Being in the Creator's Image
Roger Peck FAITH Magazine March - April 2008
Why did God make us? The Penny Catechism tells us that God made us to know, love and serve Him and to be happy with Him in Heaven forever. This is certainly true. This is clearly and precisely why God didmake us – and yet as rational beings with enquiring minds we just can’t stop delving. I mean why did God make us to; “Know Love and Serve Him in this life and be happy with Him in the next?”
There is a good reason to suppose that there may not be an answer to this further question. The reason why we should “manage our expectations” on this one is that God does not need anything and God created freely. How can there be such a “why?” for an omnipotent, necessary and free being? As “free” God was not compelled, as “omnipotent” God was not constrained and as a “necessary being” God did not “need to”. Is there any other way we can respond to the question?
One possible way is that of defining the limits of our own knowledge, discerning what we can and cannot know. According to Socrates there are two types of people in the world: the fools who think they are wise and the wise who know they are fools – and whenever we define the limits of our own competence we are like the wise man who knows that he is a fool. A perfectly rational (profoundly rational) response to the “why” question is “I don’t know”. “Why did He?” “Who knows – but He clearly did!”
Another possible response, the one being advocated here, is to emphasise that “God is Love” (1 John 4:8, 16). A somewhat mystical response – and one based on analogy – but the contention here, perhaps echoing Augustine’s “Vestiges of the Trinity”, is that our existence is a revelation of this profound truth. “God is Love” and, as we all know, “Love is not self-seeking” (1 Cor 13:5). True Love desires the object of its affection simply to “be”. Good parenting is not a process of “holding on” – it is a process of gradually “letting go”. Attempting to “hold on” – to live one’s children’s lives vicariously usually ends in tears. “God is love” and Love is not selfish. God’s creation of a being with freewill, God’s creation of a being able to say ”yes” or “no”, God’s creation of acreature able to turn against its creator, is God’s way of “letting go”.
All of creation is suffused with this principle. God did not just create a universe – He created a universe that would create itself! The formation of the stars, the creation within those stars of the periodic table of elements and the formation of the planets and planetary systems can be seen as the “free will principle” of the material dimension of the universe. Evolution is the “free will principle” of the animal and vegetable dimension of creation and free will itself is the ultimate manifestation of this principle within the human (moral and spiritual) dimension. To quote George Macdonald “every fact in nature is a revelation of God, it is there such as it is because God is such as he is”
The formation of the planets and the evolution of life could be seen as God the Father “letting go”; a revelation of God’s unselfish Love. Echoes of this can perhaps be heard in the bara/asah(create/make) distinction of Genesis chapter 1. The word bara(create) is used only three times; for the creation of heaven and earth, the creation of the first animals (the fish and the birds) and the creation of man (i.e. the big bang, the creation of life and the creation of the human soul). The word used elsewhere – asah- is usually translated as “make” and the implication generally inferred from the distinction is that “make” is not a creation ex nihilo but a creation out of existing matter. The proposal here is that for “ asah” one could also read “form” or “evolve”.
God is not overbearing. God does not tinker. God is love, and true love is not grasping. True love desires only for the object of its affection to “be”. The correlative of this desire for us is the fact that man, as a person, is the only thing in the physical universe (of “all that is seen”) whose nature is not simply a thing to be received but is, rather, a thing to be realised. Triangles can be nothing but triangular, dogs can be nothing but “doggy”, rocks can be nothing but “rocky” – but humans can be inhumane. Human beings can become less than human. The lazy man is a sloth, the greedy man is a pig, the scheming man is a snake. A chivalrous person, on the other hand, is a manof honour, a brave person is a man of courage and a truthful person is a man of integrity. God desires that we simply “be” – but it is up to us to realise His desire.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.