Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Q and A: Residual Imprint or Human Good?

QUESTION: I've enjoyed your thoughts/truths again in your blogs, "Planting Thoughts" and "Spiritual Schizophrenia" and had a question to pose: While those who are "dead in...sins" (Eph 2:1) and our sin nature are completely opposed to God, we are still made in God's image, albeit fallen. And so, in my mind, there is still that residual imprint of His--we see it everywhere, in His creation, in human beings--it is why we long for restoration in Him. Would you agree with this, or do you believe that's just the "human good" that's showing up?

ANSWER: I'd like to start by pointing out something that people always seem to miss when they bring up the "God created us in His image" concept. Actually, God created Adam and the woman in His image, as documented by Gen 1:27. However, after Adam fell, he "lived one hundred and thirty years [and] became the father of a son IN HIS OWN LIKENESS, ACCORDING TO HIS [i.e., Adam's] IMAGE, and named him Seth (Gen 5:3) Since the Bible is careful to make a distinction here, I think it's important we understand why.

In Gen 1:27, the word for image connotes a shadow image and is talking primarily about the soul. Our souls are framed in God's image as it were, with self-consciousness, mentality, volition, vocabulary, norms and standards, memory, etc. All qualities God's word shows that He has as God. Adam and the woman were also perfect in body and soul and spirit, but once they fell they were not perfect. Their bodies were corrupted with a sin nature and they were spiritually dead, incapable of having a relationship with God on their own and, being cut off from God at that point, incapable of doing anything good in His eyes. All our righteousnesses are as filthy, menstrual rags. From the top of our head to the bottom of our feet, there is no soundness in us.

We can't actually see God in His creation, but even in its fallen state, "His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made so that [unbelievers] are without excuse." Creation brings us to the point of being conscious that there is a God, and from there we decide whether we want a relationship with Him or not. I don't consider that as falling under the "human good" category.

Nor do I think the longing after Him is human good. The reason some of us yearn for Him is because "He has set a desire for eternal things in the heart of every man..." (Eccl 3:11) When a person reaches the point of realizing there is a God and has a desire to know about him, then God will bring the appropriate information to him. Which is what I think you are talking about in our yearning for Him.

This longing is a fragile spark and if it is not nurtured or acted upon it will grow dim. Thus not everyone longs for God. Many people want nothing to do with Him. They may feel the lack, the hole but instead of filling it with God, they seek to fill it with the things of the world. Which is futile, as the book of Ecclesiastes shows us. Others convince themselves they are quite satisfied with their lives as they are living them, happy to believe the lie that they are the "Captain of their own ship and the masters of their fate".

It's volition that determines the difference. The desire to know God versus the desire to go independent from Him, which is really what Satan's original sin was about. Being independent from God.

I also believe there is an element of yearning in us for what we lost in Adam -- the original glory that Adam had, the spiritual element that he lost -- I think we're all in some way conscious of the lack, conscious of the fact that without Him we are not whole. But it may not be a cognizant consciousness. Just a general sense of incompleteness that tends to drive people again, toward all those experiments Solomon pursued in Ecclesiastes.

And of course there is the sin nature part, that makes it even more obvious how flawed we all are.

Tomorrow, part two of this reader's question.