[This post is part of the Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe series]
n this chapter of Doctrine, several interesting and vital concepts are introduced. Before even starting to answers questions, there is a brief discussion of mankind’s desires for autonomy. The discussion is framed in terms of our modern conception of man as an autonomous individual rather than primarily as a member of a community. The development of this kind of thinking is traced back to Augustine in his Confessions, then forward through Rene Descartes, Jonathan Edwards, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, William James, and finally ending with Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs that moves toward self-actualization.
While I doubt the plausibility of the development being primarily traced through those individuals, the outcome of a pervasive human tendency to reduce Christianity to a kind of moralistic therapeutic deism is something I would agree is a problem in our culture today. We treat God as distant (deism) rely on therapy and counsel from secular pscyhology (therapeutic) and are generally moralistic in our outlook (we can improve ourselves by behaving better). A good foundation in the proper understanding of how and why man was created can help to undermine this sort of thinking. The weakness of the development is mainly a lack of footnotes. I mean, you cannot assert that Jonathan Edwards taught that the autonomous reasoning individual can be saved and improved by God’s grace for God’s glory without citing where he teaches that. He is kind of the odd man out, and similarly it would be hard to defend Augustine as starting the individualistic bent. That aside, the problem is still prevalent, and this chapter is aiming to combat it.
The rest of the chapter then attempts to re-orient us. Rather than being autonomous individuals bent on achieving our own salvation through self-worship and self-improvement, God has something better in mind, and presents that to us in Scripture. In expounding that, Driscoll and Breshears answer these questions:
- What does the Bible reveal about the origin of human life? (this not in any way a biological explanation)
- What does it mean that we are God’s image?
- What does it mean that we were made male and female?
- What are the aspects of our humanity?
- What are some common Christian errors regarding the doctrine of the image of God?
- When does human life begin?
- Who has best imaged God?
- How can we best image God?
- What does a life that images God look like?
The take away of this chapter is its practical leanings. Just looking through these questions, and without knowing the answers that are offered, one can see that whatever answer is offered is going to have practical ramifications in our current culture. Each of these questions could have a very complex treatment, especially the ones on the meaning of the imago Dei (image of God) and the chapter on aspects of our humanity, which is essentially a brief overview of the different terms (soul, spirit, mind, heart) and how they are used in the Old and New Testament, and then a brief discussion of the issue of dichotomy (man as two parts) vs trichotomy (man as three parts). From the discussion of usage, it is easily seen that the terms cannot be attached with the technical meanings that we would like, which makes trichotomy hard to defend. Dichotomy really does not fair much better as man is more complex than a simple material/immaterial distinction would allow. In the end though, the provide good overviews and starter discussions for most of the questions. One would do well to explore the material in this chapter at a deeper level, but the basics are definitely covered adequately.