God’s Image in Human Creativity and Spirituality

God’s Image in Human Creativity and Spirituality

Many people misunderstand what it means to be created in the image of God. If you think that God is an “old man in the sky,” then you probably believe that God looks like you. I have a whole shelf of children’s books that portray God as a caucasian, male, old white-bearded man in the sky. I have a few that show God as a man of color. I have one that shows Him as an oriental. All of these are dead wrong and can lead a child to misunderstand an essential concept that we are created in the spiritual image of God. God is not any racial, ethnic, sexual, or aged physical being (John 4:24). We know this is true because we see God’s image in human creativity and spirituality.

The March 2020 issue of Scientific American (page 70-73) carried an interesting article by Kateb Wong titled “The First Story.” She begins a report on new archeological discoveries by saying, “Homo sapiens is the only species known to make figurative art, engage in spiritual thinking, and convey fictional tales through imagery.” We suggest that this is true because humans are the only life-form created in the image of God. We see God’s image in human creativity and spirituality. We don’t see this ability developing gradually over a long period of evolutionary change. The article reports on cave paintings discovered by archaeologists on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

What the paintings describe is a hunt. Six hunters using ropes or spears confront a large buffalo. Nearby more hunters are attacking other buffalos and pigs. One of the hunters is a therianthrope, meaning a spiritual leader and similar to the minotaur of Greek mythology. The researchers suggest that the scene shows a communal hunting strategy or game drive in which prey are flushed from cover and driven toward other hunters. These paintings are high up in hard to reach caves, and they appear to be made for cultural and symbolic use.

These are the oldest artworks anthropologists have ever found that depict a story. They show the uniqueness of humans from their earliest days on Earth. When God excluded humans from the “Garden,” they left with no experience, tools, or data. They had to start at the very beginning of the learning curve, but their desire for self-expression artistically and spiritually was in full operation. These ancient drawings display God’s image in human creativity and spirituality.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

In the Spiritual Image of God

Spiritual Image of God shown in Cave Art in Sulawesi
The biblical definition of humans involves our being created in the spiritual image of God.

In April 2017, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published a study concerning areas in Indonesia where some of the oldest cave art has been found on the island of Sulawesi. (Pictured) In 2014, cave art was found that dated back to 40,000 years ago. The new study reports on remarkable pieces of handmade jewelry found in the same area dating back to 30,000 years ago. Jewelry pieces include beads and pendants.

The “image of God” in humans doesn’t refer to our physical appearance, but our capacity to engage in spiritual things–worship, music, art, using symbolism, feeling guilt, and being sympathetic. Artwork shows spiritual events and practices. Finding these artifacts so early in human history is a strong indication that it was not something that evolved as culture moved into the modern era. It was present in the earliest days of human existence.

The spiritual image of God cannot be observed directly because it is not a physical image. However, the evidence of a spiritual image is present in the earliest artifacts of human creations.
–John N. Clayton © 2017