Thursday, December 11, 2014

Analytical Essay 1: Image of God

Zya Houston
Mr. Comer
Honors U.S. Government
12/12/14

Image of God

What does it mean to be made in the image of God? In Genesis 1 of the Bible, verse 26 says, “…[l]et us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” From this it can be deduced that God is a ruler, since he made man ruler over the formerly created things. Man is a reflection of God in that he is premier over earth. Ephesians 4:24 says that man is “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Man mirrors God in that man is, or has the capacity to be, righteous and holy. Finally, Matthew 5:48 commands man to “[b]e perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” From this verse and the entire passage it can be gathered that man has been created like God to be perfect in his dealings with his fellow creatures; that man has the capacity to ‘love his enemy’ and live communally among other men despite any enmity that may between them. Thus, it may be said that to be made in the image of God is to reign over the earth, to be righteous and holy, and to be perfect in a communal sense. From this definition of being made in the image of God, it is clear that between philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, Locke would agree most with it, as he espoused the idea of man being proprietor of the earth, asserts that man should be upstanding in his dealings with others, and holds that man is capable of living in concord with his fellow men. 

Locke declares in the Of Property chapter of his essay “Concerning the True Original Extent and End of Civil Government”, from his work Two Treatises of Government, that God “gave the world to men in common,” as well as “reason to make use of it to the best advantage of life and convenience.” (115). Further, he adds that “[t]he earth and all that is therein is given to men for the support and comfort of their being,” a view which directly aligns with one of the characteristics of man as described by God in the Bible (ibid). Locke views the earth as a prism through which man is able express his nature of sovereignty and construct a comfortable life and community. Similarly, God expresses his own sovereign nature through His dominion over His creation. 

The Biblical teaching that man should be righteous and holy aligns with Locke as well. He declares that “no one ought to harm another… for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent” cannot be supposed to have the authority to “destroy one another” (106). As all men were created equal by the same “infinitely wise maker” and are “[H]is property,” it would be unduly indecent for a man to bring harm to these beings. Locke also contends that “truth and keeping of faith belongs to men, as men,” not solely as members of society (111). In other words, men uphold their word because they are good, not because they are compelled by society to do so. Righteousness and holiness, otherwise called goodness, is part of man’s nature. Pacts made between men are to be kept, honored, and regarded as sacred whether or not these men live in a society or not, because the call be honorable is imbued within. As reflectors of God, men can be benevolent, and Locke’s ideas agree with this.

The beginning of Locke’s chapter entitled Of the Beginning of Political Societies describes the natural state of man as being one of perfect freedom, but such a way of life that man finds more convenience in joining with other men to create a society. Any man who unites into a community out of the state of nature “must be understood to give up all the power, necessary to the ends for which they unite into society” (147). This is not to say that upon joining a society men loose their freedom or rights, but rather that they come together and shed some of their individual prerogatives in order to coexist harmoniously. In fact the beginning of a society “depends upon the consent of the individuals, to join into, and make one society” (150). Within the state of nature and society, Locke calls upon man to, when he can, “preserve the rest of mankind,” and directs that no man should “take away… impair the life… liberty, health, limb, or goods of another,” and thus restrict his own perfect freedom so as not to infringe upon the freedom of another (107). Mankind has the capacity to live as God created it, with respect toward one another. Locke’s ideology does not extend as far as God’s however. He has specific instructions for how to handle cases where a man infringes upon the rights or property of another, including the use of punishment and reparation. This is a departure from the ‘love thy enemy’ or ‘turn the other cheek’ stance that God takes. While it is possible for man to forgive and forget without seeking justice, Locke does not see this course of action as the primary method of dealing with transgressions. 

From what is known and observed of man, he is a creature that neither rules perfectly, is totally righteous and holy, nor lives in constant harmony with his fellow men. It is in this that we see that to be made in the image of God now implies that man is not an exact reflection of God, but a more distorted one. Man likely mirrored God during the time in which he was a perfect creation, unhindered by sin. But because of the fall of mankind, man can only hope to express the traits he shares with God in the same perfect way God expresses these traits.  Locke’s philosophy perfectly encompasses the crippled state of humanity. Yes man is made in His image, and can have dominion, be benevolent, and live compatibly with others. But he always falls short of the highest fulfillment of these traits, which is why Locke prescribes society, mandates for the treatment of fellow men, and government to fill the gap. 

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