“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.” Roman 8:9
“For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God… Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now…”Romans 8: 19, 21,22
Last week I began with the fact that you may experience and come to understand the Image of God in which you are created not through introspection or contemplation, not as some piece of yourself that you may take a look at in the mirror, but rather that when you actually, consciously and intentionally buckle down to being a Christian and get serious about living attentively, intelligently, and responsibly in every piece of life – when you do that (and as I said last week frankly no one can do it for you) you experience yourself appropriating the Image of God living attentively, intelligently, and responsibly in the world. I am saying that when you do that you live true to yourself, an authentic Christian, the genuine article, and you live true to God without whom there is no truth and there would be no you.
Remember the Image of God in which we are created, identifies us ontologically, it is who we are as human beings; the Image of God is not an add-on to human nature, it is not even a gift of grace to humanity, but rather it is the sine qua non of human nature. There is a sense in which everything is a gift of grace including our very being and that would include our distinctiveness in creation, but that is not the point I am making. The point is that there is no such thing as human nature apart from the Image of God; it is the chief mark of our identity a human beings. It is precisely what separates us from the rest of creation. It is why we write books, create music, invented the organ upon which we play the music other human beings have created – it is why we make television shows and write scripts about Animal Planet instead of being the subject one of its episodes. We furless primates have been sculpted from dirt and made in God’s image, which is the potency actualized to love and rule reasonably and responsibility over his creation. To repeat once again, as you appropriate the Image of God by consciously and intentionally increasing your activity of responsible living, forming responsible judgments that lead to responsible action, you will also achieve self-transcendence; you will discover afresh what it means to lose your life in order to find it. And to the degree that you consciously and intentionally appropriate the Image of God as the activities of attentiveness, intelligence, reasonableness and responsibility, and even more so with the refreshing of Holy Spirit, you will grow an authentic Christian life.
“For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God… Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now…” Romans 8: 19, 21,22
But it doesn’t take long to realize that we have not lived up to this great potency and power of being human. And it is clear that the whole creation has suffered because of us, for instead of being attentive we have taken every opportunity for distraction, instead of pursuing the hard earned fruit of intelligibility and instead of being honest and doing the hard work of verifying what we think may be true we have settled for half-truths and biases. It is no accident that good public relations specialists, who are essentially professional liars, are very well paid for their sins. We live with misrepresentation and false judgments and we have instructed others to do the same and in particular we have done so when it comes to the least among us in creation.
For example, American citizens have built an abortion industry that in the case of Planned Parenthood alone aborts around 300,000 pre-born children annually while generating $150,000,000 in taxable revenue, and as they will quickly tell you, also providing jobs. Furthermore, for years our nation has fueled our economy through war – either our own or the wars of other nations. According to a congressional report from 2001 – 2008 our nation made $154.8 billion in “weapon transfers” to developing nations. We are number one in the world. (Russia is #2 with a total of $63 billion in weapons sold.) And when we think about those two grievous issues it is understandable that many Christians do not even want to touch upon questions of the rest of creation – for example, how we obtain our food today – how animals are industrially bred and how their meaning has been reduced to a food source for us, or to our entertainment.
Yes, certain animals were consumed as food after the fall, but they were always more than food because their life’s blood was an essential part of the worship of God in Israel. Why was the blood of animals required for the worship of God? Because only blood would remind everyone that the price of man’s sin was life itself, blood itself, and only blood and never vegetation would signify the depth of man’s shame and disgrace and destruction. But it was not so in the beginning. When God brought the animals to Adam to name them, as one of mankind’s earliest exercises in dominion, God established through that action a bond of trust and familiarity between the creature and man. And the habit of naming continued after the fall and it became more specific as men gave names to their animals, a practice our Lord alludes to in John chapter 10 when he cites the fact that shepherds call their sheep by the name they had given them. Is it not remarkable that the sheep the shepherd and his family ate, the sheep that Abraham and Sarah ate, were in all probability known by name? I know it is remarkable to us, though it would not have been so even in the recent past. But today it is nearly unbelievable because we prefer our meat like our half-truths prepackaged and wrapped neatly in cellophane with an expiration date. (An example of this banality is the Anglosphere’s most recent money making industry of the New Atheism of Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens in which they dismantle their straw man version of Christianity never once touching upon a real theologian.) Of course the FDA’s ironic choice of the word “expiration” is another clear example of a distorted, a lying category since it refers not the animal that has already expired, but to our safe utilization of the animal – but now the FDA’s religion department has spoken a final word of truth to the citizen. However it was not so in the beginning. That relation of trust and familiarity that Adam knew was also inscribed in many of the laws of Israel, laws that focused on how food was to be obtained, how working animals were to be worked and treated, and how the animals that were used in the worship of God and for food for the people of God were to be raised, how they were to reproduce and how their young were to be care for and very specifically how they were to be killed and how they were to be treated after their death.
I have hardly touched upon anything exhaustively or even representatively of the plenary impact of our sin upon creation and other creatures, as well as our selves and our children. And this is made all the more difficult as I pointed out last week because of the darkness of the day in which we live. The reason this is so important – the reason I have repeated over and over again that the image of God is summed up in our activity of being attentive, being intelligent, being reasonable, and being responsible is just because we live in a time in history in which these essentially human activities are no longer thought to be valid or meaningful. All that matters today is this or that perspective and what has been lost is a belief that there is truth to be discovered and affirmed and acted upon. Look, a perspective is just a perspective, possibly a condition of truth, or a potential bit of evidence. But in this present darkness perspective is taken for understanding, equivalent to whatever remains of truth, which it is not: at best perspective is evidence, at worse perspective is bias. I am not interested in one perspective or the other; I am only interested in the knowledge of the truth. For that reason I want to make three quick points about truth:
First of all truth is independent of one’s understanding or knowledge. Truth is independent of my grasp of the truth. Secondly, human knowledge, human understanding of truth is achieved only when a judgment has been rendered based on verification. No verification, no human understanding. And thirdly, truth is meaning. There is no meaning apart from truth. If someone asks the question, “Whether it is true or not, what does the virgin birth mean?” the right answer is that it means absolutely nothing. To pretend that untruth is meaningful is nonsense, it is stupidity, and it is a madness that only the mentally ill and a few theologians affirm. If something is not real, it does not exist, if it does not exit it does not participate in being and therefore it has no meaning. But of course someone will say to me, “it might not mean anything to you but it may have profound meaning to someone else,” which would lead me to conclude that such a person has been deceived, or such a person is dim-witted because he has embraced non-being, technically that person is out of touch with reality – such a person has either been tricked or is delusional. If it isn’t true it has no meaning. What I am saying is true, it is objectively true, it is not merely my experience of things, it is absolutely verifiable, and it has meaning that is both wonderful and terrible.
This is what I want to say: God never abandoned his final cause for creation, which is most perfectly and beautifully, portrayed the Incarnation of his Son, which is the peaceable wedding of Heaven and Earth, of matter with Divinity in the one Person of Jesus Christ. In the Incarnation, in the life and Person of Jesus Christ we can know not only God’s purpose for creation but we also know Man in his proper role as God’s vicar, restored, beautified and ruling over creation. There are two duties of mankind as the vicar of God, two offices that only man is equipped to perform on behalf of creation: First of all man is to husband creation, husband her flowering, her decaying and her seedling through seasons of growth and seasons of rest enabling her to fulfill God’s final cause. Thus just as Jesus’ final action will not be an exercise of crude power and domination, but rather the final application of his of redemptive love, so we ought to imitate him now.
And that brings us to man’s second office, which is not merely to experience creation, but to delight in the beauty of creation, to be attentive to the creature, to understand her and to rightly judge the great value of creation to God himself; to give the creature what only we can give; to give to the creature what by nature she does not have – to be her chevalier, her priest, her poet, her voice and declare her beauty, her glory, and her worth before the Lord with the voice of joy, the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom:
“Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them… Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”