An excerpt from: ‘GOOD GOD!Gaining a Fresh Perspective on Evil, Evolution and the Purposes of God’ by Derek J. White (2019)
Alas Poor Adam
God, according to current interpretations of evolution, would have (NB.time reference is obviously rhetorical as God is outside of time.) had no idea what ‘Natural Selection’ would have thrown up. Mankind may, should Natural Selection have ‘dictated’ otherwise, have been an entirely different species—even octopuses (Greek: octopodes). This potential outcome is presumably not an issue for those who adhere strictly to a ‘theistic-evolutionary’ account of this particular byproduct i.e. humankind. However, it is the case that the argument for the arrival of Homo sapiens would nevertheless obtain: We are meant to be here in spite of the uncertain nature of the evolutionary process. God Knows!
According to Genesis 1:26-27 ‘Mankind’ (referring, I suggest, to more than simply a genetic profile) was made in the image of his creator and given dominion (responsibility for) Creation.
For the Apostle Paul, Christ is the image of God—“the firstborn over all creation…” (Colossians 1:15). Note also in 2 Corinthians 4:4 the apostle refers to the image of God which is in Christ. Ergo Christ is the, de facto, image of God. So Christ is the new Adam—or rather the ‘renewed Adam’. The point is that if Scripture is referring to a new or renewed ‘Adam’ we can suppose that there was indeed an original ‘Adam’. Being made in the image of God doesn’t mean that humans somehow are ‘god-lookalikes’—neither does it, necessarily, refer to a ‘functionality’ with, a little more status than paid employees—but rather that mankind has something within him that separates him from all other living creatures.
Richard Middleton (The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1) argues that the image referred to in Genesis is of vocational ‘calling’—that the ‘ascendancy of Homo sapiens’ (some three billion years after the creation of the biosphere) allowed the creator God to employ our particular species—particularly in the work of caring for the planet. One might wonder however what benefits there may have been with regards to this particular contract of employment. Moreover, one might further wonder how surprised ‘God’ may have been to observe the ‘arrival’ of Homo sapiens if the arrival of our species was out of ‘pure chance’ rather than out of ‘design’.
The ‘Breath of Life’ mentioned in the second chapter of Genesis (2:7) seems to me to indicate something more than physical genesis but rather an indication that there is some kind of imputation to that which is physical. Adam resembled God in having a free, rational, Personal Spirit, including a conscience with God’s law written upon his heart (Romans 2:14-16), therefore he would rule over nature in a way similar to how God reigns. The Targums (the ancient Aramaic interpretation of the Hebrew Bible) explain Adam’ rational, personal spirit in Genesis 2:7, ‘and it (the breath of life) became in man as a spirit that speaks.’ Adam, in contrast with the animals, could reason, converse, and fellowship with other human beings. But most important, because Adam resembled God spiritually, he could fellowship with God…The single most important aspect of Adam’s creation is that he was created in the image of God and his nature bears that image…Whatever position is taken as to the meaning of the image, scholars agree that the essential meaning is plain—that is in some way and in some degree like God.
(Adam And The Image Of God)
Though this is not the place to develop the argument further, it seems to me that much of the thinking surrounding the meaning of the image of God in mankind is tailored to fit the scientific theory rather than a detailed response to either Scripture of philosophical reasoning—most importantly, Scripture. My particular view, in contrast to that of Middleton et al is that there is indeed so much more to the human species than that of the ‘horizontal’ or the material—in that there is more to the advent of mankind than being the result of a purely natural process and an equally material future—even in a ‘new heaven’ and on a new/refurbished earth. Moreover, surely there is more to the future direction of mankind—both relational and functional—than that of the role of planetary caretaker. Should there be a connection with God’s plans and intentions for the creature made in God’s image and the rebellion of angels then it is likely that this particular insurrection has to do with God’s plans and ‘eternal’ intentions for the ‘treasure in the jars of clay’ (2 Corinthians 4:7)—even the sons of Adamah.
The culmination of God’s creative activity in Genesis 1 was the creation of mankind (1:26-28). God formed mankind as imago Dei (“image of God”) and thus conferred upon humanity the status of rulers of the earth under the sovereignty of God. God gave mankind a privileged status over the created order. This purpose for humanity’s creation is distinct from other Near Eastern creation accounts. In Mesopotamian myth, the gods created mankind simply to do the labour assigned by the deities.
(Against The Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament)
According to Genesis 1:26-27, God confers upon Adam [H]is image and as a result bestows upon Adam dignity, glory, dominion and blessing. This, I suggest has ‘glorious’ potential rather than servitude—even in the best of environs.