Vital Signs

God, Man, and Family

The first chapter of the Bible forms the basis of the Christian understanding of the nature and dignity of man—and woman: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27).  The next verse contains the first command given to the man and the woman: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.”

If we look closely at the first chapter of Genesis, we notice that this passage fully and thoroughly specifies the great and fundamental difference between man and the animals.  With respect to fish, God says, “let the waters swarm,” and, likewise, with birds; with respect to animals, He says, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds.”  This language suggests an indirect creation or formation of nonhuman living things and may be compatible with the concept of biological evolution as a process (but not as the ultimate explanation or First Cause).  But man—male and female—is created through what theologians call God’s “deliberate determination”—“Let us make man” and, in a particular relationship to God—“in our image.”

Philosophers and theologians have long speculated about what it means to be made in the image of God.  One of the more fruitful suggestions is to focus on the meaning...

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