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Explorer's Journal—Who Am I?
Welcome to the FAQ for module 4—who am i? The following questions include video and/or written answers and are also included in the guide for your leader. You may like to raise these questions during your group time, and we also place them here for you to explore and re-explore at your leisure.
Q 1. Why did God make human beings?
The same reason for which he made everything else—to display his greatness.
Some people think that God created humans because he was lonely and needed a friend but he has never been alone or lonely! He has never needed a friend.
God is a Trinity or tri-unity—he continually exists as three (tri) persons in one (unity) being: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Within this tri-unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit there are ‘personal relationships’.
The Bible tells us that before God created the world, the Father ‘shared’ life with the Son in perfect glory (John 17:5).The Bible indicates there is constant communication between the Father and the Son (John 5:19–20). The Bible indicates there was also communication between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit—“Let us make mankind…” (Genesis 1:26). Because God is eternal, these relationships have existed forever.
Because God is perfect, his relationships are perfect—perfectly satisfying and perfectly harmonious (no tensions or problems like there are in relationships between imperfect human beings who misunderstand each other).
Because God is love, a loving relationship existed eternally between these three persons. For example, the Father loved the Son before the creation of the world (John 17:24)! So God did not make humans because he was lonely or needed someone to love.
The short answer is that God made humans for the same reason he made everything else—to display his greatness!
Q 2. A lot of people say we are descended from animals. Are we animals or are we unique?
Taken at face value, Genesis 1 and 2 clearly argue for the uniqueness of human beings. We are not animals, nor did we come from animals—although we do have some things in common with animals.
The Genesis story indicates we have some things in common with animals. Genesis draws our attention to a number of these, and they are shown on the following table (as well as the one big difference—we are made in God’s image):
|Created on day 5 & 6 (Genesis 1:20–29)||Created on day 6 (Genesis 1:26–27; 2:7–25)|
|Formed from the earth (Genesis 2:19)||Formed from the earth (Genesis 2:7)|
|Have the breath of life (Genesis 1:30; 6:17)||Have the breath of life (Genesis 2:7)|
|Male and female (Genesis 6:19; 7:2–3)||Male and female (Genesis 1:27)|
|Blessed by God (Genesis 1:22)||Blessed by God (Genesis 1:28)|
|Told to increase (Genesis 1:22; 8:17)||Told to increase (Genesis 1:22; 8:17)|
|Given plants for food (Genesis 1:30)||Given plants for food (Genesis 1:29)|
|Image of God (Genesis 1:26–27)|
Table 1: The similarities between animals and humans (as well as the one big difference!).
However, these similarities admitted, the text of Genesis 1–2 clearly argues for the uniqueness of humanity, disallowing any idea that we are animals or came from animals.
1. God made Adam from the dust of the ground—not from an animal (Genesis 2:7). This dust was the same ground that produced thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:17–18), and to which Adam would return when he died (Genesis 3:19).
2. The text gives four times as much attention to Adam as it does to any other part of creation in Genesis 1. This deliberate emphasis not only shows the uniqueness of Adam but that he is also more important than is the rest of creation—animals included.
3. Adam did not belong to the animal world because Adam required the breath of life to become a living being (Genesis 2:7)—the animals already had the breath of life (Genesis 1:21, 24, 30; 6:17). Had Adam evolved from the animals, he would have derived the breath of life from them, rather than having it directly and separately imparted by God, as is the case in Genesis 2:7.
4. Adam found no counterpart in the animal world. An animal could be his pet but not his partner. Nothing in the animal world corresponded to Adam (Genesis 2:19–20)—hence God intervened and made him a partner from his own body (Genesis 2:21–22; 1 Corinthians 11:8)—not from an animal.
5. Adam and Eve were superior to animals and were made to rule over them (Genesis 1:26, 28).
6. The Genesis story keeps humans separate from animals. When the text talks about them, it speaks of them as separate categories: animals (Genesis 1:24–25) are a separate creative act from humans (Genesis 1:26–28)—and this is made very clear in Genesis 2 (compare verse 7 with verse 19).
7. Humans are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27)—animals are not. This fundamental difference between humans and animals is obvious. Consequently, humans are God’s designated rulers on the planet, while the animals are ruled over (Genesis 1:26, 28).
Humans are of a different kind from all other creatures. Humans did not come from a non-human, sub-human or pre-human creature—they are in a special and separate category.
Q 3. Does the Bible really say that Adam and Eve were real people and that the whole human race actually came from them?
Yes. The Bible teaches that Adam and Eve were the first humans and the actual parents of the whole human race.
Some people think the Adam and Eve story could never have happened the way the Bible says it did. Therefore, they call the story a ‘myth’—an imaginary story deliberately made up to communicate a deeper spiritual meaning (a bit like a parable).
But the Bible presents Adam and Eve as real people in real history and the actual parents of the human race. For example:
1. The Adam and Eve story is just one of a whole series of historical accounts that make up the book of Genesis. The author wrote Genesis as a historical narrative/story—not as a piece of poetry or allegory. The author thought that Adam and Eve were as real as are all the other people in the Genesis story (e.g. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (we’ll learn about these three people in module 7) and the 12 tribes of Israel, etc.).
2. The genealogy of Luke 3:23–38 puts Adam together with other real people of history—among them: Nathan, David, Judah, Jacob, Isaac and Abraham. And, it lists Adam as the first person God made (verse 38). The point of the genealogy is that everyone comes from Adam.
3. Jesus believed Adam and Eve were real people who lived at a specific point in history (i.e. at the beginning) (Matthew 19:4–5). To say Adam and Eve weren’t real is to disagree with what Jesus believed.
4. The early Christian writer, Paul, taught that Adam was a real person (1 Corinthians 11:8–9; 15:45, 47; 1 Timothy 2:13–14) and also that Adam was the actual parent of the human race: “From one man he [i.e. God] made all the nations…” (Acts 17:26).
It’s clear that the Bible presents Adam and Eve as real people. (In the next module, we’ll talk about why this is vitally important for all of us.)
Q 4. What does being ‘made in the image of God’ mean?
It means that we are like God in ways that other creatures are not. God has made us to be like himself (in his likeness and image).
To understand what it means to be made in the ‘likeness and image of God’, note Genesis 5:3: “… Adam… had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth”. What does it mean to say that Seth was made in Adam’s likeness and image? It means:
1. Seth was definitely not Adam
2. Seth was certainly related to Adam
3. Seth was clearly like Adam in ways that no one else was.
It’s the same with human beings made in God’s image because:
1. Humans are definitely not God
2. Humans are certainly related to God
3. Humans are clearly like God in ways that nothing else is.
It is this God-image that sets us apart from the animals. So, in what ways are we like God? Some of these ways we are like God are:
1. We are creative beings (in the way we make things)
2. We are self-aware beings (in the way we think about things),
3. We are relational beings (in the way we love people more than we love things)
4. We are moral beings (in the way we know we ought to do the right thing).
There are more ways as well: we are spiritual beings and we are rational beings. There may be more ways in which we are like God but these are the main ones.
Q 5. What does it mean when we say that humans are ‘moral beings’?
While ‘moral’ can mean ‘good’, what we mean here is that humans were made with a moral capacity, with the ability to understand ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. We are therefore ‘ethical’ creatures. This makes us different from the members of the animal world. Mark Twain once said, “Of all God’s creatures, only humans have the ability to blush.”
1. Every human has a moral capacity because they are made in the image of God. That’s why God was able to give Adam and Eve commands that could be obeyed or disobeyed: e.g. “Be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:28); “Rule over… the ground” (Genesis 1:28); “you must not eat from the tree…” (Genesis 2:16–17); etc.
2. Every human has an inborn moral code (Romans 2:14–15). At the deepest core of every human being, there is a moral library that contains all God’s moral requirements. This is true for everyone—it is part of being made in the image of God. This means we have an instinctive understanding of what’s right and wrong.
3. Every human has a conscience. The conscience is an invisible mechanism. It might help to think of the conscience as an imaginary committee of three invisible persons who live inside us. They study the moral code implanted in our minds and their job is to evaluate everything we do against that moral code. Before we do something, our conscience will evaluate our intended action/behaviour against the information contained in the moral code. It will then categorise that action as either good or evil and advise us of its conclusion by creating a feeling (a ‘conviction’) either to continue with what we plan to do, or to stop. Then, after we have done something, our conscience will evaluate what we have done against the moral code and, again, it will pass a judgement on our action as being either good or evil. If the verdict is ‘good’ then we feel satisfied. If the verdict is ‘evil’, we feel guilty. Animals don’t have this moral capacity. Dr John Stott puts it this way: “Our whole moral vocabulary (commands and prohibitions [bans], values and choices, obligation, conscience, freedom and will, right and wrong, guilt and shame) is meaningless to animals. True, we can train our dog to know what is allowed and forbidden. And when it disobeys, and cringes from us by a reflex action, we can describe it as looking ‘guilty’. But [in reality] it has no sense of guilt; it knows only that it is going to get walloped.”
4. Every human is morally accountable to God. Every action will be brought into judgement: “here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14). See also Revelation 20:11–15.
Q 6. What does the Bible mean when it says that humans should ‘rule the earth’?
Humans are to exercise authority over the earth—developing its potential, realising its possibilities and harnessing its energies, for the good of humanity. But this needs to be done in ways that reflect the values, beauty, order and glory of the Creator, realising we ourselves are under his authority and are answerable to him for the way we develop the earth.
The God of the Bible is the sovereign God. “The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty… and armed with strength” (Psalm 93:1). Because we are made in God’s image, there is something ‘kingly’ about us. Although we are only creatures, we too have a measure of sovereignty. God gave us that sovereignty when he said, “Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). Three things should be noted:
1. Humans should not be abusive over nature. Power is always open to abuse and can easily be mishandled and misdirected. We can so easily cross the boundary from kingly authority into inexcusable destruction. In exercising our power, we should realise we are God’s deputies ruling on his behalf, embracing his values and concerns. Rule does not mean exploit. We exercise authority as those who are under authority.
2. Humans should not be slaves to nature. While humans should not be tyrants over nature, equally, we should not become slaves to it. We are not here to worship nature. We are here to worship God and act for him as his representatives. Plants and animals do not have the same value as do human beings. In the refreshing climate of environmental concern, we must be careful we don’t elevate nature above humanity.
3. Humans should be the lords of nature. As ‘kings of the earth’, we should exercise our rule, knowing that our authority is a delegated authority and that it is to be exercised on behalf of, and with full accountability to, the Creator. God is pleased when humans cultivate and transform the earth into vegetable gardens, and pleasure parks and forests. He intended that humans would domesticate animals and farm them for human use. God intended that humans would explore and harness all the secrets of science and carefully use the energies of the earth to make life richer and better for everyone. When that happens, God is very pleased.
(Questions 7–8 are only available in the Leader’s Guide.)
Q 9. Why did God make Adam from dust?
God made Adam from the dust (Genesis 2:7) because God designed humans to be ‘earthlings’—persons who were made to live on the earth.
The New Testament also tells us that Adam was made from the dust (1 Corinthians 15:47–49). The Bible doesn’t tell us specifically why humans were made from dust but two suggestions are possible:
1. To give us our bearings as ‘earthlings’. We live on the earth, work the earth, take our food from the earth and, when we die, we return to it. We are very much creatures of the earth!
2. To remind us of our humble position as creatures. Dust is a symbol of that which is lowly and fragile. Even though we are made in God’s image, we must not overreach ourselves and think of ourselves as being God. Our high honour as God’s deputy must be balanced with our lowliness. We are creatures. We are made from the dust. We are not, and never will be, God.
Q 10. Are Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 talking about two different creations?
No. There is only one account of the creation (Genesis 1). Genesis 2 focuses on part of that creation—the human species.
Genesis 1 presents a ‘wide-angled shot’ of the whole creation while Genesis 2 gives us a ‘close-up’ of the origin of humans. Both chapters show that humans are the most important part of creation. Genesis 1 does this by covering all the other parts of creation first and then mentioning humans last, showing humans to be the pinnacle of creation week, so that everything leads up to the making of the human race. By contrast, Genesis 2 shows the importance of humans by mentioning them first and making them the primary focus of the creation week. So Genesis 2 is not a different story, it is simply an expanded story.
Each chapter is making the same point from a different perspective—humanity is special!