Friday, August 11, 2006

The Honor of Humanity Part 1 - In the Image and Likeness of God

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on his apologetics series on The Honor of Humanity Part 1 on 30th July 2006

Some revision over the previous topic:

Our thought and reason are not qualified to understand all truth. It is not normal for our mind to understand all truth. It is very normal that we cannot understand all because we are so finite. But if we could understand just a portion, we would be greatly helped in our lives.

Science is not equal to the truth. The truth is greater than science. The truth will never change while science is always changing. And life is greater than science. Science wants to understand life but is still very limited in the scope that it can reach. Recently there is great development in genetic coding but this is only an attempt to understand what is already there. The creation of art, on the other hand, is inspiration of the time. It is the moment that cannot be repeated. Academics, however, only explain but do not create.

Arthur Schopenhauer said the world is the phenomena of the will. Many people do things not because they have thought through everything thoroughly. Often the will moves forward first and reason follows behind. We use our reason and academic backing to support our will.

Science is just following behind the truth and tries to understand what can be understood. When people develop natural science that damages the understanding of life, science can become a tool for evil. Science can create both constructive and destructive technology. The question of when to use and not to use and how to use is beyond the realm of science itself.

The topic today is on the honor of humanity. Humanity is the greatest topic, the greatest difficulty, the greatest enjoyment, the greatest mystery, the greatest importance and the greatest curiosity.

Augustine said that there were only two things he wanted to know in life. The first is to know God and the second is to know his own soul. Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? Humankind has been asking the same questions for 1300 years since Augustine.

Kant summarizes the essential knowledge of life into 4 parts:

1. What is man? This is anthropology.
2. How much can man know? This is epistemology.
3. What are the principles on which man should live by? This is ethics.
4. What hope does man have? This is religion.

Kant researched into all the four huge topics but died before he completed that last one. The root of this question can only be found in the Word of God.

We have already established that man is a special creation and is different qualitatively from all other creation. God said, “I will make man in My own image.” So the creation man has a different purpose from all other creation.

We can also see the book of Genesis from the book of Colossians. Man is higher than all other living beings. All things have been created for man and man is created for God. So between God and man, and man and things, there are to big gulfs. If we are clear about this order, we will not be easily confused in life.

In the book of Genesis, God did not say how He created, He simply said “Let there be…” and it was accomplished. So when God’s Word is pronounced, His will is manifested and His power accomplishes His will. The world comes into being because of His power.

In Genesis 1:26-27 God said, “Let Us make man in Our image and likeness.” Here the supremacy and sacredness of humanity is shown.

Many dictators assume they are different from the rest of humanity and treat them like objects because they do not know the dignity of humanity, the limit of human freedom and much less the responsibility of human beings before God. We can only understand this through God’s revelation of His creation.

Many people live their lives without knowing that they need to understand themselves and this is humanity's biggest problem.

God said, “Let US make man in our image.” Middle Eastern theology attempted to understand this “US” as majestic plural, which means that God is too big to use a singular term. This interpretation has a problem because God is conversing with Himself here.

Is it dialogue between God and other beings then? If angels are co-creators, then God is not the only Creator and this violates the Scripture principle.

This “US” is the communication among the Triune God. God said, “Hear, O, Israel, I am the LORD Jehovah, the ONLY GOD (Plural for more than 2 persons).”

John Paul Sartre explained existence in 2 areas: being in itself and being to itself. Being to itself means that we objectively view ourselves, so we become both the subject and the object and have self-dialogue with ourselves. This is a very important aspect of character building. We all have this experience with ourselves.

God manifested His will in creation and created man in His image and likeness. We can self-dialogue because we are made in God's image, God who self-dialogues with Himself.

When you see what man can make, his greatest achievement is his representative. For example, Mozart wrote a lot of symphonies but it is his works written in the last 3 years of his life that represented him more fully. His spirit is seen in all these works which are the mark of his entire character. It is like a shadow, a duplicate of his image. Similarly Kant is represented in his critique on philosophy, Beethoven is represented by his 3rd, 5th and 9th symphonies, and Shakespeare by Hamlet which is the climax of all his creativity.

Human being is the greatest of all His creation. God created many things and all creatures has a part of God's image in some ways but only human beings represented the whole image of God. All the potential hidden in man is the mark of God's ethics.

When we see a person, we see God's image. But do people really see God in us? What is God's image and likeness?

God is Spirit, how then can He have an image? We have to breakthrough the understanding of image and likeness beyond the concept of time and space. In Chinese, we often say someone is “不像样” (bu4 xiang4 yang4) but what is this “样” (yang4)? We use character, ethics and quality. So we say Confucius is the model, the “样” (yang4) for the Chinese. Other countries have their own heroes too, like Gandhi is the model for India. So who is the best example?

From the first chapter of Genesis, we are already shown that we are made in the image of God. Chinese has many words attached to “像”, but they all have something in common, that is, how to copy from the original. Image can be intangible. For example, character is intangible. We cannot limit it to the physical. There is also image of voice and sound, such that by hearing the voice of someone or the sound of footsteps, we already know who the person is. In this way, we have leapt into the intangible.

To understand the image of God, we need to understand through His Spirit. God is holy, just, loving, compassionate, kind and powerful. In all these qualities, we become the representation of God. Through Christ that God has given us, we can see God, as Christ is the image of the Invisible God.

But is there a difference between image and likeness? Generally they may refer to the same thing, but sometimes they are segregated and become another subject of study.

Jesus said that we are to follow His likeness. Yet there is no recording of how Jesus was like physically, so following Him must mean something else. With God's image within us, do we live our lives in His likeness?


At 4:19 PM, Anonymous Benjamin Ho said...

hope you are settling down well...and thankfully have access to Dr Tong's sermons via mp3 =)


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