• Tom Strode

The incarnation and human dignity

The first Sunday of Advent did not pass without reminders for the church of the importance of human dignity and Christ's incarnation.

For instance, here are a few items from December 1 or shortly before:

-- Unidentified gunmen killed at least 14 people and injured many others during a church worship service December 1 in the West African country of Burkina Faso. Though the killers were unidentified, places of worship have been targets of a series of attacks this year by Muslim extremists, according to the France 24 news channel.

-- A statue of the late Rosa Parks was dedicated in Montgomery, Ala., December 1, the 64th anniversary of her arrest for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a public bus in the state capital. Parks' civil disobedience prompted a bus boycott that marked an important step in the civil rights movement.

-- A Nov. 29 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed another two percent drop from the previous year as part of the continuing decline in the number of abortions in this country. Yet, more than 620,000 abortions were still reported, and that is without data from three states, including California, and the District of Columbia.

-- Time magazine published November 27 a report on a federal program in the 1970s that resulted in about one-forth of all Native American women of child-bearing age being sterilized, some coercively or without their knowledge. In addition, black and Hispanic women also were targeted for forced sterilizations, according to Time.

All serve to help us remember the inhumane way human beings can sometimes view and treat other human beings.

Against such atrocities stands the biblical teaching of human dignity. God has created every person in His image. Everyone -- regardless of ethnicity, skin color, physical and mental condition, sex or religious belief -- is valuable based precisely on being made in God's image.

If that were not enough, the incarnation of God the Son adds extra significance to the truth of human dignity. In fact, it is the basis of human dignity, biblical scholars say.

Tony Reinke, senior teacher for Desiring God and author, provided an explanation of this view of "the Christological doctrine of the image of God" -- as theologian Oliver Crisp puts it -- in a November 2016 post. He did so after reading Dignity and Destiny: Humanity in the Image of God and speaking to its author, John Kilner. Kilner is a former president of The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and recently retired as professor of bioethics and contemporary culture at Trinity International University in suburban Chicago.

Citing II Corinthians 4:4 and Colossians 1:15, Kilner said, "The image of God is Jesus Christ."

“Christ is the image, and people are created in his image,” Kilner said. “The preposition ‘in’ more specifically means ‘according to.’ So the idea here is that God created people according to his image, which is Jesus Christ. Christ is the standard, the model for what a human being should be.”

Reinke writes, "If that sounds historically backwards — the resurrected, glorified Christ was the prototype for humanity, before Adam and Eve were fashioned from dirt — that’s because 'according to Romans 8:29, before people were created, God determined that Christ would be the model according to which humanity would ultimately be conformed.'"

This means "Christ is the archetype whose human nature is the blueprint for all other human natures," Reinke writes, quoting Crisp's book, The Word Enfleshed: Exploring the Person and Work of Christ. Crisp is the chair of analytic theology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

As a result, the sanctity and dignity of human life is connected to the incarnation of Christ. We are made in His image -- the image of the Son who came in the flesh.

At Christmas, may we rejoice in the revelation of the image in which we are all created -- the One who came to save us.

-- Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash


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