Building on the Foundations
Arguably, Genesis 1:26–31 is the most foundational text for society and human flourishing that can be found in the Bible, or in any other sacred text. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the social upheaval we have been living through for so many years is not random but specific and targeted at the foundational principles God laid down for humanity in Genesis. I’m not claiming that there is a grand conspiracy hatched in a smoke-filled room by certain maniacal bond villains to upend Western society, although I don’t doubt that there is a certain elite class that benefits and profits from social chaos. After all, Psalm 2 recognizes that the nations and the people plot against God and his Christ (Ps. 2:1–3). What I am saying is that whether we’re talking about the elite or the common man, the spirit of the age is anti-God, anti-Christian, and anti-human. Every cultural agenda seems to be aligned against God’s commandments found in this text. If we as Christians would struggle against the cultural currents of this wicked and perverse generation, I submit that we must affirm and embody the values and truths that God pronounces here.
Genesis 1:26–31 teaches truths that our culture has lost sight of. It teaches us that we are made in God’s image. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). We are made in his image and likeness, both male and female. Here are taught both the distinction between the sexes and their inherent unity as God’s image bearers. It goes without saying that this is increasingly one of the truths hardest attacked in our culture, even while in some ways, the difference between the sexes is one of the most self-evident facts of reality. However, what is not so self-evident is the holiness of this distinction and how it reflects God’s image. Just as God is unity in triunity and triunity in unity, so we are distinct as male and female and yet one humanity made in God’s image. This is a revealed truth. As Christians, we must consciously honor this distinction and maintain it in our lives, families, and communities.
The second truth revealed here is that God blessed the union of man and woman for the purpose of human reproduction and flourishing. “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it,…” (Gen. 1:28a). God made the woman for man and the man for the woman, blessing them. That blessing is realized in reproduction. This wicked and perverse generation tells us that kids are optional, that we have too many people on the planet, that this world is too messed up to bring a child into it, and that kids, if we do have one or two, are meant to serve our own personal goals and fulfillment. We are told that almost any other goals are more important than marrying in and having children. We need education, a house, a good job, savings; we need to travel, have experiences that kids will keep us from having. We are told that kids can wait. And so, people do. Even Christians seem to be postponing marriage and children. It just isn’t a priority. To top this off, the cultural fight over abortion is a fight over the future of our race (the only race that exists, the human one) and our societies. All of these things are directly contrary to God’s blessing upon us in marriage and fruitful reproduction, which are part of his design for humanity. If we as Christians are to successfully resist the anti-human values of our culture, we need to celebrate marriage and children by encouraging both in our communities, families, and lives.
The third foundational truth found in this text is that God made us stewards of his creation. The creation belongs to him but he has given it to us that we might work it, improve it, benefit from it, and steward it for our good and his glory. “and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28b). It has been suggested that humanity is a virus and a cancer on the earth, that our very presence is destructive to nature. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am not saying that we haven’t damaged our world. The Bible also teaches that sin is the source of our ecological problems. We do overuse, abuse, and often act as though the world were ours and not God’s. However, this ignores the historical reality that humanity is net positive for the creation, and this is how God intended it to be. We were created for to exercise godly dominion over the creation. It was created for us and by work we are meant to flourish here. All agendas that prioritize the planet over humanity are opposed to God’s blessings and intentions for humanity and creation. Genesis also teaches us the goodness of human labor. Work is not part of the curse, but a God-ordained part of our existence. Christians can fight the anti-human spirit of the age by emphasizing vocation, work, and the goodness of God’s creation and our place in and over it.
Much more could be said. What we should recognize is that the world aligned in rebellion against God makes its priorities in opposition to God’s, and this is clearly seen in contrast to God’s foundational blessing upon humanity in Genesis 1:26–31. What the world calls a blessing is a curse, up is down, black is white, wet is dry, and so on. It’s all inverted. While one person or church can hardly turn the tide of the whole Western world, we must recognize that together Christians form a powerful force capable of transforming the world. First, we need to recognize the lies that we have been taught and have believed and believe God instead. And then we need to affirm and live out his truth in our individual lives, families, and communities.