So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
- Genesis 1:27
The creation was all set – everything in its place, alive with everything necessary for flourishing. Do you wonder what it was like? I do! Yet… even as I wonder, I know the speculations of my mind fall far short, a pale and blurry guess that cannot begin to do justice to the reality, if indeed my imagination approaches the reality at all. Creation as it was in its first glory is simply inconceivable to a people accustomed to creation subjected to time, to sin and evil, and to death. We read the words, and ideas come to mind. Our ideas, however, will never be sufficient to the reality – will never fully grasp the magnitude of the actions of God as He created.
We are considering the meaning of marriage as understood in Christianity. What does the Bible teach about marriage? To understand Scripture more fully, Christians need to accept the rejection of Christian faith and biblical teaching in the West today, especially in the U.S. Over-confident in human knowledge, the wisdom of this age now permeates Christian belief and thereby distorts and twists Christianity into something new, something unrecognizable to Christians throughout history and even in the world today. We are the ones who need to be reminded (or to learn) what Christian life and faith truly are.
I make this point because, if you’re reading this, I think you are called to live and bear witness to a life of greater purpose and meaning, a richer life with depths of love and heights of joy, marked by the pain and suffering – yours or others – that inevitably comes when a people are lost in idolatry and falsehood. Additionally, as Christians, we need to relearn the truth about our humanity, about creation and all that exists, and about our God. Unless we first see these rightly, we cannot understand Christian marriage. Really, we cannot see or understand anything at all. Apart from the revelation of God – in Jesus Christ and in Scripture, in the inherited writings and the traditions that have carried Christian faith through the centuries – every idea of human beings is fanciful conjecture originating in finite minds aspiring to infinite greatness.
As oddly unrelated to marriage as these initial paragraphs may seem, my intent is to turn our minds from all we think we know and to open them to what the Scripture teaches. The influence of an overly contented and self-absorbed society too-confident in its intellectual advancements dilutes Christianity – what we believe and how we live. We forget that what we see is not all there is, that there was a time and place before us that we cannot imagine, and more importantly, there is a place beyond our imagining that awaits us. Tragically, mistakenly believing our knowledge has led us to a superior understanding than all the generations before us, we have lost the wonder, mystery, and beauty of life and creation itself and have limited ourselves to the mundane and fleeting on the visible horizon.
Thus, when I ask if you’ve ever wondered what God’s original creation was like, my hope is to draw you back into amazement and awe of our Creator, to a burgeoning awareness of how small and insignificant we are by comparison to the magnitude of Who God is. I want us to realize that, for however much we think we know, we can’t really grasp what God created or how. All human investigation of creation and all our conclusions about creation are of the fallen and broken existence we know, not of God’s original intended creation. Which leads me back to the question, have you ever wondered about the newborn creation? What was creation like as it awaited the image of God for its care and cultivation, for its order and direction?
We do not know. We cannot know – just as we do not and cannot know what the first male and female truly were in their innocence and purity. What is revealed to us in Scripture, especially in the first chapters of Genesis, should pique our interest, not invite our condescension. As Genesis 1 tells us, when the creation was complete and ready, God created the man and woman. They were the culmination of all that had been created, and yet, they were more. To them, in them, was bestowed the image of God Himself. Their appearance, their demeanor, their love, and their devotion to God are not obvious to people formed in sin and destined to die. The first man and woman were neither of those; rather, they were innocent creatures of life with no death in them.
The creation of human beings in Genesis 1 is not a different account than follows in Genesis 2. Rather, Genesis 1 can be likened to the long, wide-angle view while Genesis 2 is the zoom lens, detailed view. We will take a look at Genesis 2 another time, but for now, we want to understand what is revealed in Genesis 1. When God created His image, He created the one image in both male and female. This binary creation tells us several things: the first being that there is a male and a female. One wouldn’t think it was necessary to point that out, but these days, it is. God created human beings: male and female.
That leads to the second fact: if the image of God is found in both male and female, then His image is not tied to biology, per se. Rather, the biological creation reflects Who God is. This reflection is first expressed in our capacity to be God’s representative rulers in and over creation. As God is the King of kings, the God above all, through all, and in all, we are His reflection with the capacity for governing, something we see in myriad fallen forms today and historically. There are a host of other qualities that come with being the reflection and image of God. Human beings possess capacities for such qualities as knowledge, imagination, love, and most wondrous of all, for communion with our Creator. The destiny of all human beings is communion and fellowship with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In keeping with the creative activity that came before, the first male and female were formed with the purpose of reproducing themselves, a task that could not then be done independently, just as it cannot now be done alone. The union of male and female is the necessary precondition to reproduction and is the means by which biology reflects Who God is. As God is the Creator, human beings participate with Him in creating new life. The physiology of human beings, of male and female, reveals the intentional complementarity of male and female in their design. God created and continues to create with intent and purpose. We are not an accident. Nothing that exists is an accident.
As in every dimension of imaging God, the male and female remain equal, but they also remain different. They possessed equally the capacities of God, Who is Spirit and Truth, but we cannot really know how those capacities expressed themselves. That means we do not understand the absence of competition between the pre-fall male and female. “Who is most important?” or “which is best?” were not yet questions human beings would ask. No struggle for power over the other would exist because the need to control and dominate one another is a product of sin, not of design. God, Who has power and authority over all of creation, does not seek to subjugate humanity. To the contrary, He laid down His life to save humanity and thereby all creation. Always, the awareness of the differences between creatures of life and creatures of death needs to be part of our thought and our understanding. Who we are now is not what God designed and intended when He created the first male and female. We are flawed and broken, full of sin and frequently tolerant of evil, if not its unwitting accommodators.
More can be said – and will be when we turn to Genesis 2 – but for now, it is enough to see the intentionality of human life in God’s creation of male and female. Together, they were to rule over the created world and to bring order to it. Also together, they were to be fruitful and to multiply – filling the earth. These are the most basic teachings of Christian faith regarding human beings – our origins, our lives, our being, our purpose, and such. Every facet of human existence is layered with complexity and revealed to us in the Scriptures, but our fundamental understanding begins here, with Genesis 1.
We are swimming in an ocean of thought that is antithetical to everything written above. But knowledge apart from God is limited and skewed, and it certainly cannot be wisdom because it lacks the humility of human limitation. The reigning values in our society are not the obvious fact of male and female, nor is the ability to co-create new life with God considered a blessing, at least not among the most prominent voices of society. But we must learn to discern what is accurate in what we hear, and we need to be able to see what is false. Above all, we need to measure everything we hear by the Gospel that is revealed to us, not by human standards.
To say today that “all human beings are equal because they are made in God’s image” is racist (or something) according to the standards of the thought police of the moment. We have to accept that, just because someone or somebodies do not like an idea does not make the belief untrue. The only thing that has given value and dignity to human beings is the conviction that we are made in God’s image and loved by Him. The same can be said of Christian marriage and Christian perspectives on male and female. Just because others – or even we ourselves – do not like the teaching does not make it less true.
Recently, I came across an article written about 20 years ago in which, based upon new discoveries about sexual formation at a molecular level, the author concluded that there are multiple genders. But this is precisely the type of knowledge that masquerades as an advancement when it is nothing of the sort. Scientists may have made a new discovery about molecular development, but that same molecular development has been going on for millennia in billions of people irrespective of what they did or did not know about molecules. Therefore, the new knowledge, helpful as it may or may not be, does not lead to any new conclusion. People are kind of wonky – broken and flawed with varying degrees of masculinity or femininity. That has always been true. Only in a miniscule percentage of any given population is there a biological combination of male and female, molecules notwithstanding.
The most important thing the Church, the Body of Jesus Christ, can do for our world today is to stand faithfully and confidently in the revealed Gospel we have inherited. The intellectual and influential voices of today are not coming up with new knowledge that falsifies all that we have known from the beginning of time. Nor has science, technology, or medicine disproved the reality of God. Some of the actors in these fields have merely provided evidence for the inevitable disorder and delusion that come when we deny our Creator, as if we needed any more.
The attempt to collapse male and female into a singularity, for example, is not only a superficial illusion DNA will not finally allow, but it is the assumption that each human being is individually sufficient unto him/herself. This effort is so very human, for it is the effort to make each individual fully autonomous, containing all s/he needs within the self. The destiny of a life so lived is not complete freedom, but utter isolation.
Even so, we walk a fine line between truth and grace. While we must hold onto truth, we also are called to have compassion for others and understanding of the human condition. The two cannot be separated. Our Lord was “full of grace and truth,” for us, and we each should be profoundly grateful. The grace and truth that come to the human race in Jesus Christ are the restoration of creation as it was intended and vastly more as the children of God, adopted heirs born of the Spirit. Christ’s salvation never ceases to be offered and is never withdrawn by God, only rejected by human beings. To the extent we image the grace and truth of Christ, we offer salvation to this generation, these people at this time.
This is the highest calling of every Christian, even as we struggle against the sin that plagues us: to live fully the image of God, extending the saving grace and truth of Jesus Christ to everyone we meet.
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau
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