The Implications of Our Godlikeness
The authoritative record says, “And God said, Let us make man in our image…the image of God created he him” (Genesis 1:26, 27). We are not told in any instance just how much and how little is involved in this pattern, and we must always guard against the idea that there is any reference to physical appearance. God is pure spirit, and the limitations of the material do not appertain to Him. There was published a book (two generations ago now) called Is Negro Man or Beast? The gist of the argument was that God is white, and therefore the Negro does not partake of His likeness. But fortunately that book did not attain to popularity or wide circulation. But just as the idea here is ruled out by all fair-minded people, so likewise thinking will rule out all reference to physical appearance.
The lumbering guesses of men have injected so many things pertaining to the processes of creation into the story that there is danger we shall get lost and fail to keep the main idea in mind. The main fact is that God created man, and when processes are discussed they must all be held in strict subordination to this main fact. The fact must not be expected to yield to the processes.
There are some slight differentiations among men on the basis of race and degree of attainment in knowledge and efficiency. But all men are more alike, thinking of them as a whole, than they are different. God made “of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26), and “under the skin” all men are brothers in a common race, and all are alike creatures of God. All assumption of superiority of one race over another is a fallacy of human ignorance and human weakness. Extensive experimentation has established the fact that the best of any race are better than the worst of any other race, and that differences based upon color, race or other accident of birth are not great enough to entitle any group to pride nor any other to utter discouragement.
Aside from all other considerations, the fact that every man is a member of a race that was created in the image of God gives dignity and value to him that outlaws all crimes against persons, like slavery, adultery, oppression, murder, and all forms of maltreatment. And all crimes against persons are sins against God, and subject to His judgments both now and in the world to come.
We may not know all that is implied in the pattern of man’s creation, but we can be reasonably sure it includes at least: (1) immortality, (2) moral purity, and (3) ability to know — intelligence.
God is eternal. That is to say, eternity is a predicable of God, for there was never a time when He was not, and there never will be a time when He ceases to be. Man is immortal. That is to say, man did have a beginning, but he will have no end. Thus immortality is not identical with eternity, but it is like it.
God is absolutely holy. Man, as he came from the hand of the Creator, was relatively holy. That is to say, God is holy by essential moral nature. Man, as he came from the Creator’s hand, was holy by the impartation of God’s holiness. The symbol is the sun and the moon. The sun shines by reason of its own light. The moon shines by reason of the light it borrows from the sun. Thus, in the moral sense, man was not absolutely holy as God is holy. But he was holy with a holiness that was in quality like God.
God is omniscient. That is, God possesses all knowledge. In comparison, man knows very little. But man does possess the quality which we call intelligence (in contrast with instinct, which is a factor of the creation beneath), and he therefore is capable of learning, even to the point of having understanding and fellowship with God.
God has so identified himself with man as to make it impossible for any to have good standing with God without doing all within his power to also be a friend of man. Duty is so unitary as to make it obligatory to brand him as a pretender who professes to love God, if he does not also love his fellow man.
When one looks fairly at the psalmist’s words (Psalms 8:4), he may discover that, after all, it was man’s dignity and value, in contrast with his physical insignificance, that was the main cause of wonder. And if we weigh values as Jesus weighed them, we shall never see an insignificant man. The most forlorn, forsaken, ragged, little waif in the slums of New York is of a million times more consequence than all the skyscrapers, subways and overloaded bank vaults of that great city. In fact, all those vaults that we list as “intrinsic” depend upon people for their worth. Salt in the ocean, gold in the rock, oil in the earth, fertility in the soil and all “natural resources” are of consequence only when they are considered in connection with human needs and human desires.
Wise moderns smile over the simplicity of the ancients who thought the earth was the center of the universe, and man was the capsheaf of God’s creation. But although science may be effective in revising our astronomical puttings, it yet remains that “our” earth is of more consequence to us than all the stars and their satellites put together, and it is yet to be shown that God has designed a position higher than that ascribed to him who was made in his Creator’s likeness, and a destiny more glorious than that implied in the future the Bible outlines for man.
Of course in comparison with God, the old French chaplain was correct when he opened the king’s funeral oration with the words, “Only God is great.” But, under God and the angels, we may with truth proclaim, “Only men are valuable.” And this must not be twisted into the thesis that mortal life takes precedence over honor and purity. For, being a child of eternity, there are duties for man that overshadow the duty to preserve life in the mortal body.
Man’s propinquity with God does not rest upon the fact of creation. For as Professor Henry Drummond has shown, we are every instant, by the miracle of preservation, subjects of as great a supernatural potency as that exercised in our original making. The universe, including ourselves, is no more capable of sustaining itself than it was able to come into being without cause. We may be at a loss as to why God continues to run this vast universe, and why He tolerates the race of man upon the earth, but we are witnesses of the fact that He does preserve the universe, and the poorest of us are examples of His continuous keeping power. We are His by preservation, as well as by creation.
That was a poor, idol-worshipping, non-Christian crowd to which Paul addressed himself on Mars’ Hill and to whom he said, “In him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God . …” (Acts 17:28, 29). And Paul’s plea to these men to become Christians was based upon this propinquity — this natural blood relationship. And on this very basis, he concluded that God is “not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:27).
We were made to live in fellowship with God, to love Him, to be loved by Him, to commune with Him both now and forevermore; and to this end we are preserved from day to day.
Dr. H. C. Morrison used to tell about meeting an old sailor on the beach near Old Point Comfort, Virginia, and talking with him about the hull of a stranded and forsaken old ship that stuck in the sand not far off the shore. Dr. Morrison had never known this ship except as he saw it there, and besides he was a landsman, and not much blessed with imagination about the traditions of the sea. Pointing toward the old hull, the landsman said, “That is a forsaken and useless old thing.” But the old sailor replied, “She does look bad now, but you should see her as I have seen her. I was present when she was launched. I went with her on her maiden voyage. I knew her when her hull was new, her paint was white, her engines were in trim, her furniture was well appointed and her record was without a flaw. The captain on the bridge was proud of her and of her record, and every sailor on the deck was glad to be aboard. She was a fast boat, and she was safe, and she was a delight for comfort. Ah, sir, you should have seen her then” (and the old sailor’s eyes were moist and his voice broke) . “And what is more, it hurts me to see her out there stuck in the sand, her decks washed with the waves, her hull rusted and ugly, her furniture gone, her bridge and her decks deserted. It hurts me because I remember what she used to be, and it hurts me because of what she could be again. It’s a waste, sir, an inexcusable waste, to let her lie there so ugly and so helpless. If only they would come to her rescue, pull her back into deep water, and give her another chance. If they would do that, sir, she would give a good account of herself again.”
That is a picture of a man, made in the likeness of God, but now stuck in the sands of sin, broken by the waves of judgment, forsaken by angels and God, left to rot and to rust and to perish. The sight is forbidding, not only because of what he once was, but because of what he is still capable of becoming. No wonder a prophet like Jeremiah could ask that his head become a fountain of tears that he might sufficiently weep over a sight so deeply moving.