Monday, November 22, 2010

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Man

For the past several months, the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 has led us to think deeply about the doctrine of God and especially the Divine Trinity – 1 God in 3 Persons unified yet at the same time separate.  Now the BF&M 2000 forces us to now consider the Doctrine of Man known as Anthropology.  The BF&M 2000 states:

Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image. He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation. The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation. In the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation. Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfill the creative purpose of God. The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.

The confession of faith essentially says two things – one theologically the other culturally and morally – that force us to address them theologically and biblically.  First is the creation of man itself.

The first sentence sums up the basic Christian understanding of anthropology: Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image.  Understand the depth of that statement and everything else will make sense.  Man stands as the climax of creation and most closely resembles God (though clearly not God is many and most respects).  Whatever made in the His own image may mean (and theologians disagree), we can at least admit that human life is special, unique, and on a level unmatched by any other creature.

At the same time, and as the BF&M 2000 makes clear, though Man was created in the image of God, that special creation was divided into two genders: male and female.  Both are made in God’s image.  Both are equal and both are the crowning jewels of God’s creation.  However, they are both different in many ways.  It is tempting at this point to erase that last sentence.  In a culture like ours, it is simply unpopular and even offensive to state that men and women are different.  Anyone married for 15 minutes, however, can tell you what we all naturally know: men and women are different.  But, just as both genders are equal in status and both are unique creations of God made in His image, God is most glorified whenever we maximize how He has created us.  Only the Christian faith makes sense of this.  In other words, God is glorified in both masculinity and femininity.  God rejoices at the differences in the two equal genders for He created us as we are.  So instead of turning men into wimps or castigating boys for being boys, let us celebrate each other knowing that though we are different, we are equal & God is glorified for that.

This all leads to why we have such debates in the first place.  Sin has entered our universe and with sin came the Curse.  Man and woman were perfect at one point until we sought to dethrone God.  At that point, the world began to spin out of control.  Death, decay, cancer, factions, selfishness, droughts, and divisions replaced what was once the perfect world we can only dream of today.  Once we thought of ourselves instead of God, we became slaves to sin.  And it continues to this day.

It is at this point that the BF&M 2000 picks up on the second aspect of Anthropology.  The first was more theological, the second – driven out of that theology – more cultural and moral.  Clearly the BF&M 2000 has in mind issues regarding life like abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, murder, and other issues regarding life and the taking of life.  As Christians we would also add rape, violence, injustice, and other social issues such as poverty and crime to the equation as well.

How the theology affects our morality should be obvious.  If man is created in the image of God and thus has inherent dignity, then to take innocent life is morally repugnant.  In Genesis 9 God clearly states that any forms of murder is evil because the life of an image bearer of God is being taken.  Being the author and creator of human life, only God reserves the right and authority to determine our days from conception to death.  The BF&M 2000 goes into some detail surveying this issue.  Human life, at its conception, has a level of dignity unmatched by any other creatures and thus ought to have the full rights that any other born human being in a society. Life is precious because it originates with God.  To take the life of an innocent human being, made in the image of God, is an attack on God Himself. 

As a result, the many moral and ethical issues along with the many cultural debates we have in this country aren’t trivial issues, but are theological issues.  They are gospel issues.  Let us not forget that the One who created us didn’t stop at the Curse in Genesis 3, but proceeded to Calvary where He bled and died in our behalf.  If life had no value, then please explain calvary.  Anthropology, then, is a gospel issue and we must, as always, return to the gospel in all that we say, do, believe, and vote.

For more:
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - Introduction
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - Scripture
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God
This is Who We Are  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Father
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Son 
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Spirit  

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