Many North Americans are obsessed with their appearance. The evidence presents itself in the Botox craze, The South Beach Diet, Pilates, and reality television shows such as The Swan, Extreme Makeover, and The Big Loser. It also appears in fashion magazines such as Lucky, Shop Etc., Vogue, and InStyle.
we still crave more. We tune in to find out if a former American Idol
star will work out or wimp out, and to see if the so-called ugly
duckling will become a swan. We watch as surgeons tweak noses, expunge
fat, augment breasts, and tighten loose eyelids, all the while never
raising eyebrows of our own. What is it that we find fascinating about
those who have gone under the knife and speak from beneath bundles of
gauze? Could it be that we sense that something about this life,
including our bodies, is not as it should be?
Adam and Eve: The
1:27 says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he
created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 2:7 says, “The
LORD God formed man from dust of the ground and breathed into his
nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” God did
not create Adam from elephant DNA or take a rib from a zebra to create
Eve. Instead He formed the dirt into bodies and breathed His life into
their nostrils. Whether giraffe or crocodile, no animal came to life by
God’s very breath. Only mankind did.
And just as a child
reflects the attributes of his or her parents, so we reflect our
parent—God. He created us in His image to reflect the love that exists
within the three persons of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the
Holy Spirit. For this reason it was not good for Adam to be alone.
Together Adam and Eve in their unity perfectly reflected God and His
love. Moreover, scholars point out other human indicators of the
divine: the capacity to rule, understand good and evil, and fellowship
with others. Our personalities also point to the Creator, along with
the ability to reflect the person of Jesus if we believe in Him, and to
become a new man or woman by the work of the Holy Spirit.
If we fully understand the concept of imago dei,
therefore, we seek to find our identity in the God who made us rather
than in a rising movie star, a career move, or cosmetic invention.
Scott Horrell (ThM, 1977; ThD, 1988), professor of systematic theology
at Dallas Seminary, writes, “Scripture indicates that rather than
looking within himself, the human being discovers his or her true
nature by focusing on the Creator.” Diet fads, cosmetic surgery,
reality shows, and the billions spent on fashion show us where we often
look to discover our true selves.
Garments of Skin
do we look to the gods of get-thin/rich/important-quick rather than to
the God of the Bible? A paraphrased look into Adam’s and Eve’s parlay
into doubt in the Garden of Eden may help us answer that question.
Serpent: Eve, has God really said not to eat from any tree of the garden? (He questions God’s Word.)
We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but not from the one in
the middle. That one we can’t eat from or touch or we will die. (She
adds boundaries to God’s command. He never told her not to touch the
Serpent: You will not die! God knows that
when you eat fruit from it you will become like Him and know good from
evil. (The serpent lies to cast doubt on God’s goodness and implies
that Eve can be like God.)
Eve: The fruit looks delicious and is good for wisdom. She ate the fruit and offered some to Adam, who also ate it.
that when Eve ate the fruit, Adam also ate. We each share the
culpability for our actions, but sin rarely affects one individual. The
consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin, in fact, have created the current
state of chaos in which we find ourselves today.
wrote, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking
for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Things are not as they should be.
As he did in the Garden of Eden, Satan aims to cast doubt on the Word
of God in his effort to derail us from obedience.
In Genesis: A Living Conversation,
Bill Moyers describes discussions he had with a number of artists,
scholars, and theologians about the Book of Genesis. When he asked a
panel what Eve did wrong in the garden, one participant, Jean-Pierre
Ruiz, said that she did all the right things: “She listens, she
observes, she seeks knowledge. She eats the fruit. Adam eats the fruit.
And somehow, something has gone awry.”
When another participant pressed Ruiz as to why he considered these
actions right instead of wrong, Ruiz replied, “Because they seem to be
the way human beings, ever since, have gone about making prudent
decisions—listening, observing, seeking knowledge.”
Yet the glaring omission in Eve’s decision-making process is God.
She sought truth outside of God. Such a process always opens the door
for sin to enter as it entered the Garden of Eden. Knowing this, we can
better define sin and how it has affected the concept of imago dei.
is anything that separates us from, rejects, or rebels against God. And
here we turn to take a closer look at the consequences of the first
couple’s sin. After eating the fruit, Adam and Eve became aware of
their nakedness. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they
realized they were naked” (Gen. 3:7). Have you ever had a dream in
which you stood at a bus stop naked and everyone stared and laughed?
When we read Genesis 3:7, we might imagine ourselves in the story.
Don’t you think we would realize if we were standing naked in a garden
chatting about fruit? But Scripture indicates that something happened
to create such a nakedness-awareness. Before their sin Adam and Eve’s
nakedness caused them no shame.
Genesis 2:21–25 describes
their relationship. God, after causing Adam to sleep deeply, took a rib
from his side and created Eve. When Adam woke up and saw Eve, he said,
“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (v. 23). The
Scriptures then describe the first human marriage: “For this reason a
man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and
they will become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked
and were not ashamed” (vv. 24–25). Adam and Eve were in perfect union
not only with God but also with each other. This passage tells us that
God created us to be unashamed of our bodies.
consequences of our first parents’ sin are that Adam would toil the
ground and Eve would endure pain in childbirth. They would suffer
marital strife, and nature would become an enemy (including the
serpent). And they both would be banished from the garden. Although
they didn’t die right away, they died spiritually, which ushered in the
certainty of future physical death. But before all these consequences
began to take effect, Adam and Eve’s responses to their own sin offers
us insight into our own lives.
Genesis 3:7–8 says that once
they realized their nakedness, the man and woman sewed together fig
leaves to cover themselves and then hid from God. First they hid from
each other and then from God. Hiding indicates the foolishness and
depravity of our minds when we sin. Having already departed from God,
Adam departed further still. However, as Martin Luther explains, “He
needed not, therefore, to flee farther from Him still. But so it is.
That is the very nature of sin—the farther a man departs from God, the
farther still he wants to depart.”
Imagine standing in the
garden, covered with makeshift clothes, cowering before your husband or
wife, and hiding in shame from God. It is interesting to see that God
sought out Adam after his sin, despite his effort to depart from Him.
are you?” God asked. Even today, when we depart still further from God,
He calls to us, “Where are you?” Is this characteristic of a God who
wants to strike us dead?
Even after God doled out a litany of
consequences, He made appropriate clothes, or garments of skin, for the
man and woman before sending them out into the world. Imagine, again,
standing in the garden, quaking before your Creator, who has just told
you the effects of your sin. Imagine knowing you’re banished to the
unknown world beyond Eden. Then God clothes you.
this act in different ways. Some say that God killed animals to make
these garments of skin to foreshadow the insufficient animal sacrifices
that the nation of Israel would offer, and therefore He foreshadowed
Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross. Others say that he clothed
them as a symbol of the Fall into baseness, or as a perpetual reminder
of the immortality they forfeited.
Indeed, while Gary Anderson incorrectly asserts in his book, The Genesis of Perfection,
that Adam and Eve originally were clothed and formed like angelic
beings, he does properly emphasize that they were crowned with glory.
He notes that garments of skin appear throughout Scripture—from the
Levitical priests who wore garments to reflect their proximity to God
in the temple to Jesus’ bloodstained garments at His death, to His
glorious white garment and restored body on Easter.
The act of clothing the man and woman, therefore, shows
significance and hints at the nature of the Creator. When the man and
his wife sinned, they should have died immediately. Yet God spared them
immediate death. Why? Instead God called out to them, “Where are you?”
and He clothed them. That is because He is a pursuing, merciful God.
“This long-suffering of God Satan ever abuses,” Luther observes. “And
it just suits his purpose that man should not immediately feel his sin.
Because punishment is thus deferred, Satan fills the mind with security
and unconcern. So that man is not only kept blind to the fact that he
has sinned, but is caused to take delight and to glory in his sins.”
however, as Gary Anderson points out, artists throughout history have
portrayed Adam and Eve leaving the garden naked. Perhaps it is to
impress on the viewer the shame our first parents felt when God
expelled them from the Garden. But it’s also possible they’ve missed
the mercy in the judgment.
While we must understand the guilt
and shame because we also experience the same over our own sin, we must
also understand the mercy and protection of the God who provided the
man and woman with clothes. In their most undeserving state, God took
care of them.
Christ, the Second Adam
instead of reminding us of our loss of intimacy with God and others,
our clothing has become a point of pride and obsession. How we look and
what designers’ clothes we wear determine our worth and sense of
well-being. It was the same in Luther’s day, causing him to say, “Like
asses created for bearing burdens of gold, they seem rather to consider
with how much gold they can load themselves…. For who can possibly
describe the extent of devotedness, and of expenses to which both men
and women proceed, as to their dress and garments! Eden was, in truth,
a garden of delight and pleasure. But all these things were deformed by
sin, and remain deformed, still. All creatures, yea even the sun
and the moon, have as it were put on sackcloth.”
of creation groans, as Paul wrote in Romans 8:22. Yet speaking about
Genesis with Bill Moyers, Stephen Mitchell rejects the biblical
assertion that the very Jesus who paid for the sins of the first Adam
will reestablish new heavens and a new earth. Mitchell said, “When we
talk about paradise in the way prophets do—swords into ploughshares,
lions chummy with lambs—we’re talking about a fantasy of safety and
tameness, a zoo, not the actual world that God created. The true
paradise is our world, the world just as it is, with all its suffering,
but seen through the eyes that calls it very good.”
that this world—in its current state—is seen through the “eyes that
call it very good” is to deny the truth of Genesis 1–3. Such an
assertion denies the fact that while we bear the imago dei, we
are slaves to sin (John 8:34) and incapable of saving ourselves. To say
that God has looked on the world as good throughout even modern
history, which includes nuclear war, the Holocaust, and the genocides
in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Sudan, is to deny the need for Christ.
that is the problem. Departed first from God’s presence, we are
departing still—so far that we cannot know our true, sinful selves. We
do not feel the initial sting of sin. We wonder why a merciful,
protecting, and pursuing God would let us suffer in silence. We expect
a wholly different kind of hero.
“To this day [and to ancient Hebrews], Jesus does not look like what many people want in a Savior,” says John Stackhouse Jr. in Can God Be Trusted?: Faith and the Challenge of Evil.
“He does not offer to free them immediately from all oppression and
obligation. He does not offer to make them financially secure. He does
not offer to provide them with unending comfort and pleasure. He does
not offer to settle their scores, to promote their interests, to do
While we search for the latest fads to crown
ourselves with glory, our Creator calls to us, “Where are you?” We have
so long forgotten the image of the One we reflect that we also fail to
see that He clothes and protects us with mercy and long-suffering love
in this world. Denying the Genesis account as written denies Jesus’
work of salvation on the cross and that He promises to restore paradise
(Rev. 21–22). “God has revealed [Himself] in Jesus in a manner
completely adequate for faith,” Stackhouse writes. “That is what human
life is about, and what God has provided for in Jesus. In Jesus we see
what we desperately need to see: God close to us, God active among us,
God loving us, God forgiving our sin, God opening up a way to a new
life of everlasting love.”
Without such a hope, contra
Stephen Mitchell, all we can expect is life in a zoo—living in
artificial habitats, searching for true shelter and privacy from the
throngs of voyeurs, and either unaware of the cages or longing to break
Julie Cramer (MA/MC
student) works as an editor and writer for Dallas Seminary’s
Communications department and is assistant editor of Kindred Spirit.