Sunday, July 15, 2007

Trinity & Church VI - The Relational Image

Continued from Part V

Just as it was not an undifferentiated divine monad that created humanity, so also it was not merely the human monadic individual that was made in the image and likeness of God. Not only do we have the “let us” in Gen. 1:26-27, but at the end of that passage we read “in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

The alternation between “him” and “them” as well as the “male and female” strongly supports an interpretation of the image that embraces man’s social life, the pairing of male and female being paradigmatic. Moreover, I agree with Francis Watson when he argues that Barth does not go far enough when he describes the image of God in a strictly dualistic fashion as male and female corresponding to Father and Son (Church Dogmatics 3/1, pp. 182-205). Watson argues that “it is preferable to speak of an open community at both the divine and human levels. The triune God seeks communion with the human other; correspondingly, male and female do not remain self-enclosed but are fruitful and multiply” (Text, Church, and World: Biblical Interpretation in Theological Perspective [Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1994], p. 150).

Just as God is essentially a relational being, so also man is ineradicably relational. Adam and Eve are who they are in relation to God and to one another. Walter Brueggemann notes, “On the one hand, mankind is a single entity. All human persons stand in solitary before God. But on the other hand, humankind is a community, male and female. And no one is the full image of God alone. Only in community of humankind is God reflected. God is, according to this bold affirmation, not mirrored as an individual but as a community" (Genesis [John Knox Press, 1982], p. 34).

Colin Gunton gives the following answer to the question, “In what sense are we like the triune God, while being ontologically totally other than he?”:
Likeness to God consists in the fact that human beings are persons while the remainder of the created world is not. We are in certain ways analogous to the persons of the Trinity, in particular in being in mutually constitutive relations to other persons. Who and what we are derives not only from our relations with God, our creator, but to those others who have made and continue to make us what we are. Just as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constitute the being of God, so created persons are those who, insofar as they are authentically personal—and we shall return tot his matter—are characterized by subsisting in mutually constitutive relations with one another. . . . Just as to be God is not to be an individual, so to be man, as male and female, is to be created for life in community (The Triune Creator: A Historical and Systematic Study [Eerdmans, 1998], p. 208).

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