Unique Creation

Both OT theology and Greek culture took for granted the centrality of human existence in the great scheme of things. Instead of grounding

101 Thus the First Vatican Council (1869/70) was to reject philosophical outlooks that supported pantheism or refurbished theories about the emanation of the universe from the divine substance (DH 3002-3, 3021-5; ND 412-18).

matters, as the Greeks did, in the universal qualities of being as one, good, true, and beautiful, the chosen people of God drew their view of the human condition from faith in God as lord of history and creator of the world, with humanity as the climax of God's creative work. The Israelites thought that animals are connected to the ground and, unlike human beings, only indirectly related to God (Gen. 1: 24—5). The Bible opens with two distinct accounts of the 'beginning', both of which drive home the same point: the human being is the 'only creature on earth which God willed for itself' (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 24).

Human existence, according to biblical revelation, consists in relationships—between human beings and nature, among human beings themselves, and between human beings and God. The older Yahwist account of creation (Gen. 2) portrays God placing man in the garden and providing for all his needs. The later Priestly tradition (Gen. 1) shows God preparing the 'house' and then bringing in the human tenants: 'male and female' (Gen. 1: 27). The garden and the house belong to the divine proprietor, while humanity can only be God's steward and mouthpiece. Communication is both vertical (between God and humanity) and horizontal (among human beings themselves). The older Yahwist account of creation dwells on the fact that man needs a partner, while the later Priestly version shows God creating humankind as a community. It is to humanity as a whole that God delivers the injunction: 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it' (Gen. 1: 28).

Human creation can respond to and collaborate with the creator—something clearly implied when God says: 'Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness' (Gen. 1: 26). The Bible speaks of one reality that is simultaneously 'image' and 'likeness'. Irenaeus and other early Christian writers developed, however, a basic distinction: the image is permanent, while the likeness is subject to change. Whatever human beings are as God's image, they are and cannot not be: if they were to cease to be God's image, they could no longer be human. The image therefore is the heart of human existence. The likeness is the image in action: it develops; it can progress and regress; it can even disappear through sin. Likeness implies a tension that lasts a whole lifetime.

Through sin those who are created in God's image wish to shape their own being, regardless of God's plan. The fundamental tragedy of sin is that, although persons remain in God's image, they exhibit something fully opposed to what they are and continue to be. We return below to the theme of sin.

The sense of human beings as created in the divine image understands human existence as manifesting God's glory on earth. Unfortunately, Western Christianity has frequently opted for an essentialist reading of what a human being is and lost sight of the aesthetic dimension. It has dwelt upon the triad, memory, understanding, and love, which show how the soul reflects its creator and trinitarian prototype. Eastern Christianity, however, has followed Irenaeus and subsequent writers: humanity is created in God's image and called to participate in God's own being. The theology of the image remains for Eastern Christians fundamental for their reflection on humanity.

God is the prototype, since Genesis proclaims that humanity is created in God's own image. Humanity is the image that understands itself in God's own light and can find its fulfilment only in God. In the third and fourth centuries, the Alexandrian school of theology maintained that only the soul could be the image, since both God and the soul are spiritual in nature; at best, the body somehow participates in what pertains to the soul. The Antiochene school, however, dwelt on the biblical datum that God made the whole human being in the divine image.

Although this might seem a highly technical point, it has far-reaching resonances. Modern philosophy and neurological sciences still heatedly debate what specifically constitutes the human being: is it the self? Is it the brain or some part of it—i.e. the 'hardware', the grey matter which forms the two lobes? Is it the cortex, that controls the two lobes of the brain and links brain activity with bodily operations? Or is it the mind, the 'software' that makes the brain function and operate?102

God creates humankind in the Word, argued St Athanasius of Alexandria, and so we are created according to the Logos. Here Athanasius introduced an interesting pun: the human is logikos, which means both 'rational' and

102 The bibliography on this subject is immense. Here are some examples: G. Basti, Il Rapporto Mente-Corpo nella Filosoifia e nella Sden%a (Bologna: Edizioni Studio Dominicano, 1991); J. C. Eccles, How the Self Controls the Brain (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1994); id., Evolution of the Brain: Creation of the Self (London: Routledge, 1991); A. Kenny, The Metaphysics of Mind (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989); J. Kim, Philosophy of Mind (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1998); K. R. Popper and J. C. Eccles, The Self and Its Brain: An Argument for Interactionism (New York: Routledge, 1984); C. Söling, Das Gehirn-Seele-Problem: Neurobiologie und theologische Anthropologie (Paderborn: Schöningh, 1995); F. J. Valera et al ., The Embodied Mind. Cognitive Science and Human Experience (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1992).

'made according to the Logos'. The Letter to the Colossians presented Christ as being the image of the invisible Father, the firstborn over the original creation and the firstborn of the second creation, the resurrection (1: 15, 18). Hence, human beings cannot truly understand what they are unless they do so in the light of Christ. Since God created us in Christ, Athanasius argued, we must be images (lower case) of the perfect Image (upper case) of the Father, Christ himself. Humankind can reach a full knowledge of itself only through, with, and in Christ.103 'The Word of God came in his own person', Athanasius concluded, 'so that, as he was the Image of the Father, he could create afresh man after the image' (De Incarnatione, 13. 7).

Although all sides agreed that the believer's existence should be 'in Christ', the Alexandrian school stressed the 'spiritual' dimension of human existence according to the prototype, the Word of God manifested to us in Jesus Christ. The Antiochene school, however, held that human persons in their totality, soul and body, are created in the image of Christ and thus should assimilate their existence to the Word made flesh. For the Alexandrian school, the ideal was the Word at the right hand of the Father, while for the Antiochene school the model was Christ who fulfilled the Father's will while he was in the flesh.

Irenaeus blessed God for the incarnation: it enabled human beings to understand the original dignity with which the Father had created them in the beginning: 'For in no other way could we have learned the things of God, unless our Master, existing as the Word, had become man. For no other being had the power of revealing to us the things of the Father, except his own proper Word' (Adversus Haereses, 5. 1. 1). It was only through Christ that we could grasp the dignity and task given us through creation.

Two centuries after Irenaeus, Basil of Caesarea reflected on the intimate relationship between the Son and the Father, to whom belongs the unique glory and majesty of the one God. Basil stated an important theological principle: 'the honour paid to the image passes on to the prototype' (De Spiritu Sancto, 45). Applied to the interpersonal relations between human beings, Basil's principle illustrates how mutual respect among humans ultimately stems from the respect due to the creator, the source of the dignity that belongs to every individual. Basil's brother, Gregory of Nyssa, turned to the language of painting to portray humankind as God created it:

103 See the concluding doxology of all eucharistic prayers, both East and West: 'through him [Christ], with him, in him

As painters transfer human forms to their pictures by means of certain colours, laying on their copy the proper and corresponding tints, so that the beauty of the original may be accurately transferred to the likeness, so I would have you understand that our Maker also, painting the portrait to resemble his own beauty, by the addition of virtues, as it were with colours, shows in us his own sovereignty (De Hominis Opiificio, 5. 1).

In line with the Alexandrian school, Gregory of Nyssa stressed the spiritual dimension of the created image. Gregory distinguished between archetype and prototype, with both terms referring to the divine Word. As archetype, the Word is the modelling source, while as prototype it is a model to be imitated. Only on the spiritual level can humans imitate a prototype, whose essence is divine and incomprehensible (ibid. 11. 3).

Gregory sums up 'the greatness of man' as consisting 'not in his likeness to the created world but in his being in the image of the creator's nature' (ibid. 16. 2). At the same time, as the bridge between 'the divine and incorporeal nature' and 'the irrational life of animals' (ibid. 16. 9), human beings have a responsibility towards the natural world. We will develop below a fuller basis for this responsibility: the interconnectedness of all created things through their common origin, history, and goal.

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