Many North Americans are obsessed with their appearance. The evidence presents itself in the Botox craze, The South Beach Diet, Pilates, and reality television shows such as The Swan, Extreme Makeover, and The Big Loser. It also appears in fashion magazines such as Lucky, Shop Etc., Vogue, and InStyle.
Yet we still crave more. We tune in to find out if a former American Idol star will work out or wimp out, and to see if the so-called ugly duckling will become a swan. We watch as surgeons tweak noses, expunge fat, augment breasts, and tighten loose eyelids, all the while never raising eyebrows of our own. What is it that we find fascinating about those who have gone under the knife and speak from beneath bundles of gauze? Could it be that we sense that something about this life, including our bodies, is not as it should be?
Adam and Eve: The
Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 2:7 says, “The LORD God formed man from dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” God did not create Adam from elephant DNA or take a rib from a zebra to create Eve. Instead He formed the dirt into bodies and breathed His life into their nostrils. Whether giraffe or crocodile, no animal came to life by God’s very breath. Only mankind did.
And just as a child reflects the attributes of his or her parents, so we reflect our parent—God. He created us in His image to reflect the love that exists within the three persons of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For this reason it was not good for Adam to be alone. Together Adam and Eve in their unity perfectly reflected God and His love. Moreover, scholars point out other human indicators of the divine: the capacity to rule, understand good and evil, and fellowship with others. Our personalities also point to the Creator, along with the ability to reflect the person of Jesus if we believe in Him, and to become a new man or woman by the work of the Holy Spirit.
If we fully understand the concept of imago dei, therefore, we seek to find our identity in the God who made us rather than in a rising movie star, a career move, or cosmetic invention.
J. Scott Horrell (ThM, 1977; ThD, 1988), professor of systematic theology at Dallas Seminary, writes, “Scripture indicates that rather than looking within himself, the human being discovers his or her true nature by focusing on the Creator.” Diet fads, cosmetic surgery, reality shows, and the billions spent on fashion show us where we often look to discover our true selves.
Garments of Skin
Why do we look to the gods of get-thin/rich/important-quick rather than to the God of the Bible? A paraphrased look into Adam’s and Eve’s parlay into doubt in the Garden of Eden may help us answer that question.
Serpent: Eve, has God really said not to eat from any tree of the garden? (He questions God’s Word.)
Eve: We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but not from the one in the middle. That one we can’t eat from or touch or we will die. (She adds boundaries to God’s command. He never told her not to touch the tree)
Serpent: You will not die! God knows that when you eat fruit from it you will become like Him and know good from evil. (The serpent lies to cast doubt on God’s goodness and implies that Eve can be like God.)
Eve: The fruit looks delicious and is good for wisdom. She ate the fruit and offered some to Adam, who also ate it.
Note that when Eve ate the fruit, Adam also ate. We each share the culpability for our actions, but sin rarely affects one individual. The consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin, in fact, have created the current state of chaos in which we find ourselves today.
As Peter wrote, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Things are not as they should be. As he did in the Garden of Eden, Satan aims to cast doubt on the Word of God in his effort to derail us from obedience.
In Genesis: A Living Conversation,
Bill Moyers describes discussions he had with a number of artists,
scholars, and theologians about the Book of Genesis. When he asked a
panel what Eve did wrong in the garden, one participant, Jean-Pierre
Ruiz, said that she did all the right things: “She listens, she
observes, she seeks knowledge. She eats the fruit. Adam eats the fruit.
And somehow, something has gone awry.”
When another participant pressed Ruiz as to why he considered these actions right instead of wrong, Ruiz replied, “Because they seem to be the way human beings, ever since, have gone about making prudent decisions—listening, observing, seeking knowledge.”
Yet the glaring omission in Eve’s decision-making process is God. She sought truth outside of God. Such a process always opens the door for sin to enter as it entered the Garden of Eden. Knowing this, we can better define sin and how it has affected the concept of imago dei.
Sin is anything that separates us from, rejects, or rebels against God. And here we turn to take a closer look at the consequences of the first couple’s sin. After eating the fruit, Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked” (Gen. 3:7). Have you ever had a dream in which you stood at a bus stop naked and everyone stared and laughed? When we read Genesis 3:7, we might imagine ourselves in the story. Don’t you think we would realize if we were standing naked in a garden chatting about fruit? But Scripture indicates that something happened to create such a nakedness-awareness. Before their sin Adam and Eve’s nakedness caused them no shame.
Genesis 2:21–25 describes their relationship. God, after causing Adam to sleep deeply, took a rib from his side and created Eve. When Adam woke up and saw Eve, he said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (v. 23). The Scriptures then describe the first human marriage: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (vv. 24–25). Adam and Eve were in perfect union not only with God but also with each other. This passage tells us that God created us to be unashamed of our bodies.
The consequences of our first parents’ sin are that Adam would toil the ground and Eve would endure pain in childbirth. They would suffer marital strife, and nature would become an enemy (including the serpent). And they both would be banished from the garden. Although they didn’t die right away, they died spiritually, which ushered in the certainty of future physical death. But before all these consequences began to take effect, Adam and Eve’s responses to their own sin offers us insight into our own lives.
Genesis 3:7–8 says that once they realized their nakedness, the man and woman sewed together fig leaves to cover themselves and then hid from God. First they hid from each other and then from God. Hiding indicates the foolishness and depravity of our minds when we sin. Having already departed from God, Adam departed further still. However, as Martin Luther explains, “He needed not, therefore, to flee farther from Him still. But so it is. That is the very nature of sin—the farther a man departs from God, the farther still he wants to depart.”
Imagine standing in the garden, covered with makeshift clothes, cowering before your husband or wife, and hiding in shame from God. It is interesting to see that God sought out Adam after his sin, despite his effort to depart from Him.
“Where are you?” God asked. Even today, when we depart still further from God, He calls to us, “Where are you?” Is this characteristic of a God who wants to strike us dead?
Even after God doled out a litany of consequences, He made appropriate clothes, or garments of skin, for the man and woman before sending them out into the world. Imagine, again, standing in the garden, quaking before your Creator, who has just told you the effects of your sin. Imagine knowing you’re banished to the unknown world beyond Eden. Then God clothes you.
this act in different ways. Some say that God killed animals to make
these garments of skin to foreshadow the insufficient animal sacrifices
that the nation of Israel would offer, and therefore He foreshadowed
Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross. Others say that he clothed
them as a symbol of the Fall into baseness, or as a perpetual reminder
of the immortality they forfeited.
Indeed, while Gary Anderson incorrectly asserts in his book, The Genesis of Perfection, that Adam and Eve originally were clothed and formed like angelic beings, he does properly emphasize that they were crowned with glory. He notes that garments of skin appear throughout Scripture—from the Levitical priests who wore garments to reflect their proximity to God in the temple to Jesus’ bloodstained garments at His death, to His glorious white garment and restored body on Easter.
The act of clothing the man and woman, therefore, shows significance and hints at the nature of the Creator. When the man and his wife sinned, they should have died immediately. Yet God spared them immediate death. Why? Instead God called out to them, “Where are you?” and He clothed them. That is because He is a pursuing, merciful God. “This long-suffering of God Satan ever abuses,” Luther observes. “And it just suits his purpose that man should not immediately feel his sin. Because punishment is thus deferred, Satan fills the mind with security and unconcern. So that man is not only kept blind to the fact that he has sinned, but is caused to take delight and to glory in his sins.”
Interestingly, however, as Gary Anderson points out, artists throughout history have portrayed Adam and Eve leaving the garden naked. Perhaps it is to impress on the viewer the shame our first parents felt when God expelled them from the Garden. But it’s also possible they’ve missed the mercy in the judgment.
While we must understand the guilt and shame because we also experience the same over our own sin, we must also understand the mercy and protection of the God who provided the man and woman with clothes. In their most undeserving state, God took care of them.
Christ, the Second Adam
Today, instead of reminding us of our loss of intimacy with God and others, our clothing has become a point of pride and obsession. How we look and what designers’ clothes we wear determine our worth and sense of well-being. It was the same in Luther’s day, causing him to say, “Like asses created for bearing burdens of gold, they seem rather to consider with how much gold they can load themselves…. For who can possibly describe the extent of devotedness, and of expenses to which both men and women proceed, as to their dress and garments! Eden was, in truth, a garden of delight and pleasure. But all these things were deformed by sin, and remain deformed, still. All creatures, yea even the sun and the moon, have as it were put on sackcloth.”
Indeed, all of creation groans, as Paul wrote in Romans 8:22. Yet speaking about Genesis with Bill Moyers, Stephen Mitchell rejects the biblical assertion that the very Jesus who paid for the sins of the first Adam will reestablish new heavens and a new earth. Mitchell said, “When we talk about paradise in the way prophets do—swords into ploughshares, lions chummy with lambs—we’re talking about a fantasy of safety and tameness, a zoo, not the actual world that God created. The true paradise is our world, the world just as it is, with all its suffering, but seen through the eyes that calls it very good.”
To say that this world—in its current state—is seen through the “eyes that call it very good” is to deny the truth of Genesis 1–3. Such an assertion denies the fact that while we bear the imago dei, we are slaves to sin (John 8:34) and incapable of saving ourselves. To say that God has looked on the world as good throughout even modern history, which includes nuclear war, the Holocaust, and the genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Sudan, is to deny the need for Christ.
Perhaps that is the problem. Departed first from God’s presence, we are departing still—so far that we cannot know our true, sinful selves. We do not feel the initial sting of sin. We wonder why a merciful, protecting, and pursuing God would let us suffer in silence. We expect a wholly different kind of hero.
“To this day [and to ancient Hebrews], Jesus does not look like what many people want in a Savior,” says John Stackhouse Jr. in Can God Be Trusted?: Faith and the Challenge of Evil. “He does not offer to free them immediately from all oppression and obligation. He does not offer to make them financially secure. He does not offer to provide them with unending comfort and pleasure. He does not offer to settle their scores, to promote their interests, to do their bidding.”
While we search for the latest fads to crown ourselves with glory, our Creator calls to us, “Where are you?” We have so long forgotten the image of the One we reflect that we also fail to see that He clothes and protects us with mercy and long-suffering love in this world. Denying the Genesis account as written denies Jesus’ work of salvation on the cross and that He promises to restore paradise (Rev. 21–22). “God has revealed [Himself] in Jesus in a manner completely adequate for faith,” Stackhouse writes. “That is what human life is about, and what God has provided for in Jesus. In Jesus we see what we desperately need to see: God close to us, God active among us, God loving us, God forgiving our sin, God opening up a way to a new life of everlasting love.”
Without such a hope, contra Stephen Mitchell, all we can expect is life in a zoo—living in artificial habitats, searching for true shelter and privacy from the throngs of voyeurs, and either unaware of the cages or longing to break free.
Julie Cramer (MA/MC
student) works as an editor and writer for Dallas Seminary’s
Communications department and is assistant editor of Kindred Spirit.