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    The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog,

    Made in the Image of God

    By

    June 25, 2021

    Available languages: Français

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    • Peter Wilkinson

      I like this very much.

    • Marj B

      Yes, I think it matters that we were created separately from animals, not just a few steps above them. Although it's an intriguing idea that I'll mull over. But Genesis seems very clear that God created animals and then formed man out of the dust of the earth, not just blew His breath into an evolved animal species. So I'll stick with that inspired account.

    • MICHAEL NACRELLI

      I think theistic evolution is compatible with biblical Christianity, but I'm not convinced by the scientific evidence for macroevolution of all life on Earth from nonliving matter. Moreover, most Darwinists would reject the notion of evolution being divinely orchestrated, insisting instead on RANDOM mutation and natural selection. Of course, the concept of successively beneficial random mutations strains credulity. It's theoretically possible, but the idea that life in all its complexity and diversity is purely the result of blind chance is ultimately a philosophical assertion that can't be scientifically proven. Given that the "simplest" cell is far more complex than anything humans have ever devised, positing an intelligent Creator seems much more plausible to me. I personally fall in the "progressive creation" camp. I find Darwinism problematic, but I definitely believe in the Big Bang theory and a universe that billions (not merely thousands) of years old. The notion that the space-time continuum had a discreet beginning poses a problem for atheism. I don't understand why many Christians reject modern astrophysics in favor of a literal reading of the word "day" in Genesis 1, when some Church Fathers rejected such a reading for purely textual reasons.

    • Kevin Vitalis

      I am not on board with this piece. I believe that humans being made in the image and likeness of God identifies a uniqueness of being that has not been evolved from monkeys, which by the way still exist. I am not saying that I am unwilling to accept some of the tenets of evolutionary theories; I do not hold, however, with those who propose that humans developed from some divine seed that God planted in some strain of monkeys. Another point that is alarming in Arnold's narrative is the concept of an Earth-spirit. To me, this smacks of pantheism or ascribing a sentient consciousness to the "universe" as a causative, lower deity. (Yuck!!) Or maybe Arnold's language is more revealing when he calls this earth-spirit a prince of this world. Because I am a Christian who daily seeks nourishment from God's Word, I know who Jesus was referencing with this title.

    • Melchior J Fros

      Plough editor Dori Moody asks readers to consider an important question with implications for the concept of “faith”. Reflecting on J. Heinrich Arnold’s article, she asks: Do you agree “that no great problem arises between the story of creation in the Bible and theories of evolution?” I believe a problem exists: a literal reading of the bible misses the intended “spirit”. Arnold asks, “What is man?” Man, he explains, exists in tension: animal and spirit. He concludes there was a moment in time when the human -he prefers to use the male masculine, “man”- became a spiritual being; when spirit trumped biology, so-to-speak. The purely biological was imbued with spirit and ceased to be purely biology-driven. The book which this excerpt is from was penned at a time when Arnold attempted a re-uniting with Hutterites, after a long period of estrangement. Hutterites, for the most part, are staunch believers in the literal interpretation of the bible, and hence Creation. He was well aware he trod a fine line between personal belief (the biological evolution of humanity) and Hutterite corporate belief in the literal creation story. So he settled for middle ground: humanity had evolved over time, and at some point God had breathed Spirit into Adam. An evolution from purely biological to spiritual being had occurred. Arnold extends the argument, equating this transformation with the modern, evangelical concept of being “born again.” For Arnold “no great problem arises”: faith and science can comfortably co-exist! There apparently is no problem with, among other things, the virgin birth, water-to-wine, resurrection from the dead, Christ’s triumphant return, and Christian belief in a Final Judgment. For me, the problem persists! Mostly this happens because I am unwilling to commit what I refer to as intellectual suicide. I can no longer claim Christian faith, with its belief in doctrinal statements and rituals. This does not negate the fact I consider myself spiritual. As a spiritual person I try to find common ground between those like Heinrich, whose faith appears to be miracle-dependent and those like myself, who prefer the rational over the miraculous; who remain open to the possible existence of a reality beyond the bounds of space-time (human, science-based reality). The breathtaking beauty of Genesis 1 and 2, an ancient account of beginnings, is lost when one tries to wed an inspired story with modern science! Science is bound by space-time; inspired wisdom is not. And so the question persists: Do you agree “that no great problem arises between the story of creation in the Bible and theories of evolution?” I must respectfully disagree: a problem does exist. Happily, the problem disappears when I read the bible as a record of how my spiritual forebears understood their lot relative to Mystery. Read in this manner, the bible becomes a guide, a map. It helps me “see”. It can be a useful “tool”. The map is not the same as the destination. For me, the quest for “faith” requires ongoing effort. For others, perhaps for Arnold, faith demands a peaceful, even intellectual surrender. I prefer use the Light I have been gifted with to find my own Path. It will be interesting to see how others respond.

    What is man? He exists in a field of tension between animal and spirit. Most people do not recognize this all-important tension. They ignore the fact that they are called to something higher than being an animal, that they should allow the spirit to live in them.

    No matter at what stage of evolution the creature was that became the first man, God breathed his breath into it (Genesis 2:7) and formed it in its inner potentials into an image of God. It has not yet been revealed to us, I believe, what potentials for wonderful experiences are given to man. It must have been an unbelievable religious experience for this first man when, coming from the animal world, he suddenly experienced God – we humans seldom experience God like that, breathing his living breath into us and speaking directly to our hearts. Yet the same thing happened to Mary when she conceived Jesus by the Spirit. So I do not see that any great problem arises between the story of creation in the Bible and theories of evolution.

    The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog,

    Caspar David Friedrich, The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, oil on canvas, 1818 (detail)

    If man were completely evil and corrupt through and through before being born again of the Holy Spirit, there would be neither room for the divine image nor the possibility of stirring his conscience. We should find an inner vision and an inner reverence for this fact that man is an image of God, seeing with what devotion he opens up to love and with what wonder he submerges himself in streams of holiness. How deeply and wonderfully the human heart can grasp and understand!

    Let us look at our world again: forests, meadows, birds, deer, a valley in the moonlight, a sunset, the starlit heavens. When we think of the starry heavens, the question arises: could God really be so materialistic as to have created so much visible life just here on this little speck of dust we call Earth, leaving everything else absolutely dead? Anyone who thinks deeply will find this impossible; and I am convinced that, just as this earth has an earth-spirit, a prince of this world, so each star has an angel, a spiritual prince or spiritual authority who animates and rules over it. The sun has a fire-angel; the millions of suns in the universe have fire-angels.

    We have no knowledge of the beauty of the angel world; very few have seen it. But if we had the possibility of experiencing the star worlds with their angels or spiritual authorities, I think we would be amazed how wonderfully tender God’s creation is, with the tenderness of virginity, and yet how wonderfully powerful and manly.


    From In the Image of God (Plough, 1977).

    Contributed By J. Heinrich Arnold J. Heinrich Arnold

    Johann Heinrich Arnold is best known for his books which have helped thousands to follow Christ in their daily lives. Those who knew him best remember Arnold as a down-to-earth man who would warmly welcome any troubled person in for a cup of coffee and a chat.

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