A Walk through the 1689 Baptist Confession, pt.11: The Creation of Man

1689conf

Chapter 4: Of Creation, para. 2-3

2._____ After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, rendering them fit unto that life to God for which they were created; being made after the image of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it, and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject to change.
( Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:7; Ecclesiastes 7:29; Genesis 1:26; Romans 2:14, 15; Genesis 3:6 )

3._____ Besides the law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which whilst they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.
( Genesis 2:17; Genesis 1:26, 28 )

Understanding the Confession

The Creation of Man

I. The Constitution of Man

The dual constitution of man (body/spirit) is most clearly taught and given insight by chapter 31 of the confession as it pertains to the intermediate state between death and the final resurrection, and so when we get to chapter 31 I will provide much more depth on this idea. It will be that teaching which shows that Christians, unlike dualists and the Gnostics, believe in the importance of the body, not just the spirit that defines our humanity. Man is both body (Gen. 2:7; 3:19; Ps. 90:3; Matt. 28:6; John 6:39-40), but is also spirit (Matt. 10:28; 1 Cor. 7:1, 34; 2 Cor. 12:2; James 2:26). A few important things about the dual constitution of man can be said here.

  1. Like mentioned already, there is an important difference between biblical and Greek dichotomy. The Greeks saw the body at best as simply worthless, at worse as evil; while the spirit was that which was spark of the divine and the eternal which needed to be liberated from the body.
  2. It undermines the teaching of trichotomy (body, soul, and Spirit). This belief has no warrant in Scripture as seen in the intermediate state where the body goes to the grave and the spirit goes to either heaven or hades (2 Cor. 5:6-8).
  3. It vindicates the legitimacy and the goodness of bodily functions and desires, and rejects the ideas of extreme asceticism rooted more in Greek philosophy than biblical teaching.
  4. The proper view of man’s constitution suggests the co-action (Gen. 3:1-6; Rom. 10:9) and interaction (Prov. 17:22; 18:14) of soul and body. There is an intimate and mysterious relationship and mutual influence between soul and body.
  5. I believe that this also provides a basis for a dual ministry to both the spiritual and bodily needs of man. Of course the former is the most urgent, but we cannot blow of the bodily as unimportant. This suggests the necessity of a balanced and realistic view of many human problems, and how we as Christians ought to seek to address them based upon the Bible’s teaching on such matters like benevolence and compassion ministry.

II. The Identity of Man

In paragraph 2 of the confession we see that man is “made after the image of God.” This has been a very debated fact through the history of the church, and it is by far one of the most important truths of Scripture. I will try to keep it short, but I highly recommend reading Richard Barcellos’ Better than the Beginning and J.V. Fesko’s Last Things First for further reading on the imago Dei.

a. The Biblical concept of the image of God

How is man related to the image of God? The image of God is not an attribute or something that man possesses. Man is the image of God. the Hebrew prepositions used in Genesis 1:26 (in our image and according to our likeness) are reversed and used interchangeably in Genesis 5:3 (in his own likeness, according tot his image). The implication is that they have the same meaning. Of all the meanings these prepositions possess, they only share one meaning in common. That one meaning is “identity.” The point of both prepositions then, is to equate man with the image or likeness of God. This interpretation is borne out in 1 Corinthians 11:7, “For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.”

What do the terms “image” and “likeness” mean? No important distinction is to be made between image and likeness. Both are intended to convey once concept. The term “image” means replica (Num. 33:52; 1 Sam. 6:5, 11: Ezek. 7:20), and the term “likeness”  which is derived from a verb that means to compare, designates something that looks like something else (2 Kgs. 16:10; 2 Chron. 4:3; Isa. 13:14; Ezek. 10:1). The concept of man as the image, the visible replica, of God is an interesting one, especially as one considers the frequent condemning of other images and likenesses of God in the Old Testament (Ex. 20:4-6; Dan. 3:1-18). A prominent and detestable characteristic of these images was their dead and lifeless character (Ps. 115: 3-8). This points us to the uniqueness of man as the image of God, the animate or living visible replica of God.

b. Theological observations on the image of God

In what, therefore, does the image of God consist? This questions is related to other major disputed questions: are angels made in the image of God, what about the physical characteristics of man, is our body related to the image of God? The biblical concept explained above, tells us that everything that makes man man is involved in our being made in the image of God. The body is involved because visibility is involved. Dominion is emphasized (Gen. 1:26; Ps. 8:1; 1 Cor. 11:7-8). Man’s personal, intelligent, moral nature is essential (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24). All that enables man to represent God on Earth is related to the image of God. This is easy to agree upon with Adam and Eve, but what about fallen man? Does fallen man still bear God’s image?

Many theological traditions have answered this question with an emphatic “no,” and argued that man lost this identity in the fall. The biblical concept of the image informs us that the question above cannot be answered with simply saying “yes or no.” The image of God is man’s identity. It is not something which one can simply lose, and therefore in a certain sense man continues on in the image of God after the Fall (Gen. 5:1-3; 9:6; 1 Cor. 11:7, James 3:9). Thus the question rather should be “is fallen man an accurate replica or distorted image of God? The answer is clearly that man is a very distorted image, a very inaccurate replica. The image, therefore, needs to be renewed in God. So the image may be good or distorted in man, but it is always present. Since man’s identity is the image of God, that means that he always remains intimately and indissolubly related to God. As the image of God, man cannot cease to know God if he knows himself (Rom. 1:18-21, 32; 2:14-15). As he is the image of God, man’s whole duty is to be the image of and reflect God’s glory throughout the earth. As man in the image of God, our sin is always the misrepresentation of God. Our representation of God is either accurate or slanderous, but never morally neutral. This being the case, God can never be indifferent to wicked behavior, rather, he is committed to avenge his good name and and avenge himself upon those who persist in misrepresenting him.

III. Man’s Duty and State in Creation

Paragraph 3 deals with he condition and state that Adam and Eve lived in and the positive law Adam was given to remain in that state and to inherit eternal life for his posterity and himself. We will look at this Covenant of Works made with Adam in chapter 6. This was the fulcrum of creation, the edenic state of creation hinged upon Adam’s obedience. We know the rest of the story, and why a New Adam (Jesus) would need to come in order to reverse the curse of the first by living in perfect obedience and ushering in a new creation for his posterity.

Resources

1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. http://www.rblist.org/1689.pdf.

Waldron, Sam. A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. Durham, NC: Evangelical Press, 1999.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s