In this blog we will consider five quotes which offer us an understanding of what God intended for the humans He created. The first from scientist Leon Kass offers thoughts about what the book of Genesis says about what it is to be human.
“The first story [Genesis 1], addressing us as seekers of natural-cosmic knowledge, documents an eternal, intelligible, and hierarchic order of the world, in which we human beings stand at the top of the visible beings; the cosmos itself is not divine, for it has a higher, invisible, and partly mysterious source. Man, not the sun, is godlike: sufficient proof is contained in our mental ability to grasp the cosmology offered in the text. . . . Cosmic knowledge cannot… teach us righteousness, not least because—as we learn from the first story—the cosmos is neither divine nor a source of such moral-political teaching. And—as we will soon learn from the second story—our own native powers of mind and awareness, exercised on the world around us, are inadequate for discerning how to live happily or justly.” (THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM: READING GENESISM, p 57)
Genesis clearly presents that the human is not an omniscient, omnipotent being. We are a creation of such a God, but we ourselves are not God. However, we are created in God’s image and likeness and thus of all the material beings created by God humans are somehow more favored by Him and given unique gifts and talents. There are more powerful forces than us in the physical universe, but they each are also created and are not God. We do not worship any created thing as God. We have a free will and have to discern how to live in this world and to serve our creator. We are gifted with many talents and given great potential to attain God’s plan, but we also can choose not to fulfill our role and can even rebel against our Creator.
“In the early stories, the point was that the Creator loved the world he had made, and wanted to look after it in the best possible way. To that end, he placed within his world a looking-after creature, a creature who would demonstrate to the creation who he, the Creator, really was, and who would set to work developing the creation and making it flourish and fulfill its purpose. This looking-after creature (or rather, this family of creatures: the human race) would model and embody that interrelatedness, that mutual and fruitful knowing, trusting and loving, which was the Creator’s intention. Relationship was part of the way in which we were meant to be fully human, not for our own sake, but as part of a much larger scheme of things.” (NT Wright, SIMPLY CHRISTIAN, p 37)
As already noted, we humans were created with a specific role to fulfill on earth. Consciousness, free will and conscience are bestowed upon us by our Creator so that we can work with God in synergy to fulfill God’s plan. Metropolitan Kallistos reminds us of the task bestowed upon us by our Creator.
“Our human vocation, however, is not only to contemplate the creation but also to act within it. We do not merely gaze with double vision; there is work for us to do. Adam in Paradise did not simply wander through the groves and avenues, admiring the view like an eighteenth-century English gentleman; the Creator set him in the garden of Eden “to till it and to look after it” (Gen. 2:15). How, then, shall we define our active human role within this sacred and sacramental universe?” (Toward an Ecology of Transfiguration: Orthodox Christian Perspectives on Environment, Nature, and Creation, Kindle Loc. 2104-7)
Metropolitan Kallistos continues:
“Our human task, as St. John Chrysostom (c. 407) expresses it, is to be syndesmos and gephyra, the “bond” and “bridge” of God’s creation. Uniting earth and heaven, making earth heavenly and heaven earthly, we reveal the spirit-bearing potentialities of all material things, and we disclose and render manifest the divine presence at the heart of all creation. Such was the task assigned to the First Adam in Paradise, and such—after the Fall of the First Adam—is the task eventually fulfilled by the Second Adam Christ, through His incarnation, transfiguration, crucifixion, and resurrection. How precisely do we human animals exercise this unifying and mediatorial role? The answer: through thankfulness, doxology, Eucharist, offering. This brings us to a fifth characteristic of the human animal: it is a Eucharistic animal, an animal capable of gratitude, endowed with the power to bless God for the creation, an animal that can offer the world back to the Creator in thanksgiving. (Toward an Ecology of Transfiguration: Orthodox Christian Perspectives on Environment, Nature, and Creation, Kindle Loc. 2162-70)
The human’s place in creation is amazing – we are to be the bridge between the visible and invisible creation, between the physical and the spiritual, between the mortal and the immortal, and between all the created world and the eternally divine.
“According to St. Maximus, man’s primary mission was to unite Paradise with the rest of the earth, and thereby to enable all other created beings to participate in the conditions of Paradise. Thus Adam was to enable all other creatures to participate in the order, harmony and peace of which his own nature benefitted because of its union with God, and this included the incorruptibility and immortality he received. But once Adam turned away from God, nature was no longer subject to him. Following Adam’s sin, disorder established itself between the beings of creation as it did within man himself.” (Jean-Claude Larchet, THE THEOLOGY OF ILLNESS, p 31)
The human was created to do all that Israel was called to do and all that Jesus Christ fulfills.
“When God gave our forefather Adam dominion over the earth and its fullness, that act was a prophecy of the universal subjection of creation to the reign of Christ. Such is the true meaning of Psalm 8: ‘You have made Him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under His feet.’
Christ is no afterthought; He is the original meaning of humanity. Christ is what God had in mind when He reached down and formed that first lump of mud into a man. Again in the words of St. Nicholas Kavasilas: ‘It was towards Christ that man’s mind and desire were oriented. We were given a mind that we might know Christ, and desire, that we might run to Him; and memory, that we might remember Him, because even at the time of creation it was He who was the archetype.’” (Patrick Reardon, CHRIST IN THE PSALMS, p 16)
Jesus Christ is the perfect human, fulfilling what humanity was fully capable of being from the beginning.