Being Human in God's World
By J. Gordon McConville
An excerpt from chapter 9, on work and creativity
Our question, then, is about the possibilities and limitations that apply to human beings as they seek to discover and live out what it means to be “in the image of God.” Still in Genesis 1, a cue may be taken from God’s repeated judgment on his works that they are “good.” As we observed in our treatment of that chapter, the Hebrew ṭôb can connote “beautiful” as well as “good” in a moral sense, and in this beginning of all things the divine assessment is essentially aesthetic. The world in its ordered profusion is beautiful. Since it is beautiful in the eyes of its maker, it reflects the thoughts of its maker, and so the maker himself...
The notion of creation, applied secondarily to humans, pushes beyond an understanding of human vocation merely in terms of performing certain delegated tasks and points toward the imaginative exploration of the mind of God. As we explore the meaning of the “image,” we now find ourselves asking, what is human beings’ scope for godlike thought and action that may be called “creative”? In the words of Oliver O’Donovan, “If God in creation grants being and sense to a world that would be nothing without them, human creativity is an exercise of sympathetic intelligence, exploring and revealing the good things already latent in the order of nature.”
In fact we have begun to address the role of the imagination in the discovery of God’s world (above, ch. 4), when we considered the part played in it by language, and the lead given in this by the language of Scripture itself. In the openness and suggestive power of language (also noted in ch. 8) there was a correspondence with both the spiritual sense of Scripture, and the spiritual nature of embodied human existence. The human in the “image of God” is invited into the knowledge of God, which is inexhaustible. Therefore, there is something endless about this human “imaging/imagining,” that is both an accomplished given and a call into realizing new possibilities.
McConville, J. Gordon. Being Human in God’s World: An Old Testament Theology of Humanity. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016. Used with permission from the author.