The wonder of human creation.
Living in light of our place in the cosmic order.
In Genesis 1, God’s holy Scriptures open with a sprawling narrative of how everything that is seen and unseen came into being. From the manner in which the tides control the seas, to the seeming insignificant life-cycle of the smallest insect, all of creation owes its essence and existence to the creative initiative of the thrice-holy God. Creation, and life itself, then, is an inherently theological paradigm. There is nothing which can be observed or touched that is not a product or byproduct of the wisdom and artistry of the Creator. This, of course, is most especially true of human beings.
In his sweeping work on Christian Theology, Millard J. Erickson outlines nine implications of theology which accompany the fact of human creation. (1) Humans are dependent. Like everything else in the created order, humanity exists because God willed it to be so (Gen. 2:7). He superintended the creation of mankind and continues to providentially preside over all life. Human beings, Erickson concludes, “may declare themselves independent and then conduct themselves as if they are, but that does not alter the fact that their very life and each breath they continue to take are from God” (451).
(2) Humans are creatures. By this, it is meant that humanity is another specimen in a rather long catalog of created elements, both terraform and cosmic. Human beings, while distinctive, are still pieces of a larger creation. As such, humans bear responsibility for the creation of which they are a part. Mankind’s antediluvian vocation was to care for and tend that which God had created and bequeathed him (Gen. 1:26–30). And, as Erickson observes, that calling still has bearing in the modern era.
(3) Humans are unique. Even though humans are creatures, made within the same seven-day span as moss and manatees (Gen. 1:1–26), mankind bears an especial emblem, that being the image and likeness of the Maker etched into every living soul. This distinguishes human beings from all other things that “be.” (4) Humans are kin. Since all humans are brought into being by God alone, all human beings are suffused with the same tokens of God’s creative initiative (Gen. 5:1–2). Every person who has ever existed has borne the designation of a son of Adam or a daughter of Eve. This is a universal truth, notwithstanding one’s spiritual or salvific status in the eyes of God.
(5) Humans are subordinate. The uniqueness of human creation ought not invite delusions of cosmic grandeur. The crowning achievement of creation is not “male and female he created them,” but is the refracted glory which creation bespeaks of its God’s creative initiative and holy creativity. He, and he alone, remains the ultimate reality and value in the cosmos (Ps. 115:3).
In Erickson’s treatment, he trifurcates, unnecessarily, three deeply integrate implications into their own discussion. These three, then, will be considered under one heading. (6–8) Humans are limited. There is a ceiling to mankind’s capacity for knowledge and ability to innovate. Humans are, in the truest sense of the term, earthlings. That is, humanity is bound by the rules which govern the world in which they inhabit. God, the Maker, is not by bound by anything. “God is in heaven and you are on earth,” the Preacher of Ecclesiastes declares (Eccl. 5:2).
Though a seeming rudimentary assertion, such a perspective on human limitation catalyzes (or ought to) one’s humility. These limitations, then, are not collateral damage from the Fall. Rather, they are attendant within God’s immaculate design. “We are not beings who should be God but have failed in the attempt,” Erickson observes. “We are what we were intended to be: limited human creatures” (455). Indeed, it is only as humanity resists its innate limitations that life begins to fracture (Gen. 3:1ff). Living — truly and fully living — means living in light of our place in the cosmic order.
(9) Humans are wonderful. This is not meant to be a kitschy or saccharine sentiment. Rather, this is a remark which recognizes the cosmic significance that is human life itself. Human beings are not the result of cosmic happenstance, nor are they the byproducts of primordial mathematics. Mankind is the chiefest of the creatures, imbued with God’s own trademark on the soul (Eccl. 3:11).
Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2013).