Last week, our passage for our morning devotional was 1 Corinthians 15. Thursday, we looked at verse 39, “For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.” Until recently, I was always puzzled by this verse. How is our flesh different than the animals? I got that we are also spiritual beings but I did not understand that our flesh is actually much different than the animals.
Coincidentally, or maybe providentially, a few days earlier, I read the last of the fourth chapter in Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of Disciplines, a section called Imago Dei. Willard makes a point from creation in Genesis 1 — unlike the flesh of animals, man’s flesh was designed to receive the breath of life from God and thus made in God’s image.
I’ll let you read his words and then come back with some of my thoughts on it in Part 2.
“THE HUMAN BODY AS PART OF THE IMAGO DEI”
“But the Genesis account of our creation tells us more than just God’s intention for our place in nature. We are different than the rest of creation for another reason beyond our dominion over it. The manner of our creation was different from the rest of creation too. Before humankind, preexisting substance is simply commanded to bring forth a life form. In the case of humans, however, God imparts something of himself to an earthen form specially shaped to receive it. Genesis 2:7 states, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (ASV).
Our earthly form seems from this wording to have come “alive” only in conjunction with the giving of God’s “breath” or spirit to it. The term “living being” occurs in 1:24 and again in 2:19, referring to creatures with the power of movement in the air, waters, or earth. These earlier living beings had come forth from dust or water at God’s command. Now, in humans, the “living being” emerges from shaped dust as a result of the influx of God’s spirit.
Whatever the precise details of the process—and we must beware of filling them out in a manner that would be blasphemous of the nature of God—the human too becomes a “living being,” with an animal nature, but with a vast difference—we have a nature that is suitably adapted to be the vehicle of God’s likeness.
The two sides of the great human contradiction, dust and divinity, then, are set in place. Human creatures, like all living beings, have a life of their own. But though that life is mortal and short, it is still a life in
which we alone among living beings can stand in opposition”
“52 / The Spirit of the Disciplines”
“to God—in order that we may also choose to stand with God.
If it were not for this ability, we could not fill our part in Go”
“d’s plan, because we would just be puppets. And no puppet could bear his likeness or be his child. The human body itself then is part of the imago Dei, for it is the vehicle through which we can effectively ac- quire the limited self-subsistent power we must have to be truly in the image and likeness of God.
And herein lies the the pivotal concept about our nature we need to understand when we begin talk of redemption. Let us try to make this point as clear as possible since everything turns upon it in practical theology.
In creating human beings in his likeness so that we could govern in his manner, God gave us a measure of independent power. Without such power, we absolutely could not resemble God in the close manner he intended, nor could we be God’s coworkers. The locus or depository of this necessary power is the human body. This explains, in theological terms, why we have a body at all. That body is our primary
area of power, freedom, and—therefore—responsibility.”