Monday, June 09, 2008

A Kingdom of Priests, Part 1

In Genesis 1 we read of the creation of humanity in the image of God. The imago Dei has been a point of contention throughout the history of interpretation. My own take on it is what I call a 'plenary' view of the image. That is, I'm prepared to fill a lot of content into the idea, rather than make a reductionistic claim that the image amounts to one and only aspect of the being of human.

Gen 1:26 Then God said, "Let us make humanity in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion...."

Two aspects of the image I wish to highlight in this initial post.

1) Image means the mediating presence of a sign for the absent signified.

That is humanity functions to represent the presence of God, by the presence of the image of God, even with the absence of God. This, I believe, undergirds a theology of presence that is persistent in the Bible. There are a number of senses in which God is present/absent in the world. This is evident when you consider the doctrinal formulation of God as omnipresent - there is a sense in which God is present to, or in, every part of creation. Yet, exegetically, we are forced to reckon with particular presences of God, such as in Gen 3 where it is recorded that God walked in the Garden. This forms the basis of a theology of presence linked to the ark, the tent, the temple, and to a theology of absence in the departure of the glory of God from the temple, as seen in Ezekiel.

2) Image means the mediating dominion of God through his regents.

Regent is a useful word. Probably more useful than 'steward' in some ways. Stewardship is a lovely term bandied around because Christians are eco-sensitive and understand dominion in terms of responsibility to the Creator. Which is right, but often just a weak formulation. Regents rule in the stead of another. I take it from Gen 1:26 that part of the import of the image is that humanity is given a rule over the creation, that resembles (images) God's rule, just as they image God as King.

The Image as Mediation and Dominion expresses itself in the second creation account Gen 2:4ff. There we see the proto-man, Adam, placed in the garden to work it. What is the work given to Adam (& to his 'helper', ie, his co-worker in the primordial mission, Eve)? It is to work Eden, which is the particular place of God's presence (cf., temple) in the world, and to multiply and fill the earth. Mediation and Dominion express the mission in pre-Fall terms as the expansion of the garden of Eden, the paradisical Temple of God's presence, to include what is outside-the-garden: a world which lacks the dominion and mediation of the God-image-bearers.

Creation without humanity is not Edenic, it's extra-Edenic. I speculate that Adam & Eve, apart from the Fall, would have fulfilled a creation-mandate to reproduce image-bearers and expand the garden to fill the earth, thus filling the earth with God's particular dominion and particular presence in the image-bearers he has created.

No comments: