Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.
From Genesis 1
Imago Dei (‘image of God’): A theological term, applied uniquely to humans, which denotes the symbolical relation between God and humanity.
I’ve been listening to a lot of a certain sports radio show I like, because the host is funny and creative and original. But almost every day he brings up racial disparities or issues, and often takes a very antagonistic and (I think) self-righteous tone. I like hearing from people I disagree with or who have a perspective different from mine, and I otherwise enjoy him, so I continue to listen. But after not being able to quite put my finger on why his angle was spiritually bugging me, I finally had a thought yesterday:
This guy seems to only take race into account.
And I kept thinking, as I drove home for lunch.
The secular worldview has to identify people by race, sexual attraction, gender, or economic strata. It must classify people in tangible or political or physiological groups. It’s bound to think of people as Asian or poor or rich or oppressed, because it has no room for the categories of saint and sinner, penitent and proud.
A mind that doesn’t take God into account when analyzing people will usually only weigh material things.
So, where the Bible would see Cam Newton as a uniquely made human man bearing the image of God and needing a Rescuer from his sins, the secular worldview (21st-century, Western secular worldview, anyway) sees him as some combination of heterosexual, black, rich, American, and famous.
My favorite radio host’s daily analysis of the sporting landscape wasn’t sitting right with me because he was downplaying individuals’ humanity by talking about them only in racial categories.
The same thing often comes into play when the secular perspective approaches raising children or counseling adults. Where a Biblical prism can take into account ADD and a sinful heart, a troubled childhood and a present-day idolatry, the secular way of looking at humans (and the world) has a limited number of categories at its disposal. It has ruled out certain truths from the outset, mainly that humans are embodied souls created in the image of their God and that they are sinners. So it cannot diagnose your child’s sin and his sleeping problems. And it cannot counsel the physical and sinful components of your lust or your anxiety. It must give me Ritalin or call me a victim; it has no class or heading for anything else.
Two important addendums:
- I am not saying Christians should only think spiritually because modern secularism thinks only physically/temporally. That’s Gnosticism, the ancient heresy that the physical is somehow bad in God’s eyes. I’m saying that the Christian can look at people and problems through a lens that brings both the physical/temporal and the spiritual into focus. In other words, Christians and materialists are not looking at separate pictures, one spiritual the other physical; Christians are looking at the whole picture, materialists only the frame.
- I am not saying that everyone who denies Jesus refuses to acknowledge sin, the imago dei, or the spiritual. I am maintaining, though (and vigorously) that the secular mindset or worldview does.
The Bible can give a fuller definition of “human” because the Bible is an account given to us from the One who authored humans. On the other hand, all you have to do is watch the news for a couple of days (or listen to my favorite sports show), and you’ll see that the dominant worldview in our day and place can only seem to group people and define them by economics and race and gender and sexual attraction and nationality. It can’t seem to probe into the heart, the sin, or the human’s created purpose.
It can’t give a full, composite picture of you, me, or Cam Newton.
If you take out the dei, it won’t be long before you lose the imago, too.