Full Text for Dogmatics 1- Volume 48 - What sets man apart from other creatures? (Video)

dogmatics 48 Captioning provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 ******** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ******** >> Clearly human creatures are special in the story of creation. What sets man apart from other creatures? >> Yes, Nick, human beings do have a special place in the story of creation; and for that matter, in the entire biblical story. In other words, human beings are major characters in the story that the Bible tells, along with, of course, God, God's Son, God's spirit and the like. Now, as characters in the story, they are the special objects of God's attention and God has special dealings with them. In other words, the story of the Bible brings out a relationship between God and humankind. It's about God's disposition towards us. It's about God's dealings with us and with our disposition towards Him in our dealings with Him. It isn't centered on God and the entire universe as much as it is with God and us. And this is seen from the beginning, brings it to a climax with the incarnation then on to the expectation of the new creation. Now, what sets human creatures apart? Even from the story of creation, as you can -- you have mentioned, even in the story of creation human beings have a special place. In Genesis 1 we can see that they're made in a special way and for a special purpose. That special way and that special purpose are brought out in the first chapter of Genesis, where God said: Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. And that's exactly what God did. So God created man in His own image. In the image of God He created Him, male and female, He created them. In other words, we can see that the uniqueness of human creatures is found in that God made them in the special way; namely, in His image and likeness. So, an obvious follow-up question is: Well, what is the image of God in us? What is the image of God in human creatures? Now, this question has bench debated and discussed. One reason is that the Bible itself uses language of "image of God" and "like God" and "likeness to God" in ways that can't be easily reconciled. But at any rate, in the Lutheran tradition, the doxology to the Augsburg confession uses the term in a particular way. Humankind was formed in the image and likeness of God. What else does this mean except that a wisdom and righteousness that would grasp God and reflect God was implanted in humankind. That is, humankind received gifts like the knowledge of God, fear of God and the like. The doxology goes on to show that Paul and some of the the ancient theologians understood the image of God in just this way. The discussion takes place in the article on original sin, and it goes to say that what was lost through the fall, what was lost in sin was the image of God, which is the original righteousness and holiness that Adam and Eve possessed. Now, this understanding of the image of God, this way of using the expression the "image of God" is based especially on what St. Paul says in both Colossians 3 and in Ephesians 4, Paul speaks about putting off the old self, the sinful self, and speaks about being renewed as being made like God. So, Paul speaks about the new self as being in the image of its creator and being created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Now, Lutherans all agree about this notion or this use of the language "image of God," but they have disagreed about whether we can speak about the image of God in all human beings after the fall. This disagreement is rooted especially in the use of language like "image Of God" in Genesis 9 and James 3. So let's look at those passages. Now, Genesis 9, which takes place after the flood, is concerned to outlaw and to punish murder. And the reason for this is because man has been made in the image of God. Genesis says: Whoever sheds the blood of man by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God has God made man. James 3 is also concerned with harm, in this case with the harm that our words can do to others who, as James says, have been made in God's likeness. Now, the disagreement is over whether the scriptures are speaking of the image of God that was lost through sin and is then renewed in those who are saved, or whether the Bible is speaking about the image of God in a way in which we can speak of the remainder in human beings, even after the fall, whether they are renewed or not. And those who would want to speak about the image of God in this way often speak about or often point out that even sinners retain reason and intellect, which are unique human properties and properties like that of God. Now, in the end, at least among Lutherans, there is usually little material disagreement. In other words, those who would say that the "image of God" is that which was lost and let's not speak about image of God in all people after the fall, will still of course maintain that human beings have reason and intellect and will. While those who want to use the notion or the term "image of God" in both a narrower sense to refer to righteousness and holiness that was lost and then given again in those who are being saved, as well as in a wider sense to include things like reason and intellect, recognize that after the fall righteousness has been lost. Now, I said at the beginning that the story of creation brings out a twofold uniqueness that God made human beings in a special way and then also for a special purpose. We have talked about the special way being made in the image and likeness of God, and let's talk about that special purpose, which is to have dominion over creation. Genesis puts it this way: After He made them, God blessed them and said to them: Be fruitful and increase in number. Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of air, and over every living creature that moves on the ground. Then God said: I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth, and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground, everything that has breath of life in it I give every green plant for you. And it was so. The special purpose given to human beings in creation is to have dominion over the earth, over the creatures on the earth. And this is brought out also in other places, especially in psalm 8. When I consider your heavens the work of your finger, the moon and the stars which you have set it place, what is man that you are mindful of Him, the Son of man that you care for Him? You made Him a little lower than the heavenly being, and crowned Him with glory and honor. You made Him ruler over the works of your hands. You put everything under His feet, all flax and herds and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the sea. So the purpose or the special purpose or the special place is, as we say, to have dominion over creation. Now, the notion of being rulers or having dominion over the works of God's hands is, though, often misunderstood or wrongly applied, especially with the idea that creation is there for us to use as we please. Moreover, there have been and there will continue to be disagreements over just what having dominion in the biblical sense means. And then what steps over the line into careless use or into exploitation? You know, in our time, this comes up with issues like cutting timber or using pesticides or where we should drill for oil, with issues like pollution and global warming, with farming practices, with fishing, those sorts of things. Now, while there is no simple or easily agreed upon resolutions to many of these situations, the Christian understanding of having dominion, which should always be heeded by Christians, might be clarified by connecting it with the notion of the image of God. In other words, another way to speak about being made in the image of God is that human beings were made to image God. Image then is not so much what you have as much as what you do. We are made to be like God to creation. Ruling over the fish of the seas and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground and being made ruler over God's work is what it means to have dominion over creation. And the pattern for our notion of dominion should be like that of God. Now, God's rule is always one of constant care and concern. God's rule flows out of goodness. We have talked about that already, when speaking about the first article of the catechism. God watches over us, God has concern for us. And why does He do this? Out of His goodness and His mercy. Refusing to have dominion in this way, then, is really a kind of idolatry. It's refusing to hear God and follow His word. It's refusing to be like God towards other things. To some extent, if I could pick up a little bit more on this, to some extent this is already brought out in other parts of the catechism, especially the fourth commandment in the large catechism. The fourth commandment, you remember, is honor your Father and your Mother. What is it to honor? Luther brings that out in the large catechism. And to honor is more than to love. To honor is to esteem, to honor is to give a place of honor, and the reason for doing that is not really what your parents do or the civil authorities actually do, but because of the place they have from God. In other words, they have been given by God to be God's means of being good to you. And for that reason, they should be held not only in love, but in honor. You might say we should fear and love them, just as we should, in a sense, fear and love God. Not, again, because of what they do but because of the place that God has given them. You can see in this then the notion in Luther's catechism that human beings are means by which God is good to others, in which God provides. And the notion of imaging or being like God we can find in our catechisms itself. But to sum up then, from the story of creation what is special about human beings is that they're made in a special way, in the purpose, to --