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

Reaction to the Euthanasia Article

Reaction to the Euthanasia Article

Yesterday we discussed the push for euthanasia in secular society. We have received a massive reaction to the euthanasia article. Several people have asked what states in the U.S. allow assisted suicide. In addition to Washington, D.C., those states are California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

We received information about Professor Theo Boer, a Dutch ethicist who was a major supporter of the Netherlands’ 2002 Euthanasia legislation. Boer wrote to the British House of Lords in 2014, “We were wrong, terribly wrong. Assisted dying in the beginning was the odd exception, accepted by many including myself as a last resort.” He pointed out that what happened was that many patients who received euthanasia were patients who were depressed, lonely, or in bereavement. In Switzerland a woman paid to be euthanized because she no longer felt pretty. He concludes by saying, “Public opinion has shifted dramatically toward considering assisted dying a patient’s right and a physician’s duty.”

In Oregon, physician-assisted suicide was legalized in 1997 “for cases of suffering from terminal disease.” In 2018 a followup study found that 75% of the people who died by assisted suicide said their pain control was adequate, but over 50% were concerned about being a burden to their families.

We also received a story of Karen Welch, who was a missionary in Belgium. During a routine surgery, blood was cut off to her brain resulting in a stroke. After several days, doctors told her husband that her MRI showed dead brain cells and that there was no hope for her recovery. “Your wife will be a vegetable,” Mr. Welch was told. The medical establishment recommended euthanasia. To make a long story short, Karen Welch eventually walked out of the hospital, and that December, she played the piano and sang at the Belgium School Chapel Christmas program.

As we said in our original article, euthanasia is a highly complex issue. The reaction to the euthanasia article we posted indicates that people are concerned about the issue. Until you are involved in a personal situation where euthanasia is offered as a simple and inexpensive solution, it is easy to give simplistic answers. The critical thing to remember is that humans are not just animals. We are created in the image of God, so we must treat every human life as special.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

You can watch Bob and Karen Welch’s Story on YouTube. Also see AffirmDignity.org.

Fruits of Social Darwinism

Fruits of Social Darwinism

Calvin Fields wrote an interesting book titled From Desperation to Peace of Mind, which we will be reviewing soon. The book is a goldmine of quotes that most of us are not familiar with. One of the areas involves the fruits of Social Darwinism, and they relate to the social issues of our day. Here are some examples for your consideration:

Philosopher Herbert Spencer was the founder of Social Darwinism, which said that “poverty and wealth are inevitable as they represent the biological rules which govern society.” He used The Origin of Species as a rationale to justify the excesses of 19th-century capitalism. Andrew Carnegie, who liked the idea that evolution justifies injustice, invited Spencer to come to Pittsburgh to see his theories applied to the steel industry. Spencer’s response to what he saw was that “six months residence here would justify suicide.” Charles Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton “was all in favor of interfering with human evolution and supported the idea of breeding (humans) from the best and sterilizing those whose inheritance did not meet with his approval.” (Those quotes are from The Language of Genes by Steve Jones, Anchor Books.)

Ernst Haeckel used Galton’s ideas as justification for establishing the Monist League in Germany before the First World War. After the war, thousands of Germans joined the league and dedicated themselves to the advancement of doctrines declaring the superiority of a select group of white Europeans. This idea contributed to Hitler’s “Final Solution” to class distinctions in Germany.

Roger Lewin wrote, “Racism as we would characterize it today, was explicit in the writings of virtually all the major anthropologists of the first decades (of the 20th century) simply because it was the generally accepted world view.” (Roger Lewin in Bones of Contention, Simon & Schuster.)

It is essential to look at the logical implications of what we view humans to be. Darwin’s The Origin of Species was applied by others to justify injustice and mistreatment of people. Those are the fruits of Social Darwinism. The biblical view that we are all uniquely created in the image of God has significant implications for how we should treat others.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

From Desperation to Peace of Mind by Calvin Fields book was printed by Xulon Press, ISBN 978-1-5456-7503-8. These references are all from pages 100-101.

Human Double Image

Human Double Image

In reading the Bible, you might get the impression that it presents a human double image:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them.” Genesis 1: 27

“…and Adam begat a son in his own likeness after his image; and called his name Seth …” Genesis 5:3.

Both Christians and Atheists are often confused about the meaning of these images. With our modern understanding of genetics, it should be easy for us to understand this human double image in our relationship to one another. Perhaps less easy to see is our relationship to God. On average, the genetic difference between humans is .1 %. Even though this seems very small, it accounts for the differences that make us individuals, including race, hair, facial features, body type, fingerprints, etc. Our DNA can stand up in a court of law to prove our individuality. A genetic disease such as cystic fibrosis is due to a .00004% error in the genome, Seth was in the physical image of Adam, and especially at that early stage of human development Seth must have looked very much like Adam.

When God created Adam in “His own image,” it should be clear that it does not mean Adam’s physical image. In Genesis 2:7, we see a clear reference to the creation of the physical makeup of Adam. The Hebrew word used in verse 7 is “yatsar,” which refers to something an artist or potter might do. The verse says God made Adam’s body from the dust of the Earth. God breathed “into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” In Genesis 1:27, the Hebrew word used is “bara,” which refers to a miraculous act that only God can do. Man is spiritually in God’s image, and woman also has that spiritual component.

In John 1:14, we read that the Word (logos) became flesh and dwelt among us. A change took place in the divine son of God. He became flesh. When we visualize God as a man, we see Him on our level. We can’t understand how God can do the things He does, because He is not limited to a physical body as we are.

We have a human double image. Our physical form is limited and will return to the dust from which it came. Like Seth, we may have genetic similarities to others, but our soul is in God’s image and does not have the physical limitations of our body. Heaven may not be appealing to some who view it as a physical retreat. However, a timeless spiritual existence has joy that our physical bodies cannot even comprehend. We need to take care of our physical bodies to enjoy good health and long years in this life, but more important is to take care of our spiritual self. That part of us is created in the image of God, and that part of our image is eternal.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

How to Become More Spiritual

How to Become More SpiritualWe recently received a question that perhaps all of us need to consider. The questioner wanted to know how to become more spiritual. We don’t find the word “spiritual” in the Old Testament of the Bible or in the gospels. It doesn’t refer to someone walking around piously, or a person who is in constant verbal prayer to impress others. It is not a “goody two shoes” word, and in fact, it can refer to evil and Satan. Ephesians 6:12, for example, says: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against SPIRITUAL wickedness in high places.”

Vines Dictionary of Biblical Words says that the word “spiritual” refers to “Things that have their origin with God and which, therefore, are in harmony with His character.” Romans 7:14 tells us that the law is spiritual, but it could not make humans spiritual. James 2:10 points out that if you are guilty of breaking one part of the law, you are guilty of the whole law. If you get arrested for stealing, the fact that you didn’t murder anyone will not exonerate you. The only way we can become more spiritual is through the grace of God and the power of the blood of Christ. First John 1:6-10 how to become more spiritual by “walking in the light,” and having a unique relationship with God through Christ.

Much of the New Testament instruction is aimed at helping Christians become more spiritual. Galatians 6:1 talks about using whatever strength we have to help each other, and verse 2 talks about bearing each other’s burdens. We can grow in sympathy, understanding, compassion, and all that goes into being a more spiritual person. Music can help us grow spiritually. Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:13-17 talk about “spiritual songs.” Songs like “If I Have Wounded Any Soul Today” and “Trust and Obey” sung in our car as we drive or in our homes as we do our daily chores can help us. Praying to grow in spirituality is another excellent tool.

Learning and increasing in our knowledge of God and His Word can help us become stronger spiritually. Second Peter 3:18 states this directly, and 1 Peter 2:2 speaks of having a desire to grow. Ephesians 4:11-15 says that knowledge is a part of spiritual maturity, and Colossians 1:9-12 speaks of learning to know God. All of these Bible passages tell us how to become more spiritual.

Skeptics and atheists who follow “survival of the fittest” as the core foundation of their lives have no interest and no capability to be spiritual in a positive sense. “Spiritual wickedness in dark places” is well defined as “Things having their origin in Satan and which, therefore, are in harmony with his character.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Understanding the Human Mind

Understanding the Human MindFor those of us without a background in electronics and engineering, the inside of a computer looks impossibly complicated. Humans have created incredibly complex things. Those things have helped us understand everything from the microscopic world to outer space. The things we have created and the changes we have made can bring enormous good or tragic destruction. Therein lies the problem. Although we can understand much about the physical world, we still far from understanding the human mind.

In spite of our great progress in electronics, nuclear energy, and space, we still have no idea why people behave the way they do. What makes a person fall in love? Why do people feel guilty? What gives humans artistic ability and an appreciation of beauty? How can we have sympathy for one another or for an animal? These things involve understanding the human mind.

The difference between what a computer chip does and the things human minds do is the difference between the physical world and the spiritual world. In the physical world, all that happens is a product of forces and energies which are easily measured and controlled. Students in a basic physics course are quickly impressed by how easy it is to understand how physical things work and how accurately we can predict what physical forces will do. Just the opposite is true of the spiritual world. Why a person falls in love with someone of the opposite sex might be, to some extent, explained in terms of hormones. It’s another matter to explain why a person would love an idea to the extent that they will die for it. In that area, all biological explanations seem to fail at an elementary level.

Scientific attempts to explain and understand spiritual phenomena have failed because those phenomena are not physically derived. Our ability to understand them has to be on a spiritual level. One of the significant challenges for someone like your author in moving from atheism to Christianity is learning to think and comprehend the spiritual. The Bible even tells us that this will be the case:

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

We are beings created in the image of God. That image has nothing to do with our physical makeup because God is not physical. It has to do with the fact that what makes humans unique is our spiritual component – our soul. Our bodies are not unique. Other animals possess hearts, lungs, eyes, and bones. Our true uniqueness, our soul, is beautifully displayed in our creativity, worship, and human feelings.

In one way, this concept is like Einstein’s theory of relativity. I would tell my students, “Einstein’s theory of relativity is incredibly easy to understand. It’s just really difficult to believe!” The idea that we are created in the image of God, and that our humanness is a reflection of that unique creation is so simple that people tend to reject it. Rejection of God’s simple answer to the human dilemma leads to the many problems ripping and tearing at people and our society today. Understanding the human mind requires realizing our spiritual dimension and the fact that we are created in the image of God.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Tool Use Is Not What Makes Humans Unique

Tool Use Is Not What Makes Humans UniqueWhen I took my first anthropology course at Indiana University in 1958, the professors said that humans are the only animals that fashion and use tools. Later, scientists discovered that chimpanzees could smash rocks until they get one that has a sharp edge. Then they use that sharp edge as a tool to cut open fruit or dig for ants. Louis Leakey, the anthropology guru of that time, stated, “We are either going to have to change our definition of man, or invite the chimps to send a representative to the United Nations.” Tool use is not what makes humans unique.

Since that time, other animals have been observed using tools and some even manufacturing tools. Nuthatches can find a stick that they can slide under the bark of a tree to get at a bug. Crows can fashion a stick and use it to get into a milk bottle. The picture shows a macaque using a stone to smash a crab shell for food. Science now says that less than one percent of all animals use tools, but that number keeps growing. Discover Magazine for November 2019 (page 22), contained an article about skunks picking up a rock and pounding on the ice in a pond to make a hole for drinking.

The Bible does not identify humans according to tool use or any technological accomplishment. Mentally challenged humans might not make tools or use them, but they are still humans, no matter what their abilities. What defines humans is our spiritual makeup, which the Bible describes as being in the image of God. This image gives us the capacity to express ourselves in worship, in artistic expression, and in the ability to feel guilt and be sympathetic. Tool use is just one of many designed characteristics built into the DNA of many forms of life. But tool use is not what makes humans unique.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Has Society Lost the Value of Human Life?

Has Society Lost the Value of Human Life?Recent events have led us to consider the question, “Has society lost the value of human life?” There were two events in the news this past week that certainly seem to indicate where society is going.

One of those events took place at a town hall at a public library in Queens, New York. The freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who has been in the news for her “Green New Deal,” and other things, was holding the event. A woman stood up to ask a question and compliment the congresswoman on her interest in climate change. The woman said, “Because of the climate crisis, we only have a few months left. Getting rid of fossil fuel is not going to solve the problem fast enough.” She went on to say, “Your next campaign slogan has to be this, ‘We got to start eating babies.’

She then removed her jacket to show her T-shirt which had the slogan, “Save the Planet, Eat the Children.” She looked around at the people in the room and said, “All of you, you know you are pollutants.” She also said, “Even if you would bomb Russia, we still have too many people, too much pollution, so we have to get rid of the babies.” It was shocking that someone would bring up such an idea in a public meeting. It makes me ask, “Has society lost the value of human life?”

Also shocking to me was the fact that the audience around her did not seem shocked or outraged. Neither did Ocasio-Cortez. Instead of saying that the woman’s idea was disgusting and unethical, her reply was, “One of the things that’s very important to us is that we need to treat the climate crisis with the urgency that it does present…There are a lot of solutions that we have.” You can see the exchange on YouTube using THIS LINK. If that video is removed, the entire town hall is on C-Span at THIS LINK. You will find the question at 1 hour 48 minutes into the video.

The other news item was from CBS News. It was a report on the newest abortion facility of Planned Parenthood. Missouri has placed some restrictions on abortion, and Illinois has passed the “Reproductive Health Act,” making access to abortion a “fundamental right.” Because of that, Planned Parenthood secretly constructed this new facility in Illinois, just outside of Saint Louis. According to CBS News, it is an “18,000-square-foot mega-clinic” able to “serve up to 11,000 patients a year.” Planned Parenthood set up a shell company to purchase an abandoned medical clinic and secretly convert it into “one of the largest abortion clinics in the country.” The secrecy was to “avoid protesters and delays.” You can see the CBS News report HERE.

So now the states of Illinois, New York, and Virginia have opened up the law to allow abortions up to, and perhaps even beyond the moment of birth, and eating babies to control climate change is being suggested. Has society lost the value of human life? What is the purpose for saving the planet if we kill the people because they are “pollutants?” The only thing that can reverse this trend is an understanding of the value of each person as we are made in the image of God and loved by Him with incredible love. See John 3:16.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Worshiping a Human Deity

Worshiping a Human Deity Some people think of God as a human – the “old man in the sky.” They think of a god with human limitations and needs as if we are worshiping a human deity. Questions about the race, sex, culture, language, and appearance of God are all rooted in the misconception that God possesses human properties and limitations. God does not have a sexual identity, and the Bible describes God with both masculine and feminine qualities. There is no neuter gender in Hebrew, so if a sexual identity is given, it must come from the context. Even the New Testament, sometimes provides a feminine description of God. (See Luke 13:34.)

Man’s creation in the image of God is also not a human concept. We do not look like God physically or in any physical human way. We are in God’s image by our capacity to love sacrificially, our creative abilities in art and music, our capacity to engage in spiritual things, and our ability to feel guilt and sympathy and compassion. Even the purpose of human existence is linked to this concept. God did not create humans because He was lonely. The purpose of our creation is rooted in nonhuman struggles that we can only vaguely comprehend. The reason for our existence is independent of any physical human objective. (See Ephesians 3:9 -11; 6:12; and Job 1,2.)

Our worship of God is frequently skewed by our conception of God as a human with human needs. Sometimes we seem to act as though God needs our praise because He is depressed. We don’t praise God because God has a self-image problem. The quality of our praise or singing is not of importance to God. Sometimes we emphasize the quality of our singing praises more than the participation of everyone in the process. That emphasis reflects our limited understanding of the nature of God as a spirit. John 4:24 tells us that, “God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” We forget that because we have a limited human concept of God. We are not worshiping a human deity.

We tend to replace the simplicity and total involvement of the first century Church in their worship of God with elaborate theatrical productions. Our productions may have entertainment value, but we often fail to realize that God is not appeased with things humans deem as important. The Bible portrays God as looking on the hearts of those who worship Him, not the overt process. One of the best biblical examples is in Leviticus 10:1-2 where Nadab and Abihu, two priests, offered “strange fire” in replacement for what God had ordered. There is no indication that they neglected anything God had told them to do. They dressed up the fire in some way that would make it more appealing on a human level. God reacts strongly to this human substitution.

It is easy for people living in Western societies to look at human-like images from primitive cultures and wonder how they could conceive of God in such a distorted way. But we may be guilty of worshiping a human deity in our own way. God calls us to understand that His ways and thoughts are not like ours and that He does not have our limitations. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Let us listen to the true God and strive to understand what He wills for us rather than creating God in our image and trying to appease something of our own creation.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Worshiping a Physical Deity

Worshiping a Physical Deity One of the most significant problems people have with God is that they perceive God as a physical entity. That means God is subject to time, as all physical things are. It means that there are confines of space that limit God. It also means that limitations of energy and mass are problems for God. A favorite atheist challenge is, “Can God create a rock so big he can’t move it?” Marshall Keeble used to say, “Yep, and he can create a bulldozer big enough to do the job.” The problem with both the original question and the snappy comeback by Keeble is that they are dealing with a physical being with physical limitations. The problem is worshiping a physical deity.

Creating a physical God makes the process of creation impossible to visualize or understand. A great astronomer once commented that the problem with the big bang theory is that it does not tell us what banged or who caused the bang. That statement is absolutely true, but it also states the question in terms of a physical being. “What banged” means that there was something physical to do the banging. “Who caused the bang?” implies that a physical person created or directed the process. The biblical concept of God and the view of virtually all cosmologists is that the cosmos came from dimensions far beyond our own. Whether one looks for the explanation in quantum mechanics or God, the fact is that the creation process is not a physical process. Worshiping a physical deity is not logical.

Not only do we get bogged down in the creation question, but even our worship of God is impacted by creating a physical God. If your concept of God is physical, then you will do physical things in physical ways to serve God. The building of cathedrals, shrines, monuments, idols, and icons as focal points of worship have grown out of that concept of God. Instead of building structures that serve the needs of people, this kind of created deity infuses a concept of a physical place for God to dwell. Even the phrase “God’s house” suggests a physical limitation to God. We do not need a place to worship God. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). That shows the importance of the nonphysical nature of God. The Bible says we are created in God’s image, but that does not mean a physical image. The God described in the Bible does not possess a face, hands, feet, and does not have an appetite, a sexual identification, or a race. Terms like face and hand may be used to describe how God acts when interacting with humans, but these are not true properties of God.

When someone asks “who created God?” his question is rooted in a misconception of what God is. They think we are worshiping a physical deity. My usual response to that question is to ask the questioner to draw me a four-sided triangle. The point is that the question assumed things about God that are not true. “Who created God?” implies that there was a time when God did not exist. It assumes that space and energy existed without God and before God’s existence. Those are incorrect physical assumptions. God created time, space, matter, and energy. The question is wrong, and so no answer satisfies, just as it is impossible to draw a four-sided triangle.
— John N. Clayton © 2019