In Genesis 1.26-28, God says he will make man in his own image (imago dei). We’re like him, and we’re meant to do the things he does.
That’s absolutely central to biblical anthropology—the Christian understanding of personhood.
And what is God like?
He is a Creator creating creators to perpetuate Creation. Which means we are meant to cooperate with him and make the future present. We see this clearly represented in the long story of scripture, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. In the Beginning, God creates a garden. By the time we get to the End, that garden has flourished into a city.
Somehow, whether it takes a billion years or another fifty, God’s design for earth is to matriculate from botany to polis, from paradise (literally “garden”) to garden-city. That’s the trajectory of the biblical story, the goal (telos) of human cooperation in Creation.
Despite our noble conscription, we deviated from our calling. We abandoned our post. Instead of remaining obedient to God and cultivating his garden, Adam and Eve stepped outside of their divine responsibility and invited sin into the world through their disobedience. As a result, the image of God in us has cracked, becoming marred and ruined.
To help us recover that image, God appointed certain people certain tasks at certain moments in time.
He called Abraham to be the father of a new people (Genesis 12.1-3).
He called Moses to lead those same people out of slavery (Exodus 3).
He called Joshua to lead those people into a land of promise (Joshua 1.1-9).
These ancient heroes of faith demonstrated what it means to be godly human beings, cooperating with their Creator in the ways he first intended.
But they all failed. Their momentary successes were invariably overshadowed by their inability to restore the earth to paradise.
Abraham did father a new people, but those people were part of the problem.
Moses did lead them out of Egypt, but subsequently they enslaved themselves to pagan deities.
Joshua brought them into the promised land, but it was still polluted by their sin.
Time and time again, God hammered his people back into a right relationship with him. But God’s people were never as committed to righteousness as he was. In the end, God had to fix the problem more directly. God sent Jesus to fulfill the task of his ancient people. Jesus, on his own and through his death, did what Abraham, Moses, and Joshua could not (Romans 8.3).
He won the victory over sin and death.
As a result, Creation has been freed from bondage to decay, and death has lost its power (Romans 8.2). The people of God are no longer under condemnation (Romans 8.1), but look forward to the future, to the new heaven, to the new earth, to the new Jerusalem (2 Peter 3.13).
We long for a time when God’s Lego project is finished.
Dr. David McDonald is the teaching pastor at Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, MI. The church, widely considered among the most innovative in America, has been featured on CNN.com and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Time Magazine. David weaves deep theological truths with sharp social analysis and peculiar observations on pop culture. He lives in Jackson with his wife, Carmel, and their two kids. Follow him on twitter (@fossores) or online at fossores.com