Article of the Month
by Herman Bavinck
The account of the origin of heaven and earth converges in the first chapter of Genesis upon the creation of man. The creation of the other creatures, of heaven and earth, of sun and moon and stars, of plants and animals, is reported in brief words, and there is no mention made at all of the creation of the angels. But when Scripture comes to the creation of man it lingers long over him, describes not only the fact but also the manner of his creation, and returns to the subject for further broad consideration in the second chapter.
This particular attention devoted to the origin of man serves already as evidence of the fact that man is the purpose and end, the head and crown of the whole work of creation. And there are various material details which also illuminate the superior rank and worth of man among the creatures.
In the first place, there is the special counsel of God which precedes the creation of man. At the calling into being of the other creatures, we read simply that God spoke and by His speaking brought them into existence. But when God is about to create man He first confers with Himself and rouses Himself to make men in His image and likeness. This goes to indicate that especially the creation of man rests on deliberation, on Divine wisdom and goodness and omnipotence. Nothing of course came into existence by chance. But the counsel and decision of God is far more clearly manifest in the making of man than in the creation of the other creatures.
Moreover, in this particular counsel of God, the special emphasis is placed on the fact that man is created after the image and likeness of God and therefore stands in an entirely different relationship to God than all other creatures. It is said of no other creatures, not even of the angels, that they were created in God's image and that they exhibit His image. They may possess hints and indications of one or several of God's attributes, but of man alone it is affirmed that he is created after God's image and in His likeness.
Scripture further emphasizes the fact that God created, not one man, but men, according to His likeness. At the conclusion of Genesis 1:27 they are designated as male and female. It is not man alone, nor woman exclusively, but both of them, and those two in interdependence, who are the bearers of the image of God. And, according to the blessing that is pronounced upon them in verse 28, they are such image bearers not in and for themselves alone. They are that also in their posterity, and together with their posterity. The human race in each of its parts and in its entirety is organically created in the image and likeness of God.
Finally, Scripture expressly mentions that this creation of man in God's image must come to expression particularly in his dominion over all living beings and in the subjection to Him of the whole earth. Because man is the child or offspring of God, he is king of the earth. Being children of God and heirs of the world are two things already closely related to each other, and inseparably related to each other, in the creation.
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The account of the creation of man in the first chapter of Genesis is elaborated and amplified in the second chapter (Gen. 2:4b-25). This second chapter of Genesis is sometimes mistakenly designated the second creation story. This is erroneous because the creation of heaven and earth is assumed in this chapter, and is referred to in verse 4b in order to introduce the manner in which God formed man from the dust of the earth. The whole emphasis in this second chapter falls on the creation of man and on the way in which this took place. The big difference between the first and second chapter of Genesis comes out in these details which are told us in the second concerning the forming of man.
The first chapter tells of the creation of heaven and earth and lets these lead up to the making of man. In this chapter man is the last creature called into existence by God's omnipotence. He stands at the end of the series of creatures as the lord of nature, the king of the earth. But the second chapter, from Genesis 2:4b on, begins with man, proceeds from him as starting point, sets him at the center of things, and then relates what happened in the creation of man, how this took place for the man and for the woman, what dwelling place was appointed for him, with what vocation he was entrusted, and what purpose and destiny was his. The first chapter speaks of man as the end or purpose of the creation; the second deals with him as the beginning of history. The content of the first chapter can be comprised in the name creation, and that of the second chapter in the name Paradise.
There are three particulars which are told us in this second chapter concerning man's origin, and which serve as the elaboration of what is contained in the first chapter.
In the first place there is a fairly broad treatment of the first dwelling place of man. The first chapter simply stated in general terms that man was created after God's image and that he was appointed lord over the whole earth. But it gives no hint as to where on the face of the globe man first saw the light of life and where he first lived. This we are, however, told in the second chapter. When God had made the heaven and the earth, and when He had called the sun, moon, and stars, the plants and birds, the animals of the land and those of the water, then no specific place had yet been set aside as a dwelling for man. Hence God rests before He creates man and prepares for him a garden or Paradise in the country of Eden, east of Palestine. That garden is arranged in a particular way. God lets all kinds of trees come up out of the soil there — trees beautiful to see and serviceable for food. Two of these trees are designated by name, the tree of life planted in the middle of the garden, and also the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The garden was laid out in such a way that a river which had its point of origin higher up in the territory of Eden flowed through it, and then forked out into four streams, the Pison, the Gihon, the Tiger, and the Euphrates.
A great deal of toil and effort has in the course of the centuries gone into trying to determine where Eden and the garden of Eden were located. Various representations have been put forward about that one river that came up in Eden and flowed through the garden, about the four rivers into which that major stream parted, about the name of the territory of Eden, and about the garden inside it. But all of these representations have remained conjectures. None has been established by solid proof. Two interpretations would, however, seem to deserve the preference. The first is the one according to which Eden lay towards the north in Armenia; the other holds that it was farther south, in Babylonia. It is hard to decide between these two. The details given in Scripture are no longer adequate to determine just where this territory lay. But when we recall that the people who sprang from Adam and Eve, though banned from Eden, nevertheless at first lingered in that general area (Gen. 4:16), and that Noah's ark after the flood came to rest on Mount Ararat (Gen. 8:4), and that the new mankind after the flood spread out from Babel over the earth (Gen. 11:8-9), then it can hardly be doubted that the cradle of humanity stood in that area bounded by Armenia on the North and Shinar in the South. In modern times scholarship has come to reinforce this teaching of Scripture. True, in the past, historical investigation made all sorts of guesses about the original home of mankind, seeking it, in turn, in all parts of the earth, but it is more and more retracing its steps. Ethnology, the history of civilization, philology all point to Asia as the continent where once the cradle of mankind stood.
A second feature to attract attention in Genesis 2 is the probationary command given to man. Originally this first man was simply called the man (ha-adam) for he was alone for a while and there was no one beside him who was like him. It is not until Gen. 4:25 that the name Adam occurs without the definite article. There the name first becomes individual. This indicates clearly that the first man, who for a while was the only human being, was the beginning and origin and head of the human race. As such he received a double task to perform: first, to cultivate and preserve the garden of Eden, and, second, to eat freely of all the trees in the garden except of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The first task defines his relationship to the earth, the second his relationship to heaven. Adam had to subdue the earth and have dominion over it, and this he must do in a twofold sense: he must cultivate it, open it up, and so cause to come up out of it all the treasures which God has stored there for man's use; and he must also watch over it, safeguard it, protect it against all evil that may threaten it, must, in short, secure it against the service of corruption in which the whole of creation now groans.
But man can fulfill this calling over against the earth only if he does not break the bond of connection which unites him with heaven, only if he continues to believe God at His word and to obey His commandment. The twofold task is essentially therefore one task. Adam must have dominion over the earth, not by idleness and passivity but through the work of his head and heart and hand.
But in order to rule, he must serve; He must serve God who is his Creator and Lawgiver. Work and rest, rule and service, earthly and heavenly vocation, civilization and religion, culture and cultus, these pairs go together from the very beginning. They belong together and together they comprise in one vocation the great and holy and glorious purpose of man. All culture, that is, all work which man undertakes in order to subdue the earth, whether agriculture, stock breeding, commerce, industry, science, or the rest, is all the fulfillment of a single Divine calling. But if man is really to be and remain such he must proceed in dependence on and in obedience to the Word of God. Religion must be the principle which animates the whole of life and which sanctifies it into a service of God.
A third particular of this second chapter of Genesis is the gift of the woman to the man and the institution of marriage. Adam had received much. Though formed out of the dust of the earth, he was nevertheless a bearer of the image of God. He was placed in a garden which was a place of loveliness and was richly supplied with everything good to behold and to eat. He received the pleasant task of dressing the garden and subduing the earth, and in this he had to walk in accordance with the commandment of God, to eat freely of every tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But no matter how richly favored and how grateful, that first man was not satisfied, not fulfilled. The cause is indicated to him by God Himself. It lies in his solitude. It is not good for the man that he should be alone. He is not so constituted, he was not created that way. His nature inclines to the social — he wants company. He must be able to express himself, reveal himself, and give himself. He must be able to pour out his heart, to give form to his feelings. He must share his awarenesses with a being who can understand him and can feel and live along with him. Solitude is poverty, forsakenness, gradual pining and wasting away. How lonesome it is to be alone!
And He who created man thus, with this kind of need for expression and extension can in the greatness and grace of His power only choose to supply the need. He can only create for him a helpmeet who goes along with him, is related to him, and suits him as counterpart. The account tells us in verses 19 to 21 that God made all the beasts of the field and all the fowls of the air, and brought them unto Adam to see whether among all those creatures there was not a being who could serve Adam as a companion and a helper. The purpose of these verses is not to indicate the chronological order in which animals and man were made, but rather to indicate the material order, the rank, the grades of relationship in which the two sorts of creatures stand over against each other. This relationship of rank is first indicated in the fact that Adam named the animals.
Adam therefore understood all the creatures, he penetrated their natures, he could classify and subdivide them, and assign to each of them the place in the whole of things which was their due. If, accordingly, he discovered no being among all those creatures who was related to himself, this was not the consequence of ignorance nor of foolhardy arrogance or pride; rather, it stemmed from the fact that there existed a difference in kind between him and all other creatures, a difference not of degree merely but of essence. True, there are all kinds of correspondences between animal and man: both are physical beings, both have all kinds of need and desire for food and drink, both propagate offspring, both possess the five senses of smell, taste, feeling, sight, and hearing, and both share the lower activities of cognition, awareness, and perception. Nonetheless, man is different from the animal. He has reason, and understanding, and will and in consequence of these he has religion, morality, language, law, science, and art. True, he was formed from the dust of the earth, but he received the breath of life from above. He is a physical, but also a spiritual, rational, and moral being. And that is why Adam could not find a single creature among them all that was related to him and could be his helper. He gave them all names, but not one of them deserved the exalted, royal name of man.
Then, when man could not find the thing he sought, then, quite apart from man's own witting and willing, and without contributive effort on his own part, God gave man the thing he himself could not supply. The best things come to us as gifts; they fall into our laps without labor and without price. We do not earn them nor achieve them: we get them for nothing. The richest and most precious gift which can be given to man on earth is woman. And this gift he gets in a deep sleep, when he is unconscious, and without any effort of will or fatigue of the hand. True, the seeking, the looking about, the inquiring, the sense of the need precedes it. So does the prayer. But then God grants the gift sovereignly, alone, without our help. It is as though He conducts the woman to the man by His own hand.
Thereupon the first emotion to master Adam, when he wakes up and sees the woman before him, is that of marvelling and gratitude. He does not feel a stranger to her, but recognizes her immediately as sharing his own nature with him. His recognition was literally a recognition of that which he had felt he missed and needed, but which he could not himself supply. And his marvelling expresses itself in the first marriage hymn or epithalamium ever to be sounded on the face of the earth: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.” Adam therefore remains the source and head of the human race. The woman is not merely created alongside of him but out of him (1 Cor. 11:8). Just as the stuff for making Adam's body was taken from the earth, so the side of Adam is the basis of the life of Eve. But just as out of the dust of the earth the first man became a living being through the breath of life which came from above, so out of Adam's side the first woman first became a human being by the creative omnipotence of God. She is out of Adam and yet is another than Adam. She is related to him and yet is different from him. She belongs to the same kind and yet in that kind she occupies her own unique position. She is dependent and yet she is free. She is after Adam and out of Adam, but owes her existence to God alone. And so she serves to help the man, to make his vocation of subduing the earth possible. She is his helper, not as mistress and much less as slave, but as an individual, independent, and free being, who received her existence not from the man hut from God, who is responsible to God, and who was added to man as a free and unearned gift.
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Thus the Scripture reports the origin of man, of both the male and the female. Such is its thought about the institution of marriage and the beginning of the human race. But in these days a very different construction is put upon these things, and this is done in the name of science and allegedly with the authority of science. And as this new construction penetrates farther and farther until it reaches even the masses of the people, and since it is of the greatest importance for a world and life view, it is necessary to devote our attention to it for a few moments, and to subject the basis on which it rests to an appraisal.
If a person repudiates the Scriptural account of the origin of the human race, it becomes necessary of course to give some other account of it. Man exists, and no one can escape asking the question where he came from. If he does not owe his origin to the creative omnipotence of God, he owes it to something else. And then no solution remains except to say that man gradually developed himself out of the antecedent lower beings and worked himself up to his present high position in the order of being. Evolution is, therefore, the magic word which in our times must somehow solve all problems about the origin and essence of creatures. Naturally, since the teaching of creation is repudiated, the evolutionist must accept that something or other existed in the beginning inasmuch as nothing can come from nothing. The evolutionist, however, in view of this fact, proceeds from the wholly arbitrary and impossible assumption that matter and energy and motion existed eternally. To this he adds that before our solar system came into being, the world consisted simply of a chaotic gaseous mass. This was the starting point of the evolution which gradually resulted in our present world and all of its creatures. It is by evolution that the solar system and the earth came into existence. By evolution the layers of the earth and the minerals came into being. By evolution the animate came into being out of the inanimate through an endless series of years. By evolution plants, and animals, and men came to be. And inside the pale of the human, it was again by evolution that sexual differentiation, marriage, family, society, state, language, religion, morality, law, science, art and all the other values of civilization in a regular order came into existence. If only one may proceed from this one assumption that matter and energy and motion existed eternally, then, it is supposed, one no longer needs to postulate a God. Then the world is self-explanatory. Science, it is then believed, constitutes God entirely unnecessary.
The theory of evolution goes on to develop its idea of the origin of man in the following way. When the earth had cooled off, and thus become fit for the birth of living creatures, life arose under the circumstances then extant, very probably in such a way that at first inanimate albuminous combinations formed themselves which, affected by various influences, developed various properties, and that these albuminous entities by way of combination and mingling with each other gave rise to protoplasm, the first germ of life. Thence began the biogenetic development, the development of living beings. It was a process which may have taken a hundred million years of time.
This protoplasm formed the albuminous nucleus of the cell which is now regarded as the basic constituent of all living beings, whether plants, or animals, or men. Unicellular protozoa were thus the earliest organisms. According to whether these were mobile or immobile, they developed in time into plants or into animals. Among the animals the infusoria stand lowest in the scale, but out of these there gradually come up, by way of various intermediate and transitional stages, the higher kinds of animals, known as the vertebrate, invertebrate, mollusks and radiate animals. Thereupon the vertebrate animals are again divided into four classes: fishes, amphibians, birds, and mammals. This group, in turn, is divided into three orders: the duck-billed, the marsupials, and the placentate animals; and this last is again subdivided into the rodents, the ungulate animals, the beasts of prey, and the primates. The primates in turn are classified as semi-apes, apes, and anthropoids.
When we compare the physical organism of man with that of these various animals, we discover, according to the evolutionist, that man, in an order of increasing resemblance, is closest in kind to the vertebrates, the mammals, the placentate animals, and the primates, and that he resembles most closely of all the anthropoids, represented by the orang and the gibbon in Asia, and by the gorilla and the chimpanzee in Africa. These are therefore to be regarded as the closest relatives of man. True, they differ from man in size, shape, and the like, but they are altogether like him in their basic physical structure. All the same, man did not come from one of those kinds of apes now extant, but from an anthropoid long since extinct. Apes and men are according to this theory of evolution blood relatives, belong to the same race, though they are to be regarded rather as nephews and nieces than as brothers and sisters.
Such is the idea of the theory of evolution. Such, according to it, was the course of events. But the evolutionist also felt called upon to say something about the way in which all this took place. It was easy enough to say that plants and animals and men had formed an unbroken and rising series of beings. But the evolutionist felt that he ought to do something towards demonstrating that such a development was actually possible, that an ape, for instance, could gradually come to be a man. Charles Darwin in 1859 attempted such a demonstration. He noticed that plants and animals — roses and doves, for example — could by artificially assisted natural selection be brought to exhibit significant modifications. Thus he hit upon the idea that in nature, too, such a natural selection might have been operative, a selection not artificially controlled by human intervention, but unconscious, arbitrary, natural. With this thought a light dawned on him. For by accepting such a theory of natural selection he supposed himself in a position to explain how plants and animals gradually undergo changes, how they can overcome defects in their organization and can achieve advantages, and that in such a way they constantly equip themselves better for successful competition with others in the struggle for existence. For, according to Darwin, life is always and everywhere in the whole creation just that: a struggle for existence. Superficially observed, it may seem that there is peace in nature, but this is a deceptive appearance. Rather, there is that constant struggle for life and the necessaries for life, for the earth is too small and too meager to supply all the beings that are born into it with the requisite foods. Hence millions of organisms perish because of need; only the strongest survive. And these strongest ones, who are superior to the others because of some property they have developed, gradually transfer their acquired, advantageous characteristics to their posterity.
Hence there is progress and ever higher development. Natural selection, the struggle for existence, and the transfer of old and newly acquired characteristics explain, according to Darwin, the appearance of new species, and also the transition from animal to man.
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In evaluating this theory of evolution it is necessary above all to make a sharp distinction between the facts to which it appeals and the philosophical view with which it looks at them. The facts come down to this: that man shares all kinds of characteristics with other living beings, more particularly with the higher animals, and among these in turn especially with the apes. Naturally, these facts were for the most part known before Darwin also, for the correspondence in physical structure, in the several organs of the body and in their activities, in the five senses, in the perceptions and awarenesses, and the like, is something which all who look may see, and simply is not susceptible to denial. But the sciences of anatomy, biology, and physiology, and also that of psychology, have in recent times investigated those corresponding characteristics much more thoroughly than was done before. The characteristics of resemblance have accordingly increased in number and importance. There were other sciences too which contributed their part to confirming and extending these similarities between man and animal. The science of embryology, for instance, indicated that a human being in its beginnings in the womb resembles a fish, an amphibian, and the lower mammals. Paleontology, which busies itself with the study of conditions and circumstances in ancient times, discovered remnants of human beings — skeletons, bones, skulls, tools, ornaments, and the like — which pointed to the fact that centuries ago some people in some parts of the earth lived in a very simple way. And ethnology taught that there were tribes and peoples who were widely separated both spiritually and physically from the civilized nations.
When these facts, brought together from various sides, became known, philosophy soon busied itself with combining them into an hypothesis, the hypothesis of the gradual evolution of all things, and specifically also of man. This hypothesis did not come up after the facts were discovered nor because of them, but existed a long time ago, was sponsored by a number of philosophers, and was now applied to the facts, some of which were newly discovered. The old hypothesis, the old theory, now came to rest, it was supposed, on the firmly founded facts. A sort of hurrah went up because of the fact that now all the riddles of the world, except that one of the eternal matter and energy, were solved and all secrets were discovered. But hardly had this proud edifice of the evolutionary philosophy been built when the attack upon it began and it started to crumble. Darwinism, says a distinguished philosopher, came up in the 1860's, staged its triumphal procession in the 1870's, was thereupon questioned by some few in the 1890's, and since the turn of the century has been strongly attacked by many.
The first and sharpest of the attacks was launched against the manner in which, according to Darwin, the several species had come into existence. The struggle for existence and natural selection did not suffice as an explanation. True, there is often a fierce struggle in the plant and animal worlds, and this struggle has a significant influence on their nature and existence. But it has by no means been proved that this struggle can cause new species to come into being. The struggle for existence can contribute to the strengthening of tendencies and abilities, of organs and potentialities, by way of exercise and effort. It can develop what is present already, but it cannot bring into being what does not exist. Besides, it is an exaggeration, as any one knows from his own experience, to say that always and everywhere nothing exists except struggle.
There is more than hatred and animosity in the world. There is also love and cooperation and help. The doctrine that there is nothing anywhere but warfare on the part of all against all is just as one-sided as the idyllic view of the eighteenth century that everywhere in nature there is rest and peace. There is room for many at the big table of nature, and the earth which God gave as a dwelling place for man, is inexhaustibly rich. Consequently, there are many facts and manifestations which have nothing to do with a struggle for existence. Nobody, for instance, can point out what the colors and figures of the snail's skin, the black color of the underbelly in many vertebrate animals, the graying of the hair with increasing age, or the reddening of the leaves in the autumn have to do with the struggle for existence. Nor is it true that in this struggle the strongest types always and exclusively win the victory, and that the weakest are always defeated. A so-called coincidence, a fortunate or unfortunate circumstance, often mocks all such calculations. Sometimes a strong person is taken away in the strength of his years, and sometimes a physically weak man or woman reaches a ripe old age.
Such considerations led a Dutch scholar to substitute another theory for that of Darwin's natural selection, that of mutation, according to which the change of species did not take place regularly and gradually, but suddenly sometimes, and by leaps or jumps. But in this matter the question is whether these changes really represent new species or simply modifications in the species already extant. And the answer to that question hinges again on just what one means by species.
Not only the struggle for existence, natural selection, and the survival of the fittest have lost status in this century, but also the idea of the transfer of acquired characteristics. The transfer of natural, inherited characteristics from parents to children from the nature of the case tends rather to plead against than for Darwinism, inasmuch as it implies the constancy of species. Centuries on end men beget men and nothing else. Concerning the transfer of acquired as distinguished from inherited characteristics there is now so much difference of opinion that nothing can be said about it with certainty. This much, however, is certain, that acquired characteristics very often are not transferred by the parents to the children. Circumcision, for instance, was practised by some people for centuries, and yet left no traces in the children after all that while. Transfer by inheritance takes place only inside certain boundaries and does not effect any change of kind or species. If the modification is artificially induced, it must also be artificially maintained or else it is lost again. Darwinism, in short, cannot explain either heredity or change. Both are facts whose existence is not denied, but their connection and relationship still lie beyond the pale of our knowledge.
More and more, therefore, Darwinism proper, that is, Darwinism in the narrower sense, namely, the effort to explain change of species in terms of the struggle for existence, natural selection, and the transfer of acquired characteristics was abandoned by the men of science. The prediction of one of the first and most eminent of opponents of Darwin's theory was literally fulfilled: namely, that this theory for explaining the mysteries of life would not last till even the end of the nineteenth century. But more important is the fact that criticism has not been directed against Darwin's theory alone but against the theory of evolution itself also. Naturally, facts remain facts and may not be ignored. But theory is something else, something built upon the facts by thought. And what became more and more evident was that the theory of evolution did not fit the facts but was even in conflict with them.
Geology, for instance, revealed that the lower and higher sorts of animals do not follow each other in sequence but as a matter of fact existed alongside of each other ages ago. Paleontology did not come up with a single piece of conclusive evidence for the existence of transitional types between the several species of organic beings. Still, according to Darwin's theory of extremely gradual evolution by way of extremely small changes, these types should have been present in quantity. Even the ardently sought after and energetically pursued intermediary type between man and the ape was not discovered. Embryology, it is true, does point to a certain external similarity between the various stages in the development of the embryo of man and that of other animal bodies. But this similarity is external for the simple reason that from an animal embryo a human being is never born, nor an animal from a human embryo. In other words, man and animal go in different directions from conception on, even though the internal differences cannot then be perceived. Biology has up to this time offered so little support to the proposition that life generated itself that many now accept the impossibility of that and are returning to the idea of a special life force or energy. Physics and chemistry, in proportion to the extent to which they have pressed their investigations, have found more and more secrets and marvels in the world of the infinitely small, and have caused many to return to the thought that the basic constituents of things are not material entities but forces. And — to mention no further evidences — all the efforts that have been put forth to explain consciousness, freedom of the will, reason, conscience, language, religion, morality, and all such manifestations, as being solely the product of evolution have not been crowned with success. The origins of all these manifestations, like those of all other things, remain shrouded in darkness for science.
For it is important to note finally that when man makes his appearance in history he is already man according to body and soul, and he is already in possession, everywhere and at all times, of all those human characteristics and activities whose origins science is trying to discover. Nowhere can human beings be found who do not have reason and will, rationality and conscience, thought and language, religion and morality, the institutions of marriage and the family, and the like. Now if all of these characteristics and manifestations have gradually evolved, such an evolution must have taken place in prehistoric times, that is, in times of which we know nothing directly, and about which we make surmises only on the basis of a few facts perceived in later times. Any science, therefore, which wants to burrow through to that prehistoric time and to discover the origins of things there, must from the nature of the case take recourse to guesses, surmises, and suppositions. There is no possibility here for evidence or proof in the strict sense. The doctrine of evolution generally and that of the descent of man from the animal particularly are not supported in the least by facts supplied by historic times. Of all the elements on which such theories are built nothing remains in the end but a philosophical world-view which wants to explain all things and all manifestations in terms of the things and manifestations themselves, leaving God out of account. One of the proponents of the evolutionary view admitted it bluntly: the choice is between evolutionary descent or miracle; since miracle is absolutely impossible we are compelled to take the first position. And such an admission demonstrates that the theory of the descent of man from lower animal forms does not rest on careful scientific investigation but is rather the postulate of a materialistic or pantheistic philosophy.
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The idea of the origin of man is very closely related to that of the essence of man. Many nowadays talk differently, saying that man and the world, irrespective of what was their origin and their development in the past, are what they are now and will remain such.
This position is of course entirely correct: reality remains the same, irrespective of whether we form a true or a false idea of it. But the same holds of course concerning the origin of things. Even though we imagine that the world and mankind came into being in some particular fashion — gradually, say, during the course of centuries, by all sorts of infinitesimally small changes through self-generation — such a supposition does not, of course, change the actual origin. The world came into being in the way that it did, and not in the way we wish it or suppose it. But the idea we have of the origin of things is inseparably connected with the idea we have of the essence of things.
If the first is wrong, the second cannot be right. If we think that the earth and all the realms of nature, that all creatures and particularly also human beings, came into being without God solely through the evolution of energies which are residual in the world, such an idea must necessarily have a most significant influence on our conception of the essence of world and man.
True, the world and man will remain themselves irrespective of our interpretation; but for us they become different, they increase or decrease in worth and significance according as we think of their origin and their coming into existence.
This is so evident that it requires no ampler illumination or confirmation. But because the notion that we can think what we please about the origin of things, inasmuch as what we think of their essence is unaffected by it, is a notion which comes back again and again — for example, in the doctrine of Scripture, the religion of Israel, the person of Christ, religion, morality, and the like — it may be useful now, in consideration of the essence of man, to indicate the falsity of that notion once more. It is not difficult to do so. For if man has gradually evolved himself, so to speak, without God and solely through blindly operative natural forces, then it follows naturally enough that man cannot differ essentially from the animal, and that, in his highest development also, he remains an animal. For a soul distinguished from the body, for moral freedom and personal immortality, there is then no room at all. And religion, truth, morality, and beauty then lose their proper (absolute) character.
These consequences are not something which we impose on the proponents of the theory of evolution but something rather which they themselves deduce from it. Darwin, for instance, himself says that our unmarried women, if they were educated under the same conditions as honey bees are, would think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers even as the working bees do, and mothers would try to murder their fertile daughters without anybody caring to intervene. According to Darwin, therefore, the whole of the moral law is a product of circumstances, and consequently it changes as the circumstances change. Good and evil, even as truth and falsehood, are therefore relative terms, and their meaning and worth are, like fashions, subject to the changes of time and place. So, too, according to others, religion was but a temporary aid, something of which man in his inadequacy for the struggle against nature made use, and which now too can serve as an opiate for the people, but something which on the long run will naturally die out and disappear when man has come into his full freedom. Sin and transgression, felony and murder do not constitute man guilty but are after-effects of the uncivilized state in which man formerly lived, and they decrease in proportion to the extent that man develops and society improves. Criminals are, accordingly, to he regarded as children, animals, or insane types, and should be dealt with accordingly. Prisons should give way to reformatories. In short, if man is not of Divine but of animal origin and has gradually “evolved” himself he owes everything to himself alone, and is his own lawgiver, master, and lord. All these inferences from the (materialistic or pantheistic) theory of evolution come to expression very clearly in contemporary science as well as in contemporary literature, art, and practical polity.
Reality, however, teaches something quite different. Man can make himself believe, if he wants to, that he has done everything himself and that he is bound by nothing. But in every respect he remains a dependent creature. He cannot do as he pleases. In his physical existence, he remains bound to the laws laid down for respiration, the circulation of the blood, digestion, and procreation. And if he runs counter to these laws and pays no attention to them, he injures his health and undermines his own life. The same is true of the life of his soul and spirit. Man cannot think as he pleases, but is bound to laws which he has not himself thought out and laid down, but which are implied in the very act of thinking and come to expression in it. If he does not hold to those laws of thought, he snares himself in the net of error and falsehood. Nor can man will and act as he pleases. His will is under the discipline of reason and conscience; if he disregards this discipline and degrades his willing and acting to the level of arbitrariness and caprice, then there is sure to be self-reproach and self-indictment, regret and remorse, the gnawing and the compunction of the conscience.
The life of the soul, therefore, no less than the life of the body, is built on something other than caprice or accident. It is not a condition of lawlessness and anarchy but is from all sides and in all its activities determined by laws. It is subject to laws of truth and goodness and beauty and so it demonstrates that it has not generated itself. In short, man has from the very beginning his own nature and his own essence and these he cannot violate with impunity. And so much stronger is nature in these matters than theory that the adherents of the doctrine of evolution themselves keep talking of a human nature, of immutable human attributes, of laws of thought and ethics prescribed for man, and of an inborn religious sense. Thus the idea of the essence of man comes into conflict with the idea of his origin.
In Scripture, however, there is perfect agreement between the two ideas. There the essence of man corresponds to his origin. Because man, although he was formed from the dust of the earth according to the body, received the breath of life from above, and was created by God Himself, he is a unique being, has his own nature. The essence of his being is this: he exhibits the image of God and His likeness.
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This image of God distinguishes man from both the animal and the angel. He has traits in common with both, but he differs from both in having his own unique nature.
The animals, too, of course, were created by God. They did not come into being of their own accord but were called into existence by a particular word of the power of God. Besides, they were immediately created in various kinds, even as the plants were. All men are descended from one parental pair and thus constitute one generation or race. This is not true of the animals; they have, so to speak, various ancestors. Hence it is remarkable that zoology up to this time has not yet succeeded in tracing all animals back to one type. It begins by at once designating some seven or some four major groupings or basic types.
Presumably it is therefore true that most of the animal types are not distributed over the whole earth, but live in particular areas. The fishes live in the water, the birds in the air, and the land animals for the most part are limited to definite territories: the polar bear, for instance, is found only in the far north, and the duck-billed platypus only in Australia. And so in Genesis it is specifically stated that God created the plants (1:11) and also the animals after their kind — that is, according to types. Naturally, this does not mean to say that the types which were originally created by God were exactly those into which science, that of Linnaeus, say, now classifies them. For one thing our classifications are always liable to error because our zoology is still defective and inclined to regard variants as types and vice versa. The artificial, scientific concept of an animal type is very difficult to establish and is always very different from the natural concept of type for which we are always still seeking. Moreover, in the course of centuries a great many animal kinds have died out or been destroyed. From the remains, whether whole or blasted, which we have of some of them, it is evident that various kinds of animals, such as the mammoth, for instance, which no longer exists, once abounded in quantity. And in the third place it should be remembered that as a result of various influences big modifications and changes have taken place in the animal world which often make it difficult or even impossible for us to trace them back to an original type.
Further, it is remarkable that in the creation of the animals even as in that of the plants these were indeed called into being by a particular act of Divine power, but that in this act nature also performed a mediate service. Let the earth bring forth grass, we read in Genesis 1:11, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit, and it was so (verse 12). The report is the same in Gen. 1:20: Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth, and it was so (verse 21). Again in verse 24: Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind, and it was so. Thus in each instance, nature is used by God as an instrument. It is the earth which, although naturally conditioned and equipped for it by God, brings forth all those creatures in their bountiful differentiation of kind.
This peculiar origin of animals sheds some light, too, on their nature. This origin demonstrates that the animals are much more closely related to the earth and to nature than man is. True, the animals are living beings, and as such they are distinguished from the inorganic, inanimate creatures. Hence, too, they are often called living souls (Gen. 1:20, 21, and 24). In the general sense of a principle of life the animals too have a soul.1 But this living principle of the soul in the animal is still so closely bound to nature and to the metabolism of matter that it cannot arrive at any independence or freedom, and it cannot exist when separated from the metabolism or circulation of matter. At death, therefore, the soul of the animal dies. From this it follows that the animals, at least the higher animals, do have the same sense organs as man, and can sense things (hear, see, smell, taste, and feel). They can form images or pictures, and relate these images to each other. But animals do not have reason, cannot separate the image from the particular, individual, and concrete thing. They cannot metamorphose the images nor raise them into concepts, cannot relate the concepts and so form judgments, cannot make inferences from the judgments nor arrive at decisions, and cannot carry out the decisions by an act of the will. Animals have sensations, images, and combinations of images; they have instincts, desires, passions. But they lack the higher forms of desire and knowledge which are peculiar to man; they have no reason and they have no will. All this comes to expression in the fact that animals do not have language, religion, morality, and the sense of beauty; they have no ideas of God, of the invisible things, of the true, the good, and the beautiful.
Thus man is raised high above the animal plane. Between the two there is not a gradual transition but a great gulf. That which constitutes the very nature of man, his peculiar essence, namely his reason and his will, his thought and language, his religion and morality, and the like, are alien to the animal. Therefore the animal cannot understand man although man can understand the animal. Nowadays the science of psychology tries to explain the soul of man in terms of the soul of the animal, but this is to reverse the right order. The soul of man is the key for getting at the soul of the animal. The animal lacks what man has, but man has all that is peculiar to the animal.
This is not to say that now, too, man knows the nature of animals through and through. The whole world is for man a problem whose solution he seeks after and can seek after, and so too every animal is a living mystery. The significance of the animal by no means consists of the fact that the animal is useful to man, providing him with food and shelter, clothing and ornament. Much more is contained in the subduing and having dominion over the earth than that man should, in greed and egotism, freely turn everything to his advantage. The animal world has significance also for our science and art, our religion and morality. God has something, has much, to tell us in the animal. His thoughts and words speak to us out of the whole world, even out of the world of plants and animals. When botany and zoology trace out these thoughts, these sciences, as, indeed, the natural sciences in general, are glorious sciences, which no man, certainly no Christian, may despise. Moreover, how rich the animal world is in moral significance for man! The animal points to the boundary beneath, above which man must raise himself, and to the level of which he must never sink. Man can become an animal and less than an animal if he dulls the light of reason, breaks the bond with heaven, and seeks to satisfy all his desire in the earth. Animals are symbols of our virtues and our vices: the dog shows us the image of loyalty, the spider of industry, the lion of courage, the sheep of innocence, the dove of integrity, the hart of the soul thirsting for God; and, just so too, the fox is the image of cunning, the worm of misery, the tiger of cruelty, the swine of baseness, the snake of devilish guile, and the ape, who most nearly resembles the form of man, declares what an impressive physical organization amounts to without spirit, the spirit that is from above. In the ape man sees his own caricature.
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Just as man differs by the image of God from the animals below him, he is distinguished by it also from the angels above him. The existence of such beings as angels cannot, apart from Scripture, be proved by scientific argument. Science knows nothing about them, cannot demonstrate that they exist, and cannot demonstrate that they do not exist.
But it is remarkable that a belief in the existence of beings who are above man occurs among all peoples and in all religions, and that men, when they have rejected the testimony of the Scriptures concerning the existence of angels, nevertheless, in all sort of superstitious forms, come back to a belief in the existence of supramundane beings. Our present generation abundantly proves this. Angels and devils are no longer held to exist and in their stead a belief has arisen in many circles in latent forces, mysterious natural powers, ghosts, apparitions, visitations of the deceased, animated stars, inhabited planets, Marsmen, living atoms, and the like. Interesting in connection with all these ancient and new manifestations is the position which the Holy Scripture has over against them. irrespective of whether falsehood or truth lies at the basis of them, Scripture forbids all fortune telling,2 sorcery,3 astrology,4 necromancy,5 enchantment or the consulting of oracles,6 all conjuring and wizardry,7 and the like, and so makes an end of all superstition as well as of all unbelief. Christianity and superstition are sworn foes. There is no science, enlightenment, or civilization that can safeguard against superstition; only the word of God can protect us from it. Scripture makes man most profoundly dependent upon God, but precisely in so doing emancipates him from every creature. It puts man into a right relationship with nature and so makes a true natural science possible.
But the Scriptures do teach that there are angels, not the mythical creations of the human imagination, not the personifications of mysterious forces, not the deceased who have now climbed to higher levels, but spiritual beings, created by God, subject to His will, and called to His service. They are beings, therefore, of whom, in the light of Scripture, we can form a definite idea, and such as have nothing in common with the mythological figures of the Pagan religions. In knowledge they are raised high above man,8 and in power,9 but they were nevertheless made by the same God and the same Word (John 1:3 and Col. 1:16), and they have the same reason and the same moral nature, so that, for instance, it is said of the good angels that they obey God's voice and do His pleasure (Ps. 103: 20-21), and of the evil angels that they do not stand in the truth (John 8:44), that they lead astray (Eph. 6:11), and that they sin (2 Peter 2:4).
But, in spite of this correspondence between them, there exists a big difference between angels and men. It consists, in the first place, of the fact that the angels do not have soul and body, but are pure spirits (Heb. 1:14). True, at the time of their revelation they often appeared in physical forms, but the several forms in which they appeared10 point to the fact that these assumed forms of manifestation were temporary and that they changed in accordance with the nature of the mission. Never are the angels called souls, living souls, as the animals are and as man is. For soul and spirit differ from each other in this respect that the soul, too, is by nature spiritual, immaterial, invisible, and, even in man is a spiritually independent entity though it is always a spiritual power or spiritual entity which is oriented to a body, suits a body, and without such a body is incomplete and imperfect. The soul is a spirit designed for a physical life. Such a soul is proper to animals and particularly to man. When man loses his body in death, he continues to exist, but in an impoverished and bereft condition, so that the resurrection on the last day is a restoration of the lack. But the angels are not souls. They were never intended for a bodily life and were not given earth but heaven as a dwelling place. They are pure spirits. This gives them great advantages over man, for they stand higher in knowledge and power, stand in a much freer relationship to time and space than men do, can move about more freely, and are therefore exceptionally well adapted to carrying out God's commands on earth.
But — and this is the second distinction between men and angels — those advantages have their opposite side. Because the angels are pure spirits, they all stand in a relatively loose relationship with reference to each other. They were all originally created together and they all continue to live alongside each other. They do not form one organic whole, one race or generation. True, there is a natural order among them. According to Scripture there are a thousand times a thousand angels,11 and these are divided into classes: cherubims (Gen. 3:24), seraphims (Isa. 6), and thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers (Eph. 1:21 and Col. 1:16; 2:10). And there is further distinction of rank within the groups: Michael and Gabriel have a special place among them.12 Nevertheless, they do not constitute one race, are not blood relatives, did not beget each other. It is possible to speak of a mankind but not of an angelkind. When Christ assumed the human nature He was immediately related to all men, related by blood, and He was their brother according to the flesh. But the angels live next to each other, each one accountable for himself and not for the others, so that a portion of them could fall and a portion remain faithful to God.
The third distinction between man and angel is related' to the second. Because the angels are spirits and are not related to the earth, because they are not related by blood, and do not know such distinctions as father and mother, parents and children, brothers and sisters, therefore there is a whole world of relationships and connections, ideas and emotions, desires and duties of which the angels know nothing. They may be more powerful than men, but they are not so versatile. They stand in fewer relationships, and in riches and depth of the emotional life man is far superior to the angel. True, Jesus says in Matthew 22:30 that marriage will end with this dispensation, but nevertheless the sexual relationships on earth have to a significant extent increased the spiritual treasures of mankind, and in the resurrection, too, these treasures will not be lost but will be preserved into eternity.
If to all this we add the consideration that the richest revelation of God which He has given us is revealed to us in the name of the Father, and in the name of the Son — who became like unto us and is our prophet, priest, and king — and in the name of the Holy Spirit who is poured out in the church and who causes God Himself to dwell in us, then we feel that not the angel, but man, was created after the image of God. Angels experience His power, and wisdom, and goodness, but human beings share in His eternal mercies. God is their Lord, but He is not their Father; Christ is their Head, but He is not their Reconciler and Savior; the Holy Spirit is their Sender and Guide but He never testifies with their spirit that they are children and heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. Hence the eyes of the angels are cast upon the earth, for there God's richest grace has appeared, there the struggle between heaven and earth is fought out, there the church is formed into the body of the Son, and there the conclusive blow will someday be struck and the final triumph of God be achieved. Hence it is that they desire to look into the mysteries of salvation being revealed on earth and to learn to know from the church the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10 and 1 Peter 1:12).
Angels, accordingly, stand in numerous relationships with us, and we in many-sided relationship with them. Belief in the existence and activity of angels is not of the same worth as the belief with which we trust in God and love, fear, and honor Him with our whole heart. We may not put our trust in any creature or in any angel; we may not worship the angels or in any way give them religious honor.13 In fact, there is in Scripture not a single word about any guardian angel, appointed to serve each human being in particular, or about any intercession on the part of the angels in our behalf. But this does not mean that believing in angels is indifferent or worthless. On the contrary, at the time when revelation came into being, they played an important role. In the life of Christ they appeared at all turning points of His career, and they will one day be manifested with Him upon the clouds of heaven. And always they are ministering spirits sent out to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14). They rejoice in the repentance of the sinner (Luke 15:10). They watch over the faithful (Ps. 34:7 and 91:11), protect the little ones (Matt. 18:10), follow the church in its career through history (Eph. 3:10), and bear the children of God into Abraham's bosom (Luke 16:22).
Therefore we are to think of them with respect and speak of them with honor. We are to give them joy by our repentance. We are to follow their example in the service of God and in obedience to His word. We are to show them in our own hearts and lives and in the whole of the church the manifold wisdom of God. We are to remember their fellowship and together with them declare the mighty works of God. Thus there is difference between men and angels, but there is no conflict; differentiation but also unity; distinction but also fellowship. When we arrive at Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, then we come also to the many thousands of angels and rebind the tie of unity and love that was broken by sin (Heb. 12:22). Both they and we have our own place in the rich creation of God and achieve our peculiar function there. Angels are the sons, the mighty heroes, the powerful hosts of God. Men were created in His image and are God's generation. They are His race.
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If the image of God is the distinguishing earmark of man, we owe it to ourselves to get a clear idea of the content of it.
We read in Genesis 1:26 that God created man in His image and after His likeness in order that man should have dominion over all creatures, particularly over all living creatures. Three things deserve consideration in that. In the first place, the correspondence between God and man is expressed in two words: image and likeness. These two words are not, as many have supposed, materially different, different in content, but serve to amplify and support each other. Together they serve to state that man is not an unsuccessful portrait, or a somewhat similar one, but that he is a perfect and totally corresponding image of God. Such as man is in miniature. such is God in the large, the infinitely large outline, for man is such as God is. Man stands infinitely far beneath God and is nevertheless related to Him. As creature man is absolutely dependent upon God and yet as man he is a free and independent being. Limitation and freedom, dependence and independence, immeasurable distance and intimate relation over against God, these have been combined in an incomprehensible way in the human being. How a mean creature can at the same time be the image of God — that goes far beyond our grasp.
In the second place, we are told in Genesis 1:26 that God created men (the term is plural) in His image and after His likeness. From the very beginning the intention was that God would not create one man, but men, in his image. Therefore He immediately created man as man and woman, the two of them not in separation from each other but in relationship and fellowship with each other (verse 27). Not in the man alone, nor in the woman alone, but in both together, and in each in a special way, the image of God is expressed.
The contrary is sometimes affirmed on the ground that in 1 Corinthians 11:7 Paul says that man is the image and glory of God and that woman is the glory of man. This text is frequently abused so as to deny the image of God to the woman and to debase her far below the level of the man. But Paul is there not speaking of man and woman considered apart from each other but about their relationship in marriage. And then he says that it is the man and not the woman who is the head. And he deduces this from the fact that the man is not from the woman, but the woman from the man. The man was created first, was first made in the image of God, and to him God first revealed His glory. And if the woman shares in all this, this takes place mediately, from and through the man. She received the image of God, but after man, in dependence upon him, by way of his mediation. Hence man is the image and glory of God directly and originally; the woman is the image and glory of God in a derived way in that his is the glory of man. What we read of this matter in Genesis 2 must be added to what we read of it in Genesis 1. The way in which woman is created in Genesis 2 is the way along which she receives the image of God as well as the man (Gen. 1:27). In this is contained the further truth that the image of God rests in a number of people, with differentiation of race, talent, and powers — in short in mankind — and further that this image will achieve its full unfolding in the new humanity which is the church of Christ.
In the third place, Genesis 1:26 teaches us that God had a purpose in creating man in His image: namely, that man should have dominion over all living creatures and that he should multiply and spread out over the world, subduing it. If now we comprehend the force of this subduing under the term culture, now generally used for it, we can say that culture in the broadest sense is the purpose for which God created man after His image. So little are cultus and culture, religion and civilization, Christianity and humanity in conflict with each other that it would be truer to say God's image had been granted to man so that he might in his dominion over the whole earth bring it into manifestation. And this dominion of the earth includes not only the most ancient callings of men, such as hunting and fishing, agriculture and stock-raising, but also trade and commerce, finance and credit, the exploitation of mines and mountains, and science and art. Such culture does not have its end in man, but in man who is the image of God and who stamps the imprint of his spirit upon all that he does, it returns to God, who is the First and the Last.
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The content or meaning of the image of God is unfolded further in later revelation. For instance, it is remarkable that after the Fall, too, man still continued to be called the image of God.
In Genesis 5:1-3 we are reminded once more that God created man, man and woman together, in His image, and that He blessed them, and that Adam thus begot a son in his own likeness, after his image. In Genesis 9:6 the shedding of man's blood is forbidden for the reason that man was made in the image of God. The poet of the beautiful eighth psalm sings of the glory and majesty of the Lord which reveals itself in heaven and earth, and most splendidly of all in insignificant man and his dominion over all the works of God's hands. When Paul spoke to the Athenians on Mars' Hill, he quoted one of their poets approvingly: For we are also His offspring (Acts 17:28). In James 3:9 the Apostle by way of demonstrating the evil of the tongue makes use of this contrast: that with it we bless God, even the Father, and with it we curse men who are made after the similitude of God. And Scripture not only calls fallen man the image of God, but it keeps on regarding and dealing with him as such throughout. It constantly looks upon man as a reasonable, moral being who is responsible to God for all his thoughts and deeds and words and is bound to His service.
Alongside of this representation, however, we find the idea that through sin man has lost the image of God. True, we are not anywhere told this directly in so many words. But it is something that can clearly be deduced from the whole teaching of Scripture concerning sinful man. After all, sin — as we shall consider more specifically later has robbed man of innocence, righteousness, and holiness, has corrupted his heart, darkened his understanding, inclined his will to evil, turned his inclinations right-about-face, and placed his body and all its members in the service of unrighteousness. Accordingly man must be changed, reborn, justified, cleansed, and sanctified. He can share in all these benefits only in the fellowship with Christ who is the Image of God (2 Cor. 4:4 and Col. 1:15) and to whose image we must be conformed (Rom. 8:29). The new man, accordingly, who is put in the fellowship with Christ through faith, is created in accordance with God's will in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24) and is constantly renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him (Col. 3:10). The knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, which the believer obtains through the fellowship with Christ, have their origin, and example, and final purpose in God and they cause man again to share in the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
It is upon this teaching of Holy Scripture that the distinction usually made in Reformed theology between the image of God in the broader and the narrower sense is based. If, on the one hand, after his fall and disobedience, man continues to be called the image and offspring of God, and, on the other hand, those virtues by which he especially resembles God have been lost through sin and can only be restored again in the fellowship with Christ, then these two propositions are compatible with each other only if the image of God comprises something more than the virtues of knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. The Reformed theologians recognized this, and over against the Lutheran and the Roman theologians they maintained it.
The Lutherans do not make the distinction between the image of God in the broader and in the narrower sense. Or, if they do make the distinction, they do not attach much importance to it nor understand its significance. For them the image of God is nothing more or less than the original righteousness, that is, the virtues of knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. They recognize the image of God only in the narrower sense and do not appreciate the need of relating this image of God to the whole human nature. Thus the religio-moral life of man is held to be a special and isolated area. It is not related to, and it exercises no influence upon, the work to which man is called in state and society, and in art and science. Once the Lutheran Christian shares in the forgiveness of sins and the fellowship with God through faith, he has enough. He rests in that, and enjoys it, and does not concern himself to relate this spiritual life, backwards, to the counsel and election of God, and, forwards, to the whole earthly calling of man.
From this, in the other direction, it follows that man, when through sin he has lost the original righteousness, is bereft of the whole image of God. Nothing of it is left him, not even small remains: and so his rational and moral nature, which is still his, is underestimated and maligned.
The Roman Catholics, on the contrary, do make a distinction between the image of God in the broader and narrower sense, although they do not usually employ these words for it. And they, too, are concerned to find a relationship between the two. But for them this relationship is external, not internal; it is artificial, not real; mechanical, not organic. The Romans present the matter as though man is conceivable without the virtues of knowledge, righteousness, and holiness (the image of God in the narrower sense) and can in reality also exist thus. In that event, too, man still has some religious and moral life but only in such a kind and to such a degree as can come from natural religion and natural morality. It is a religion and morality which, as it were, remains limited to this earth, and it can never pave the way for him to heavenly blessedness and the immediate vision of God. Besides, although in the abstract it is possible that such a natural person can, without possessing the image of God in the narrower sense, fulfill the duties of natural religion and of natural moral law, still, as a matter of fact, this is very difficult inasmuch as man is a material, physical, and sensuous person. After all, desire is always characteristic of this sensuous nature of man. Such lust or desire may not in itself be sin but it certainly is a tempting occasion for sin. For, by nature, this sensuous character, being physical, is opposed to the spirit, and constitutes a threat to it always. The threat is that reason and will will be overcome by the power of the flesh.
For these two reasons, according to Roman Catholic thought, God in His sovereign favor has added the image of God in the narrower sense to the natural man. He could have created man without this image. But because He foresaw that man would then very easily fall prey to fleshly desire, and also because He wanted to raise man to a higher state of blessedness than is possible here on earth, that is, to the heavenly glory, and to the immediate presence of Himself, therefore God added original righteousness to the natural man and so lifted him from his natural state to a higher and supernatural vantage point. Thus a two-fold purpose was achieved. In the first place, man could now, what with the help of this supernatural addition, easily control the desire which flesh is naturally heir to; and, in the second place, by fulfilling the supernatural duties prescribed for him by the original righteousness (the image of God in the narrower sense), man could now achieve a supernatural salvation corresponding to his further endowment. Thus the supernatural addendum of original righteousness serves two purposes for the Roman Catholic: it serves as a restraint upon the flesh, and it clears the way for merits to heaven.
The Reformed theologians take their own point of view between the Roman Catholic and Lutheran positions. According to Scripture, the image of God is larger and more inclusive than the original righteousness. For, although this original righteousness has been lost through sin, man continues to carry the name of the image and offspring of God. There remain in him some small remains of the image of God according to which he was originally created. That original righteousness could not, therefore, have been an endowment, separate and independent, and quite unrelated to human nature generally. It is not true that man at first existed, be it in thought only or in actuality also, as a purely natural being, to whom, then, original righteousness was later superadded from above. Rather, in thought and creation both, man was one with that original righteousness. The idea of man includes the idea of such righteousness. Without it man can neither be conceived of nor exist. The image of God in the narrower sense is integrally related with that image in the broader sense. It is not accurate to say that man bears the image of God merely: he is that image of God. The image of God is identical with man, is as inclusive as the humanity of man. To the extent that, even in the state of sin, man remained man, to that extent he has preserved remnants of the image of God; and to the extent that he has lost the image of God, to that extent he has ceased to be man, true and perfect man.
After all, the image of God in the narrower sense is nothing other than the spiritual wholeness or health of man. When a human being becomes sick in body and soul, even when he becomes insane in mind, he continues to be a human being. But he has then lost something that belongs to the harmony of man, and has received something in its stead which conflicts with that harmony. Just so, when through sin man has lost the original righteousness, he continues to be man, but he has lost something that is inseparable from the idea of man and has received something instead that is alien to that idea. Hence, man, who lost the image of God, did not become something other than man: he preserved his rational and moral nature. The thing that he lost was not something which really did not belong to his nature in the first place and what he received instead was something that seized upon and corrupted his whole nature. Just as the original righteousness was man's spiritual wholeness and health, so sin is his spiritual disease. Sin is moral corruption, spiritual death, death in sins and transgressions, as Scripture describes it.
Such a conception of the image of God permits the whole teaching of Holy Scripture to come into its own. It is a conception which at one and the same time maintains the relationship and the distinction between nature and grace, creation and redemption. Gratefully and eloquently this conception acknowledges the grace of God which, after the fall, too, permitted man to remain man and continued to regard him and deal with him as a rational, moral, and responsible being. And at the same time, it holds that man, bereft of the image of God, is wholly corrupted and inclined to all evil. Life and history are available to confirm this. For even in its lowest, deepest fall, human nature yet remained human nature. And, no matter what acme of achievement man may accomplish, he remains small and weak, guilty and impure. Only the image of God constitutes man true and perfect man.
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If, now, we try briefly to survey the content of the image of God, the first thing that comes up for attention is man's spiritual nature. He is a physical, but he is also a spiritual being. He has a soul which, in essence, is a spirit. This is evident from what the Holy Scripture teaches concerning the origin, essence, and duration of the human soul. As to that origin, we read concerning Adam that he, unlike the animals, received a breath of life from above (Gen. 2:7) and in a sense this holds for all men. For it is God who gives every man his spirit (Eccles. 12:7), who forms the spirit of man within him (Zechariah 12:1), and who, therefore, in distinction from the fathers of the flesh, can be called the Father of spirits (Heb. 12:9). This special origin of the human soul determines its essence also. True, Scripture several times ascribes a soul to animals (Genesis 2:19 and 9:4, and elsewhere) but in these instances the reference, as some translations also have it, is to a principle of life in the general sense. Man has a different and a higher soul, a soul which in very essence is spiritual in kind. This is evident from the fact that Scripture does ascribe a peculiar spirit to man but never to the animal. Animals do have a spirit in the sense that as creatures they are created and sustained by the Spirit of God (Ps. 104:30) but they do not, each of them, have their own, independent spirit. Man has.14 Because of its spiritual nature the soul of man is immortal; it does not as in the animals die when the body dies, but it returns to God who has given the spirit (Eccles. 12:7). It cannot, like the body, be killed by men (Matt. 10:28). As spirit it continues to exist (Heb. 12:9 and 1 Peter 3:19).
This spirituality of the soul raises man above the plane of the animal, and gives him a point of resemblance with the angels. True, he belongs to the sensuous world, being earthly of the earth, but by virtue of his spirit he far transcends the earth, and he walks with royal freedom in the realm of spirits. By his spiritual nature man is related to God who is Spirit (John 4:24) and who dwells in eternity (Isa. 57:15).
In the second place, the image of God is revealed in the abilities and powers with which the spirit of man has been endowed. It is true that the higher animals can by sensation form images and relate these to each other, but they can do no more. Man, on the contrary, raises himself above the level of images and enters the realm of concepts and ideas. By means of thought, which cannot be understood as a movement of the brain but must be regarded as a spiritual activity, man deduces the general from the particular, rises from the level of the visible to that of the invisible things, forms ideas of the true, the good, and the beautiful, and he learns to know God's eternal power and Godhead from God's creatures. By means of his willing, which must also be distinguished from his sinful desire, he emancipates himself from the material world and reaches out for invisible and suprasensuous realities. His emotions even are by no means set in motion merely by useful and pleasurable things inside the material world but are roused and stimulated also by ideal, spiritual goods which are quite insusceptible to arithmetical calculation. All of these abilities and activities have their point of departure and their center in the self-consciousness by which man knows himself and by means of which man bears within himself an ineradicable sense of his own existence and of the peculiarity of his rational and moral nature. Besides, all these particular abilities express themselves outwardly in language and religion, in morality and law, in science and art, — all of them, of course, as well as many others, peculiar to man and not to be found in the animal world at all.
All these abilities and activities are characteristics of the image of God. For God, according to the revelation of nature and Scripture, is not an unconscious, blind force, but a personal, self-conscious, knowing, and willing being. Even emotions, dispositions, and passions such as wrath, jealousy, compassion, mercy, love, and the like, are without hesitancy ascribed to God in the Scriptures, not so much as emotions which He Himself passively undergoes, but as activities of His almighty, holy, and loving being. Scripture could not speak in this human way about God if in all his abilities and activities, man were not created in the image of God.
The same holds true, in the third place, of the body of man. Even the body is not excluded from the image of God. True, Scripture expressly says that God is Spirit (John 4:24), and it nowhere ascribes a body to Him. Nevertheless, God is the creator also of the body and of the whole sensuous world. All things, material things too, have their origin and their existence in the Word that was with God (John 1:3 and Col. 1:15), and therefore rest in thought, in spirit. Moreover, the body, although it is not the cause of all those activities of the spirit, is the instrument of them. It is not the ear which hears but the spirit of man which hears through the ear.
Hence all those activities which we accomplish by means of the body, and even the physical organs by which we accomplish them, can be ascribed to God. Scripture speaks of His hands and feet, of His eyes and ears, and of so much more, in order to indicate that all that man can achieve by way of the body is, in an original and perfect way, due to God. He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? He that formed the eye, shall He not see? (Psalm 94:9). To the extent, therefore, that the body serves as tool and instrument of the spirit, it exhibits a certain resemblance to, and gives us some notion of, the way in which God is busy in the world.
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All this belongs to the image of God in the broader sense. But the likeness of God and man comes out much more strongly in the original righteousness with which the first man was endowed and which is called the image of God in the narrower sense. When Scripture puts the emphasis on this original righteousness, it thereby declares that what matters most in the image of God is not that it exists but what it is. The main thing is not that we think and hate and love and will. The likeness of man and God gets its significance from what we think and will, from what the object of our hatred and love is. The powers of reason and will, of inclination and aversion, were given to man precisely for this purpose that he should use them in the right way — that is, according to God's will and to His glory. The devils, too, have retained the powers of thought and will, but they put these solely into the service of their hatred and enmity against God. Even the belief in God's existence, which in itself is a good thing, gives the devils nothing but trembling, and the fear of His judgment (James 2:19). Concerning the Jews, who called themselves children of Abraham and named God their Father, Jesus once said that, if this were so, they would do the works of Abraham and would love Him whom God had sent. But because they were doing precisely the opposite and sought to kill Jesus, they betrayed that they were really of the father the devil and wanted to do his will (John 8:39-44). The desires which the Jews fostered, and the works which they did, constituted them despite all their keen discrimination and energy like unto the devil. And so, too, the human likeness to God comes out not chiefly in the fact that man possesses reason and understanding, heart and will. It expresses itself principally in pure knowledge and perfect righteousness and holiness, which together constitute the image
of God in the narrower sense, and with which man was privileged and adorned at his creation.
The knowledge which was given to the first man did not consist of the fact that he knew everything and had nothing further to learn about God, himself, and the world. Even the knowledge of the angels and of the saints is susceptible to growth. So was the knowledge of Christ on earth up to the end of His life. That original knowledge of the first man implies rather that Adam received an adequate knowledge for his circumstance and calling and that this knowledge was pure knowledge. He loved truth with his whole soul. The lie, with all of its calamitous consequences of error, doubt, unbelief, and uncertainty, had not yet found a place in his heart. He stood in the truth, and he saw and appreciated everything as it really was.
The fruit of such knowledge of the truth was righteousness and holiness. Holiness means that the first man was created free of all taint of sin. His nature was unspoiled. No evil thought, deliberation, or desire came up out of his heart. He was not innocent or simple, but he knew God, and he knew the law of God that was written in his heart, and he loved that law with his whole soul. Because he stood in the truth, he stood also in love. Righteousness means that the man who thus knew the truth in his mind, and who was holy in his will and in all his desires, thereby also corresponded wholly to God's law, wholly satisfied the demands of His justice, and stood before His face without any guilt. Truth and love bring peace in their wake, peace with God, and ourselves, and the whole world. The man who himself stands in the right place, the place where he belongs, also stands in the right relationship to God and to all creatures.
Of this state and circumstance in which the first man was created we can no longer form an idea. A head and a heart, a mind and a will, all of them altogether pure and without sin — that is something which lies far beyond the pale of all our experiences. When we stop to reflect how sin has insinuated itself into all our thinking and speaking, into all our choices and actions, then even the doubt can rise in our hearts whether such a state of truth, love, and peace is possible for man. Holy Scripture, however, wins the victory and conquers every doubt. In the first place, it shows us, not only at the beginning but also in the middle of history, the figure of a man who could with full justice put the question to his opponents: Which of you convinceth me of sin? (John 8:46). Christ was very man and therefore also perfect man. He did no sin neither was guile found in His mouth (1 Peter 2:22). In the second place, Scripture teaches that the first human couple were created after God's image in righteousness and holiness as the fruit of known truth. Thus the Scriptures maintain that sin does not belong to the essence of human nature, and that it can therefore also be removed and separated from that human nature.
If sin cleaves to man from his earliest origin, and by virtue of the nature which is his, then from the nature of the case there is no redemption from sin possible. The redemption from sin would then be tantamount to the annihilation of human nature. But now, as it is, not only can a human being exist without sin in the abstract, but such a holy human being has actually existed. And when he fell, and became guilty and polluted, another man, the second Adam, rose up without sin, to set fallen man free from his guilt and to cleanse him of all pollution. The creation of man according to the image of God and the possibility of his fall include the possibility of his redemption and recreation. But whoever denies the first cannot affirm the second; the denial of the fall has as its other side the comfortless preaching of human irredeemability. In order to be able to fall, man must first have stood. In order to lose the image of God he must first possess it.
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The creation of man according to the image of God — we read in Genesis 1:26 and 28 — had as its nearest purpose that man should fill, subdue, and have dominion over the earth. Such dominion is not a constituent element of the image of God. Nor does it, as some have maintained, constitute the whole content of that image. Moreover, it absolutely is not an arbitrary and incidental addendum. On the contrary, the emphasis that is placed upon this dominion and its close relationship with the creation according to the image of God indicate conclusively that the image comes to expression in the dominion and by means of it must more and more explain and unfold itself. Further, in the description of this dominion, it is plainly stated that to a certain extent it was, indeed, immediately given to man as an endowment, but that to a very great extent it would be achieved only in the future. After all, God does not say merely that He will make “men” in His image and likeness (Gen. 1:26), but when He has made the first human couple, man and woman, He blessed them and said to them: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it (Gen. 1:28), and He further gave Adam the particular task of dressing and keeping the garden (Gen. 2:15).
All this teaches very plainly that man was not created for idleness but for work. He was not allowed to rest upon his laurels, but had to go straight into the wide world in order to subdue it to the power of his word and will. He was given a big, a widely distributed, a rich task on the earth. He was given an assignment which would cost him centuries of effort to accomplish. He was pointed in a direction incalculably far away which he had to take and which he had to pursue to the end. In short, there is a big difference and a wide separation between the condition in which the first man was created and the destination to which he was called. True, this destination is closely related to his nature, just as that nature is closely related to his origin, but there is distinction all the same. The nature of man, the essence of his being — the image of God according to which he was created — had to come to a constantly richer and fuller unfolding of its content by means of its striving towards its destination. The image of God, so to speak, had to be spread to the ends of the earth and had to be impressed on all the works of men's hands. Man had to cultivate the earth so that it would more and more become a revelation of God's attributes.
The dominion of the earth was therefore the nearest but not the sole purpose to which man was called. The nature of the case points to that fact. Work which is really work cannot have its end and final purpose in itself but always has as its further objective to bring something into being. It ceases when that objective has been reached. To work, simply to work, without deliberation, plan, or purpose, is to work hopelessly and is unworthy of rational man. A development which continues indefinitely is not a development. Development implies intention, course of action, final purpose, destination. If, then, man at his creation was called to work, that implies that he himself and the people who should issue from him should enter into a rest after the work.
The institution of the seven-day week comes to confirm and reinforce this conviction. In his work of creating God rested on the seventh day from all His work. Man, made in the image of God, immediately at the time of the creation gets the right and the privilege to follow in the Divine example in this respect also. The work which is laid upon him, namely, the replenishing and subduing of the earth, is a weak imitation of the creative activity of God. Man's work, too, is a work which is entered upon after deliberation, which follows a definite course of action, and which is aimed at a specific objective. Man is not a machine which unconsciously moves on; he does not turn about in a treadmill with an unchangeable monotony. In his work too man is man, the image of God, a thinking, willing, acting being who seeks to create something, and who in the end looks back upon the work of his hands with approbation. As it does for God Himself, man's work ends in resting, enjoyment, pleasure. The six-day week crowned by the Sabbath dignifies man's work, raises him above the monotonous movement of spiritless nature, and presses the stamp of a Divine calling upon it. Whoever, therefore, on the Sabbath day enters into the rest of God in accordance with His purpose, that person rests from his works in the same glad way as God rests from His (Heb. 4:10). This holds true of the individual and it also holds true of the church and of mankind generally. The world, too, has its world's work to perform, a work which is followed and concluded by a Sabbath. There remains a rest for the people of God. Each Sabbath Day is but an example and foretaste of it and at the same time also a prophecy and a guarantee of that rest (Heb. 4:9).
That is why the Heidelberg Catechism rightly says that God created man good and according to His own image in order that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness to praise and glorify Him. The final purpose of man lay in the eternal blessedness, in the glorification of God in heaven and on earth. But in order to arrive at this end man first had to fulfill his task on earth. In order to enter into the rest of God he first had to finish God's work. The way to heaven goes through the earth and over the earth. The entrance to the Sabbath is opened by the six days of work. One comes to eternal life by way of work.
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This teaching of the purpose of man so far rests entirely upon thoughts which are expressed in Genesis 1:26-3:3. But the rest of the second chapter has another important constituent element to add to it. When God places man in paradise, He gives him the right to eat freely of all the trees in the garden except one. That one He singles out as an exception, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Man is told that he may not eat of that tree, and that on the day he eats of it he will die the death (Gen. 2:16-17). To all that is commanded is now added one thing that is forbidden. The commandments were known to Adam partly from a reading of his own heart, partly from God's spoken word. Adam did not invent them. God created them in him and communicated them to him. Man is not religiously and morally autonomous. He is not his own lawgiver, and he may not do as he pleases. Rather, God is his only Lawgiver and Judge (Isa. 33:22). All those commandments which Adam received now resolved themselves into this one requirement that he who was created as the image of God should in all his thinking and doing, and throughout his life and work, remain the image of God. Man had to remain such personally in his own life, but also in his marriage relationship, in his family, in his six-day working week, in his rest on the seventh day, in his replenishing and multiplying, in his subduing and having dominion over the earth, and in his dressing and keeping of the garden. Adam was not to go his own way but had to walk in the way that God appointed for him.
But all those commandments, which, so to speak, gave Adam ample freedom of movement and the whole earth as his field of operation are augmented, or, better, are limited, by one proscription. This proscription, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, does not belong to the image of God, is not a constituent element of it, but, quite to the contrary, fixes its boundary. If Adam transgresses this proscriptive command, he loses the image of God, places himself outside the fellowship of God, and dies the death. By this command therefore the obedience of man is tested. This command will prove whether man will follow God's way or his own way, whether he will keep to the right path or go astra4y, whether he will remain a son of God in the house of the Father or want to take the portion of goods that is given him and go to a distant country. Hence, too, this proscriptive command is usually given the name of the probationary command. Hence, too, it has in a certain sense an arbitrary content. Adam and Eve could find no reason why just now the eating of this one particular tree was forbidden. In other words, they had to keep the command not because they fathomed it in its reasonable content and understood it, but solely because God had said it, on the basis of His authority, prompted by sheer obedience, out of a pure regard to their duty. That is why, further, the tree whose fruit they might not eat was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was the tree which would demonstrate whether man should arbitrarily and self-sufficiently want to determine what was good and what evil, or whether he would in this matter permit himself to be wholly led by the command which God had given concerning it and keep to that.
The first man, therefore, was given something, indeed, was given much to do; he was also given something, though this was little, which he was not to do. Generally the last requirement is the more difficult of the two. There are quantities of people who are willing to do incredibly much for the sake, say, of their health, but who are willing to give up nothing for it, or at least very little. They regard the slightest self-denial as an unbearable burden. That which is forbidden gives off a kind of mysterious lure. It raises questions about why and what and how. It prompts doubt and excites the imagination. This temptation which emanated from the proscriptive command the first man had to resist. This was the struggle of faith which was given him to fight. But, in the image of God according to which he was created, he also received the strength by which he could have remained standing and have conquered.
Nevertheless it becomes apparent from the probationary command even more clearly than from the institution of the seven-day week that the end or destiny of man is to be distinguished from his creation. Adam was not yet at the beginning what he could be and had to become at the end. He lived in paradise, but not yet in heaven. He still had a long way to go before he arrived at his proper destination. He had to achieve eternal life by his “commission” and “omission.” In short, there is a big difference between the state of innocence in which the first man was created, and the state of glory for which he was destined. The nature of this difference is further illuminated for us by the rest of revelation.
Adam was dependent upon the change of night and day, waking and sleeping, but we read of the heavenly Jerusalem that there shall be no night there (Rev. 21:25 and 22:5) and that the redeemed by the blood of the Lamb stand before the throne of God and serve Him night and day in His temple (Rev. 7:15). The first man was bound to the apportionment of the week into six work days and one day of rest, but for the people of God there remains hereafter an eternal, unintermittent rest (Heb. 4:9 and Rev. 14:13). In the state of innocence man daily required food and drink, but in the future God shall destroy both the belly and meats (1 Cor. 6:13). The first human couple consisted of man and woman and was accompanied by the blessing: be fruitful and multiply. But in the resurrection men do not marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven (Matt. 22:30). The first man, Adam, was of the earth, earthy, had a natural body and so became a living soul, but the believers in the resurrection receive a spiritual body and will then bear the image of heavenly man, the image of Christ the Lord from heaven (1 Cor. 15:45-49). Adam was created in such a way that he could stray, could sin, could fall and die; but the believers even on earth are in principle raised above this possibility. They can no longer sin, for whosoever is born of God does not commit sin, for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God (1 John 3:9). They cannot fall even to the very end for they are kept through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:5). And they cannot die, for those who believe in Christ have, already here on earth, the eternal incorruptible life; they shall not die in all eternity, and though they were dead they should yet live (John 11:25-26).
In looking at the first man, therefore, we must be on guard against two extremes. On the one hand, we must, on the basis of Holy Scripture, maintain that he was immediately created in the image of God in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness: he was not at first a small, innocent child that had to develop into maturity; he was not a being who, mature in body, was spiritually without any content, taking a neutral position between truth and falsehood, good and evil; and still less was he originally an animal being, gradually evolved out of animal existence, who now at long last by virtue of struggle and effort had become man.
Such a representation is in irreconcilable conflict with the representation of Scripture and with sound reason.
Still, on the other hand, the state of the first man should not be exaggeratedly glorified as is so often done in Christian doctrine and preaching. No matter how high God placed man above the animal level, man had not yet achieved his highest possible level. He was able-not-to-sin, but not yet not-able-to-sin. He did not yet possess eternal life which cannot be corrupted and cannot die, but received instead a preliminary immortality whose existence and duration depended upon the fulfillment of a condition. He was immediately created as image of God, but he could still lose this image and all its glory. He lived in paradise, it is true, but this paradise was not heaven and it could with all of its beauty be forfeited by him. One thing was lacking in all the riches, both spiritual and physical, which Adam possessed: absolute certainty. As long as we do not have that, our rest and our pleasure is not yet perfect; in fact, the contemporary world with its many efforts to insure everything that man possesses is satisfactory evidence for this. The believers are insured for this life and the next, for Christ is their Guarantor and will not allow any of them to be plucked out of His hand and be lost (John 10:28). Perfect love banishes fear in them (1 John 4:18) and persuades them that nothing shall separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus their Lord (Rom. 8:38-39). But this absolute certainty was lacking to man in paradise; he was not, together with his creation in the image of God, permanently established in the good. Irrespective of how much he had, he could lose it all, both for himself and for his posterity. His origin was Divine; his nature was related to the Divine nature; his destiny was eternal blessedness in the immediate presence of God. But whether he was to reach that appointed destination was made dependent upon his own choice and upon his own will.
Born on December 13, 1854, in Hoogeveen, Drenthe, Holland, Herman Bavinck was the son of the Reverend Jan Bavinck, a leading figure in the secession from the State Church of the Netherlands in 1834. After theological study in Kampen, and at the University of Leiden, he graduated in 1880, and served as the minister of the congregation at Franeker, Friesland, for a year. According to his biographers, large crowds gathered to hear his outstanding exposition of the Scriptures.
In 1882, he was appointed a Professor of Theology at Kampen, and taught there from 1883 until his appointment, in 1902, to the chair of Systematic Theology in the Free University of Amsterdam, where he succeeded the great Abraham Kuyper, then recently appointed Prime Minister of the Netherlands. In this capacity — an appointment he had twice before declined — Bavinck served until his death in 1921.
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