In a way, this question deals directly with our very focus at In His Image. Stated succinctly: human nature, created in God’s likeness calls us to engage with and enjoy fellowship with God, employing our created potentialities of character, being, mind and strength for his glory and the joy of our existence. So even in a seemingly unrelated subject like economics, submission to our Creator King and his divine wisdom remains the center of our views, even when he has not commanded specific applications. But what does this nature look like, and what does it have to do with economics?
In approaching the opening chapters of Genesis we begin to understand that our discussion of human nature takes place on a much grander scale than merely human discourse. God is the first actor and the first speaker in the book that bears his name, creating everything that exists out of nothing (Latin ex nihilo), and therefore declaring his power and authority as Lord of heaven and earth (Gen 1:1-2; see Heb 11:3). He begins his work by forming the physical environment for his creation (light and dark; sea and sky; the land) and then filling these environments with their respective inhabitants (heavenly bodies; fish and birds; and land animals) before resting from his work. Time too is therefore subject to God’s design for humanity, both for labor and worship, in that his actions provide an example and a parallel to our own efforts each week (Gen 2:9, 15; see Exo 20:11, the ESVSB, and our first post for Works Cited).
Yet God’s purpose is not merely to create his own mortal minions (a common belief in the ancient Near East). Instead, “God made the material world as a place for mankind to live: to love, to work, to enjoy and to worship God” (Collins 908). But they are not worshipping him from a distance: he dwells with, walks and talks among them in the garden of his temple complex (2:1-3; 3:8ff). To emphasize this view, Moses is led to describe man’s work in the garden using the same terms he later uses to discuss the work of priests in the temple (compare the phrases “work” and “keep” in Gen 2:15 and “keep/guard” and “minister/serve” in Num 3:7-8 and 18:7 ESV; see ESVSB). Recognizing the presence and power of the divine is therefore essential to understanding the original state of human nature.
Man’s (adam) constitution therefore reflects man’s close connection to the ground (adamah). He therefore shares many biological features with other animals: both man and beasts are (1) “formed from the ground” as (2) living souls (3) who possess the “breath of life” (2:7, 19; 1:20, 24, 28-30). As Oden points out, “Humanity is not made ‘out of nothing’ (as is God) but out of ‘the dust of the ground’, just as wild animals and birds were ‘formed out of the ground’ by God” (1.1.6, internal citations omitted).