The Media of God in Genesis 1-2 (part 2): Image-Bearing Humanity (@Byers_Andy)

In a previous post, I wrote about Creation as a divine media form. God himself produces and employs media by which he reveals and communicates himself to the world. I call these “TheoMedia.” In Genesis 1-2, we find that Creation is God’s self-expressive artistry. His glory and beauty are mediated in the world through the glimmer of starlight and through the flutter of wings.

We also find in Genesis 1-2 that human beings are also media forms of God.

That’s you. And me. We are among God’s media.

In fact, the most elemental vocation for human beings is a media-vocation, that of divine image-bearing. We are called to put God on display in this world, to picture divine reality on the stage of creation. As his image-bearers, we are TheoMedia!

Images are a daily part of our lives in a media-saturated world. But we often miss the fact that we ourselves are among the media saturating this world. How faithfully are we doing this fundamental task of putting God on visual display? Do people look at us and wonder if we are some form of divine artistry?

The problem is sin.

Something happened to our capacities for bearing the divine image when we opted for the illicit fruit dangling so alluringly from that tree. Sin has seeped into the fibers of our being, debilitating our media-vocation of imaging God in the world.

The good news (the Gospel!) is that Jesus has come as the definitive Image of God (Col 1:15; 2 Cor 4:4; cf. Heb 1:3). And by looking to him, by faithfully orienting our lives around his life, we are reconfigured back into our intended status as fellow image-bearers:

And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18).

I think the Christian theological understanding of Genesis 1-2 (that we were made in God’s image) and also Genesis 3 (that our capacity for imaging God was damaged by sin) explains a great deal about media today. Since we are divine image-bearers, we naturally produce imagery. As divine media, humans are media-makers. But since our image-bearing has been so marred by sin, we are also capable of producing media that is grotesque and profane (think pornography, for instance).

This explains so much about our contemporary mediascape. Such glorious works of art and wonder are produced by our hands, yet streaks of sin’s stains persist. Fractured image-bearers produce fractured images. On the other hand, as ugly as some art products might be, divine beauty sometimes ekes right out of it. No matter how fractured we are, God’s imprint lingers on us.

The theology of the image of God and the theology of “original sin” prevent us from a wholesale rejection of media as “bad” as well as from a wholesale embrace of media as “good.” The media of humanity will for the most part be both. Sin and beauty are now intertwined within us. But as we look to Christ, the one who has come in “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), we can regain our media-vocation of image-bearing in a world desperately in need of having divine beauty placed on prominent display.

About AndyByers

I serve as the Chaplain for St Mary's College at Durham University while working on a PhD in the Department of Theology. CODEC has also taken me on to work as a theological consultant of sorts for the BigBible blog. My first book is about cynicism toward the church and disillusionment with God—'Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic-Saint' (IVP Likewise, 2011). My latest is ‘TheoMedia: The Media of God in the Digital Age’ (Cascade Books, 2013).