his love, wisdom, and goodness.  We can communicate with him and with one another.   This things are part of what it means to be imago Dei.

The Scriptures first tell us of this truth in Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  Now there are those who say that the fall into sin meant that humanity lost the image of God.  This is based, I believe, on Ephesians 4:24 which encourages Christians “to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” This seems to indicate that becoming a Christian involves a recovery of the image of God — regeneration gives us a new nature which is again the imago Dei.  Heidelberg Catechism Q and A 6 uses the language of Ephesians 4:24 and confesses that at the beginning man was created good and in God’s image, “that is, in true righteousness and holiness.”  It seems to be implied that we lost this image with the fall into sin.  Thus, some say, if you are not a Christian, you’re not the image of God.  God has only restored his image in the regenerated.

Now if Genesis 1:27 and Ephesians 4:24 were the only passages bearing on this, we might be able to agree and leave it at that.  But Scripture says more.  Even Genesis says more in 9:6 — after the fall, after the flood:  “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”  Killing a human being is a weighty matter because of the imago Dei.  Cursing a fellow human being is treated the same way in James 3:9.  The Holy Spirit speaks of the tongue:  “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.”  That’s not a reference to cursing fellow Christians, but to cursing people in general.  In general, all people are thus made in the likeness of God.

Evidently we need to make some kind of distinction here.  Theologians have sometimes distinguished between the image of God in the narrow or moral sense and the image of God in the broader sense.  Ephesians 4:24 refers to the former; Genesis 9:6 and James 3:9 refer to the latter.  The fall into sin shattered the imago Dei in the moral sense and horrifically vandalized (but didn’t obliterate) it in the broader sense.  Sin has affected both, but to varying degrees.  Regeneration begins to restore and refresh both.

One reason why a proper understanding of the imago Dei is so important is that it directly relates to human dignity.  Being image-bearers means that we human beings all have inherent dignity and worth.  Our value comes not from who we are in ourselves, but because of who we were created to reflect.  As Psalm 8 poetically states, we were created as the pinnacle of God’s creation, second only to the Creator himself.  So, when we look around us at our fellow human beings, we are looking at the image of our Creator.  Though shattered and vandalized, it’s still there and therefore they’re all valuable.  For each precious image-bearer, God wants us all to be part of his image restoration project through the sharing of the gospel.


I Believe in Theistic Evolution

My most recent post at Creation Without Compromise.

Creation Without Compromise

I recently realized I believe in/affirm theistic evolution.  Depending on your perspective, have I sold out or have I finally come to my senses?  Neither.  Let me explain.

It has long perturbed me that those who affirm or allow for Darwinian macroevolution to be compatible with a biblical worldview will sometimes call themselves “creationists” or will claim to believe in/affirm biblical creation.  They do this knowing that biblical creation is usually understood to refer to a view that holds to God having created in six ordinary days on a timescale of some thousands (rather than millions or billions) of years ago.  By claiming to believe in creation they lay concerns to rest, whereas all they have really done is disguise their true position.

Stephen C. Meyer has helped me to see I could do the same thing with theistic evolution.  Meyer wrote the “Scientific and Philosophical Introduction” to Theistic Evolution:…

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Essential Latin for Reformed Christians: “Ex nihilo”

Reader’s Digest used to have a feature called “It Pays To Enrich Your Word Power.”  Readers could quiz themselves on the meanings of English words.  In the old days, RD motivated readers with the notion that having an advanced vocabulary would benefit you socially and work-wise.  True or not, for Reformed Christians it is beneficial to know some key terms, not only in English, but in Latin too.  Through the years, some terms have become part of our theological vocabulary and sometimes authors and preachers will use them assuming everyone knows what they mean.  And what if you don’t?  That’s where this series comes to your rescue.

Today we’re looking at ex nihilo.  It means “from nothing.”  In theology, it’s used in relation to creation, so the full expression is creatio ex nihilo — “creation from nothing.”  This speaks of God creating the entire universe by the power of his Word, without using any pre-existent matter.

We believe that God created ex nihilo on the basis of biblical teaching.  Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  At the beginning, God created the universe.  Hebrews 11:3 elaborates:  “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”  The material universe came into existence by God’s Word, not by God working with material (visible things) that had been there before.  Romans 4:17 speaks in a similar way.  It speaks of the God in whom Abraham believed, “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.”  Prior to God’s call through his Word, there was nothing — then with his call, things sprung into existence.  Summarizing the Bible’s teaching, the Belgic Confession says, “We believe that the Father through the Word, that is, through his Son, has created out of nothing heaven and earth and all creatures…” (BC 12).

As a child, weird as it may sound, I used to ponder the idea of “nothing.”  I found it curious that almost everything we call “nothing” is actually something.  You might have an empty box and say there’s nothing in the box.  But that’s not really true.  There would be air, composed of various gasses, and probably a few microscopic dust particles.  There’s still something.  Even if you were to seal the box tightly, attach a vacuum pump, and suck out everything, there would still be something — there would be a vacuum.  So is “nothing” real?  Deep question, right?  From a Christian perspective, the answer goes back to before creation.  Before creation, there was truly nothing besides God, and certainly nothing material.  The Triune God was all there was.  Think about that.  There wasn’t even time.  Only God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Because he wanted to, not because he had to, he decided to create the material universe by simply calling it into existence.  Through his Son, God the Father just spoke and it all came to be.  Something — in fact, everything — came from nothing.  When you pause to think about it, creatio ex nihilo leaves you in awe of our God and his almighty power.


Transgender?

During the summer months, I often ask parishioners for suggestions for texts to preach on.  This coming Sunday morning, as a result of one such suggestion, I plan to be preaching on Genesis 1:26-27.  This passage is about the creation of humanity in God’s image and the mandate to exercise dominion over the other creatures.  Then at the end of verse 27, the Holy Spirit says, “male and female he created them.”  That got me to thinking about the current pressure on the biblical view of gender.  One thing led to another and I came across this talk from Denny Burk on gender identity.  It’s about 45 minutes, but well-worth your time.  By the way, you may be wondering about the related issue of intersex or hermaphroditism.  He addresses that in answer to a question at the 40 minute mark in the video.

 


Byl on VanBruggen’s Blind Man

Some time ago an English magazine published in the Netherlands included an article by Dr. J. Van Bruggen entitled, “The Blind Man Sat Down by the Road and Cried…”  The magazine, Lux Mundi, is an official publication of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, specifically from their Committee for Contact with Foreign Churches (BBK).  In this article, Dr. Van Bruggen discussed the conflict between what some scientists are concluding and what Scripture says.  Dr. John Byl has penned a helpful response which you can find here.