But man is also unique, having been created in “the image of God,” and therefore possessing a spiritual nature that is not shared by other members of God’s creation (1:26). As Delitzsch notes, “Man, who is to ‘have dominion’ over the rest of these creatures, ‘does not come into being by a fiat addressed to the earth’” (in Collins 831; see our first post for Works Cited). Humans, then, exist “as a unique interface embracing those two creaturely worlds, ‘a sort of connecting link between the visible and invisible natures’” (Oden 1.1.6, quoting William Temple). As Lewis explains, we are Creatures with Chests:
As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the ‘spirited element’. The head rules the belly through the chest—the seat, as Alamus tells us, of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment—these are indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal. (Lewis 24-25)
Because of this spiritual identity, man is uniquely endowed with the ability to reason and act morally (2:16-17), to speak (2:19-20, 23), and to appreciate and cultivate beauty (2:5, 9, 15). As a result, humans reflect both the glory and the authority of God as his stewards over the natural world, that we might “order the world rightly under the permission and command of God . . . in a fitting response to God’s unpurchasable gift of life” (Oden 1.1.6; see Genesis 1:28-30; 2:19-20). Man is therefore more than flesh and blood; he is first and foremost a living soul stamped with God’s own image.
Even more, though, as God’s image-bearers we are called to participate in God’s own creativity. This is exactly what is meant by the Lord’s command to, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion” over our fellow creatures (Gen 1:28). Just as creativity is inherent to God’s very being, creativity is part of what makes us human. As Tolkien once said, “Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in a derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker” (371). Humans therefore have the ability not only to perceive, grasp or control an image in art, but to create it. “Art,” then, is “the operative link between Imagination and the final result, Sub-creation” (Tolkien 362).
Reflecting this union of created flesh and creative spirit is the inherently social nature of the first humans and their search for companionship as a natural part of life. Adam is only alone for a brief period of time before God allows him to experience the longing a man has for human company, which God then remedies though his creation of Eve (1:27; 2:18-25). So while individuals are inherently valuable, they are also incomplete without the relationships that arise directly from a shared nature and complementary strengths. The family is therefore the essential building block of human society. From the moment of birth one is not merely a human being, but a child and perhaps a sibling, and when one leaves home, it is to attach himself to another, not to withdraw from society altogether (2:24).
Yet man is not without his faults. Though God was able to call his creation “very good” (1:31), Adam and Eve’s violation of God’s sole command introduced sin, thereby intertwining the fate of nature to the fate of fallen man (ch. 3; see too Rom 5:12; 6:23; 8:18-25). Sin leads to (1) oppression, as the strong exploit the weak (see ch. 4; 10:8) and (2) judgment, as God returns misfortune on those who deal it, either through nature (chs. 6-8) or other men (9:6). Thus, man remains accountable to both the unchanging character of the One who created us and to our common identity as fellow creatures in his image (Heb 13:8; Jam 3:9).
As Ericson states, “Because human beings are at one and the same time both grand (via creation) and miserable (via the fall), our lives are open to high drama, even to heroism.” So while God’s image remains essential to human nature, it has been distorted by the power of sin, only to be restored through one’s reception of Christ as Savior, and consummated on the last day (Rom 8:29; 2Co 3:18; 5:17; Eph 4:20-24; Col 3:9-10; 1Co 15:49). The inherent dignity of human life, however, remains the foundation of Christian ethics, because “No gift we are given is more remarkable than the extraordinary gift of simply being given anything at all, the unpurchasable gift of living as free human beings” (Oden 1.1.6).
Man is not merely a “political animal” or “economic man,” but is primarily a created, spiritual, moral, creative and social being, called to reflect God, to represent God, and to relate to God and others. Economics is therefore made for man, and not man for economics.