Sunday, May 16, 2010

Existence in confrontation, differentiation, and relationship

What does it mean that we are "made in the image of God"?
Genesis 1:27 states

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

Karl Barth (as can be expected) has an original and stimulating exegesis (Church Dogmatics 3.1, pp. 194-195), that first engages with W. Vischer who stated
"man is the eye of the whole body of creation which God will cause to see his glory; that all creation aims at the confrontation of God and man and the inconvertible relationship between Creator and creature"
Barth then concedes
It cannot be contested that in the wider literary context, of which the biblical creation history is the first part, is not interested in man in abstracto, in his soul or spirituality, in his body or even in the superiority which he certainly enjoys over all other creatures, but in the future partner of the covenant, the kingdom and the glory of God, in the true counterpart of God, in the earthly subject, addressed and treated by God as a "Thou", of a history which begins with the creation and continues right up to the end of time.
but says there must be more to it than just the "I-Thou" confrontation but there is also a dimension of "differentiation and relationship". Barth then engages with Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
"Man is distinguished from other creatures by the fact that God himself is in him, that he is the image of God in which the free Creator sees himself reflected.... It is in the free creature that the Holy Spirit calls upon the creator; uncreated freedom is worshiped by created freedom...."
But this created freedom finds expression in the fact,
" that that which is created is related to something else created; that man is free for man".
It is expressed in a confrontation, conjunction and inter-relatedness of man as male and female which cannot be defined as an existing quality or intrinsic capacity, possibility of structure of his being, but which simply occur. In this relationship which is absolutely given and posited there is revealed freedom and therefore the divine likeness. As God is free for man, so man is free for man....
...the image and likeness of the being created by God signifies existence in confrontation, i.e., in this confrontation, in the juxtaposition and conjunction of man and man which is that of male and female
Barth then goes on the emphasize the notion of "differentiation and relationship," and the key feature of us being made in the "image of God" is reflected in our existence as men and women.

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