Our look at the biblical themes covered in the Heidelberg Catechism has thus far given us a good introduction to anthropology—the doctrine of humanity. For the next week, we will continue looking at what Scripture teaches about human beings and our sin, but in order to get a fuller understanding of what God’s Word says about us, we will be using Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series A Shattered Image as a guide.
Anyone who takes the time to consider human nature is quickly forced to conclude that understanding who we are as human beings is no easy task. On the one hand, we see creatures who are capable of excellence and possess great dignity. We build monuments, travel into outer space, create beautiful art and music, and sacrifice our own well-being to improve the lot of others. On the other hand, we see creatures who are capable of horrific acts. We start wars, abuse one another, and despoil the created order. Even the best among us is capable of the vilest sins, while the worst of us still evidences praiseworthy qualities such as love and loyalty. Surely Blaise Pascal was right to refer to humanity as “the supreme paradox of all creation,” for we are creatures of grandeur as well as misery.
Obviously, our fallenness accounts for the miserable condition of human beings, but our greatness is due to our creation in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26). Some in the history of theology have tried to distinguish “image” from “likeness,” but it is probably best to see them as synonyms that refer to the same concept: our reflection of who the Lord is to the world. Today’s passage, revealed after the fall, indicates that we retain the Lord’s image, though it has been significantly marred by sin (9:6).
We conclude our study today by noting two things we learn from being made in God’s image. First, we see that we are not God. Human beings reflect the Lord, but we are still dependent and finite creatures. Furthermore, our Creator is never accountable to us; we answer to Him (Job 38–42). Second, being made in the image of God distinguishes us from the animals. We submit ourselves to the Lord and not to the birds, the beasts, and the fish. Men and women have dominion over these other creatures (Gen. 1:28). We may not, however, rule these creatures foolishly and without compassion, for we are to be good and honorable stewards (Ex. 20:8–10; Deut. 20:19–20).