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.
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).