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Then Nature of Man: Image of God (Part II)

April 18, 2024
By Dr. Laws Rushing II

The Psalmist of old contemplated humanity’s place in the universe by writing, “What is man that You are mindful of him?” Humanity is constituted of two unified natures, body and soul. The body is created out of matter and physical while the soul is immaterial and categorized as the mind. One of the most significant features of our image bearing is the endowment of freedom which is a hallmark of our distinctive spiritual nature.

The transcendent trait of free will is a building block to other spiritual faculties and integral to the essence of humans.

When we look at the universe and other lifeforms, we see that plants and animals behave differently than humans and for good reasons. Either they act entirely in accordance with physical law or upon instincts. Whereas humans have the potential to function based on other mental frameworks, priorities, conceptional and even ethical hierarchies. Simply put, mature humans have the ability to choose actions.

The fact of human freedom, while seemingly self-evident, intuitive, and how we understand ourselves and others is shockingly controversial among some scientists and philosophers.

In recent years, atheistic thinkers have been doomed to this radical deduction because of their unwavering commitment and faith to atheistic materialism. The idea that all of reality consists of what we can detect empirically or by scientific methods. Yet, this epistemological modus operandi is plainly self-defeating and beyond its own criterion for knowledge.

In the worldview of atheistic materialism, there is simply no room for free will because it cannot be defined by material terms or measures. The assumption is that humans are entirely physical, and all our behaviors are determined by mindless chemistry. So, you are left eventually with the absurdity that a 747 plane was designed by merely deterministic chemicals in the brain with only illusory choices in the process! Rationality itself is destroyed in the wake of materialistic determinism.

Also, understanding that the universe was born in the infinite freedom and agency of God. Freedom is unconditioned except for being itself which would be adequately explained by God as pure being. All other alternative origins are ultimately, as the adage goes, “turtles all the way down” (infinite regress) or being from non-being which have major philosophical problems. Almighty God in his unconditioned freedom is a rational and sufficient explanation of the created universe and our own image bearing nature.

The Bible clearly portrays humanity as responsible agents. God said of humanity in the beginning, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat” (Genesis 2: 16). To the people of Israel, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30: 19).

The great leader Joshua challenged the people, “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the river and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14, 15).

Jesus speaks in Revelation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:20,21).

Our free will is limited, finite, and fallen. Our choices are impacted and influenced undoubtedly by our genetics, environment, and selfishness. However, we still have personal volition, intentionality, and responsibility for our actions.

The great Anselm summarized brilliantly, “Remove grace, and you have nothing whereby to be saved. Remove free will and you have nothing that could be saved.”

Nature of Man: Image of God (Part I)

April 03, 2024
By Dr. Laws Rushing II

God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” The image of God distinguishes humanity from other living entities and gives human life an increased moral status and dignity. (Genesis 9:6) “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God, He made man.” The basis of all human rights, justice, and redemption emerges from the transcendent value intrinsic to humanity’s nature through God’s special creation and image bearing.

We can understand the “image of God” through a few exercises, such as the differences between us and animals, characteristics of human beings, and what the Bible reveals about our nature and aptitudes. Our image bearing doesn’t make us divine in the same sense as God because we are finite and limited in our being, whereas God is being itself. God has characteristics and attributes which are exclusive and distinctive as that “which no greater can be conceived.”

Humanity is composed of a spiritual nature called a soul or mind. Many philosophers have come to this conclusion rationally from Socrates to Descartes concerning the mind or soul/body duality. Philosophers of the mind and neuroscientists continue to dialog and debate the mysteries of consciousness which is commonly called the “hard problem” of science.

Mental entities such as thoughts and feelings are not located in any particular space or have physical qualities like material objects or events. Philosophers J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig detail several characteristics for the mind as mental entities are self-presenting, have private accessibility, incorrigible or individually factual, and capable of intentionality, none of these activities are possible in a material sense. This means that the inter-relationship of the mind and brain can be causal and connected but not identical. (Craig 2003)

We see the existence of a soul more importantly because of the Bible. The current physical body is temporal and only a part of the whole constitution of a human being. Verses in the Old Testament indicate the soul and body dichotomy (Genesis 35:18, I Kings 17:21, Isaiah 53:12). The book of Ecclesiastes gives this description, “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.”

The New Testament makes mention of the soul leaving the body in death. (Luke 12:20, John 19:30, Acts 7:59).

(James 2:26) “For as the body without the spirit is dead.” Jesus also warned, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The soul is indicated to survive after the body’s death which is characterized as a tent.

(II Corinthians 5:1-8) “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.  Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

Some verses even indicate that humanity is composed of trichotomy: body, soul, and spirit. Some debate whether these verses are redundant in the spiritual portrayal or elucidating something different like an animating soul in the likeness to animal life. (Hebrews 4:12) “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (I Thessalonians 5: 23) “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

No matter the interpretation of these verses, man is a physical and spiritual composition.

The great writer and poet William Faulkner summarized in his Nobel Prize speech, “I believe that man will not merely endure, he will prevail. He is immortal not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.” 

The Nature of Man: Creation of Humanity

March 18, 2024
By Dr. Laws Rushing II

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”

The Scriptures present the creation of space, time, and matter from nothing, ex nihilo by the incalculable power of God.  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” We know that events happen either by cause through necessity, coincidence, or intentionality. The universe came to be because of the personal agency of Almighty God. “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The Sovereign God brought all things into being and order- out of chaos.  “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

We see through the creation narrative that complexity of life builds with each day and humanity is the crowning achievement on the sixth day.

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

“And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.  Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food’; and it was so. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:26-31)

The Bible gives this specific description of man’s creation, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). We see God’s immediate work and care in creating humans whereas previously said of mere animals, “let the earth bring forth” (Genesis 1: 11, 24).

Woman was created to complete and perfect humanity with procreation, companionship, and complementary attributes for fulfillment and love. “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Moreover, “He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created” (Genesis 5:2).

The Psalmist praises the Lord for the amazing creation of the human form.

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book, they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” (Psalms 139: 13-16)

Man has a responsibility to God for the creation put under him. Humanity is to “be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion.” God instructs us to not be idle but to work and be productive.  “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2: 15). We see the imperative and virtue of work further substantiated in the New Testament. “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (II Thessalonians 3: 10).

We were created to bring God glory and honor. “Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him” (Isaiah 43:7). The magnificence of God is displayed all around us in creation and brings awe and wonder to the heart. “Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You” (Jeremiah 32:17).

God proclaimed His approval of creation as “good” (Genesis 1: 4,10, 12, 18, 21, 25). We see that the primeval couple were innocent in the garden prior to the fall. It is written, “they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2: 25). Furthermore, God declared His creation of humanity as “very good.”

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The Nature of God: Love

March 07, 2024
By Dr. Laws Rushing II

“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”

The grandest question of the universe is beyond the reach of science and appears to be inexplicable. The question of why? The Bible gives a concise answer to this difficult quandary and is found in the answer of love, which is the summum bonum of the cosmos (I Corinthians 13). Love itself cannot exist in a vacuum but is found in a relation and ultimately God’s love is sourced within the eternal relation of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God’s love is eternal and found within His own very nature and being.

The Bible speaks of the love of God. (I John 4:8, 16) “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” God is also described as “first love” (I John 4: 19), which means that his love is unconditional and shaped by His own character and not by our merit or utility. As CS Lewis observed, “God loves us not because we are loveable but because He is love.”

The expression of God’s love has manifested itself through a covenantal relationship and faithfulness. The Hebrew word hesed has been used over 250 times in the Old Testament. It is sometimes translated as lovingkindness, steadfast love or mercy. “And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful (hesed) and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy (hesed) for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34: 6,7).

Hear the words of the Psalmist (chapter 136), who praises God for His steadfast love or eternal mercy (hesed) repeatedly.

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Oh, give thanks to the God of gods!
For His mercy endures forever.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords!
For His mercy endures forever:

To Him who alone does great wonders,
For His mercy endures forever;
To Him who by wisdom made the heavens,
For His mercy endures forever;
To Him who laid out the earth above the waters,
For His mercy endures forever;
To Him who made great lights,
For His mercy endures forever—
The sun to rule by day,
For His mercy endures forever; The moon and stars to rule by night”

There are also philosophical considerations when it comes to God’s love called ethics. A worldview without God or Christian love is one without ethical grounding. Many thinkers have come to grips with this painful and unlivable conclusion. The often-quoted novelist Dostoevsky, “If there is no God, everything is permitted.” God’s character of holiness and goodness are the locus of ethical standards, and His love is the transcendent ethical value placed in humanity by His creative and redemptive acts. God’s character and love makes sense of our consciences, moral obligations to each other and society.


The concept of love is not so much a feeling or attraction but an ethic. The Bible speaks of God’s love as the foundation of our own beneficent and loving behavior. (I John 4: 11-13) “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” Furthermore, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (I John 4:20, 21).


Jesus taught that we must love universally and as He loves us. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34, 35). The commandment is not limited but even extended to enemies. Jesus preached, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48).

God’s love finds its greatest covenantal expression in the amazing life, atoning death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (I John 4: 9,10) “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

The old hymn poetically summarizes the depths and immensity of God’s love.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
 And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
 And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
 Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
 Though stretched from sky to sky.

The Nature of God: Trinity

February 26, 2024
By Dr. Laws Rushing II

The sublime and transcendent ethic of eternal love is only possible through a relation. God’s triune nature is the foundation of all love and relation.

God’s whole nature is certainly incomprehensible to our thinking. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” (Romans 11:33,34). ““The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

God has progressively revealed His comprehensible nature in the Bible beginning with his oneness. The ancient cultural backdrop is also helpful to understand how this concept can be integrated with the seemingly paradoxical doctrine, God as one in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

During the time of Israel, religion was immersed in polytheism and idolatry. It was commonplace for natural elements such as the sun, moon, precious metals, and man’s art to be regarded as sacred or deity. When we read the Genesis narrative of creation, one of the drastic differences from eastern myths is the fact that God is transcendent and separate from nature itself. God’s nature was distinctly one and different from the plethora of things in creation. God stands outside of the universe and is not made or limited to space, time, and matter.  This constitutes the one true essence of God.

The oneness of God is specified by both the Old and New Testaments. (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5) “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

(Isaiah 44:8-11) “Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed, there is no other Rock; I know not one.’  Those who make an image, all of them are useless, And their precious things shall not profit; They are their own witnesses; They neither see nor know, that they may be ashamed. Who would form a god or mold an image That profits him nothing?”

(John 17:3) “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (I Timothy 2:5) “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 1:9) “For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”

The Bible also speaks of God in plurality. (Genesis 1:26, 27) “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Isaiah 6:8) “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: 'Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” The Scriptures reveal God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in one essence and being which is transcendent over space, time, and matter described as spirit. (John. 4: 24) “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him, must worship in spirit and truth.”

Church father Tertullian was responsible for coining new words in the Latin language like a spiritual Shakespeare. The word “trinitas” or trinity was crafted to describe the widespread biblical concept. (McGrath 1994)

God is revealed as Father.

Israel is called “My son, my first born” (Exodus 4:22). Isaiah further states, “But now, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and you our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). Moreover, the prophet declares, “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another by profaning the covenant of the fathers?” (Malachi 2:10) The Fatherhood of God takes even greater shape with the ministry of Christ and the New Testament. The Aramaic term “Abba” was uttered by Christ in referencing God which showcased the spiritual intimacy of Father and Son but also ushered in a new relationship with mankind. The name “Abba” is exceptional in the words of Christ. Joachim Jeremias commented, “There is not a single example of the use Abba… an address to God in the whole of Jewish literature.” (Jeremias 1967) The emphasis on God as Father is referenced by Christ 44 times in Matthew and 120 in John. (Metzger 1965) We find numerous references in later books. (Romans 1:7, Ephesians 4:1-4, Galatians 1:1).

God is revealed as the Son.

We see this prophetically in the Old Testament. (Psalms 2:7) “The Lord has said to Me, You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” (Isaiah 9:6) “For unto a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder: and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace.” The term “Son” designates his earthly life and “Word” is eternal essence with God. (John 1:1-4) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” The Word “became flesh and dwelt among us” speaking of Jesus (John 1:14).

Christ displayed many hallmarks of deity. He accepted worship (Matthew 28: 17) forgave sins (Mark 2:5, Luke 7:47-50) spoke with authority on par with the Torah (Matthew 5,6, 7, John 5:39-47) and declared Himself eternal (John 17:3). Jesus also identified Himself with Jehovah God in the “I Am” statements (John 6:35, 8:12, 10:7, 10:11,14, 11:25, 14:6, 15:1).

God is revealed as the Holy Spirit.

The Bible begins with “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” with 62 references in the Old Testament and 90 in the New Testament. (Isaiah 63:10) “But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; so He turned Himself against them as an enemy, and he fought against them.” When David lamented his egregious sin, “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” The Holy Spirit is also credited with authoring and inspiring the truth of Scripture from the prophets to the Apostles (II Peter 1:21, John 14:26, 16:13). Jesus preaches that the Holy Spirit can be blasphemed which is considered a very serious offense to God (Matthew 12:31). The Holy Spirit is given attributes of personhood such as “hears, speaks, teaches, convicts, comforts, reveals, intercedes, brings to remembrance, sends, sets elders (John 16:13, Mark 13:11, John 15:26, John 16:8, John 16:7, John 16:14, Romans 8:26, John 14:26, Acts 13: 1-4, Acts 20:28).

One of the greatest explications of the Holy Spirit as God is in Acts 5. Luke uses the terms God and Holy Spirit interchangeably. (Acts 5: 3,4) “But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

The Bible also speaks of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in passages and narratives. One of the most vivid portrayals is the baptism of Jesus. We see all three manifested in their personhood, united will and deity. (Matthew 3: 16, 17) “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.  And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The Scriptures also place their authority and names in unanimity. (Matthew 28:19,20) “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (II Corinthians 13:14) “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen”

Heresies arose in the church to challenge the full deity of Christ like Arianism which would destroy the biblical trinitarian understanding. The modalism heresy also confused God as one but only disclosing Himself in different situations or times as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit but not the full triune God. Lastly, tritheism- teaches three separate gods as opposed to one in being. The doctrine of trinity is not a contradiction but carefully understood by orthodox Christians that gives glory to the true living God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is through this divine relation that God’s eternal love exists.

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