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The Inherent Dignity of Man

For a few years now, a good friend of mine and I study the bible together. Recently, we decided to use the teaching materials of a well-known and respected theologian. Last week, as we were studying Genesis 3, the teacher stated that God had cursed Adam and Eve. That statement immediately caught my attention and as soon as the video lesson ended, we immediately turned to the chapter and read it together. Nowhere in the text does it state that God had cursed either Adam or Eve. Clearly, maledictions are spoken to the serpent and the ground, but never to the primordial couple.

Cursed are you more than all cattle...Cursed is the ground because of you...

I wrestled with this teacher's statement for several days and then remembered that God had instituted an agreement with Adam that carried stipulations. Theologians call this agreement a Covenant of Works or the Adamic Covenant. All covenants have stipulations (terms) and sanctions (repercussions for violations) commonly referred to as "blessings and curses". Adam's habitation within the paradisical environment was only possible to the degree that he obeyed the terms which His Creator had placed upon him. Obedience resulted in life and disobedience resulted in death. Once Adam chose to disobey, the terms of the agreement were enforced and, in that sense, Adam is cursed but not because God pronounces a malediction upon Him. Instead, the Creator describes the outcome which their disobedience must result in.

While these thoughts seemed to pacify my concerns, it didn't fully satisfy. Why would God not verbalize a curse to Adam and Eve? Then, I remembered Genesis 1. He created them, male and female, in His "image and likeness"(Gen. 1:26). If we think that was some innocuous or insignificant detail, note what God tells Noah at the conclusion of the flood,

"5 Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man.

6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood,

By man his blood shall be shed,

For in the image of God

He made man..." (Gen. 9)

This is where the inherent dignity of man is ultimately found - in the image of God Himself. Every human being is birthed with the image and likeness of their Creator. It's a significant and meaningful point for a culture that thirsts and strives for dignity. It's a remarkable design feature that the Creator, as it were, stamps His image upon all mankind; thereby, making all human beings worthy of respect. We all carry His imprint. No other creature on Earth possesses this privilege. It is this inherent dignity that exclaims all life is valuable. It is the reason for the Christian's fierce opposition to abortions or unjust wars or their ardent passion for evangelism - we don't want to see image-bearers destroyed.

All those who hate me love death

Proverbs 8:36

If you're like me, you're probably asking yourself why would God curse the ground? The usual explanation I often heard was that Adam was punished with work but that was inconsistent. Firstly, God gave Adam work from the onset (subdue the Creation, name the animals, etc.). Secondly, God Himself worked for six days. Therefore, work, despite how we may feel on Monday mornings, is not a curse. So, the question remains. Here's a clue and something to ponder - the ground would yield "thorns" and thistles. For my take, I encourage you to read Accursed Ground of this blog.


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