Otherness. Distance. Unbridgeable gap. Creator.
Humans. Proximity. Creatures.
In the world structured by the transhistorical law of the King Who Is Other, we start off in quite a hole with respect to God: all is duty and obligation by the order of creation, and a special act, an added gift is required, if God is to overcome the fact of our creatureliness and allow us to enjoy the benefits of his love and kindness.
If my representation of this seems stereotyped or clunky, here’s another way of putting it: “The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant” (WCF 7.1).
On the one hand, I think that this way of putting it displays at the outset a faulty presupposition that the only way to really be blessed by God is by being rewarded for keeping the Law. But putting that quibble aside, the stories of creation are stories of the Father God creating Children–relationships that entail experiencing full blessing appropriate to the relationship apart from an externally imposed covenant to make way for enjoyment of God in return for our servitude.
To confess belief in “God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth” is not just a claim about the God Who Is Out There, but about God as God stands in relationship to humanity.
Genesis 1:26-27: And God said, “Let us create humanity in our own image and in our own likeness and let the them have dominion…”
1. In creating people, God begets children. The closest parallel text for seeing the connection between the language of “image and likeness” and “sonship” is Gen 5 (likely from the same source as Gen 1): God created Adam in the image of God, and Adam then has a son, Seth, in his own image and likeness. This is relational language: we can have “benefit of God as our reward” not because God imposes something to overcome the creator-creature distinction, but because God has created us to be God’s children. (Of course, the fall changes things, but we’re at the beginning of the story here, so bear with me.)
“Image of God” indicates a functional identity for humans: we are created with the purpose of representing the rule of God to the world. I would say that a truer representation of the story than what we read in WCF 7.1 would go something like: “Although God created all the creatures and ordered their lives for their own good, they would know nothing of the continuing sovereign reign of God were it not for God’s giving them an earthly representation of God’s own rule–which he has done by way of humanity.”
Getting caught up in our need to fulfill God’s rules of the cosmos, in our need to find something yet to come in our relationship with God, we too easily lose sight of the fact that we had everything, and that we were God’s gift to the world. Which brings us to…
2. In creating people, God displays his missional character. Again, I’m looking at how we know God though the dynamic and deeply contingent realities of how God has worked in history. And in this culminating act of creation (creating people) we discover that God sends a representative, bearing his authority, to represent God to the world. Humanity is created to act for God, to speak for God, to rule over the world that is God’s sovereign prerogative to rule on His own. The plan for people, and their unique commission, is to be God’s emissaries.
When we begin the story, we are not on the outside in need of getting in. When the story starts we are not confronted with a cosmic set of structures put in place with the hope of sending us into the orbit of eternal beatification. When the story starts we are not lacking in the benefits of God’s blessing and “reward.”
In the beginning, God creates a family: princes and princesses who are charged to keep up the King’s work of bringing fruitful life and flourishing to the King’s Dominion. In the beginning, God is Father–of humanity. In the beginning God is the Sender–of humanity. In the beginning, God ties Himself to creation not through a legal code or covenant, but through His image-bearing sent ones ourselves.