Sunday, July 13, 2014

C7. All humanity is of equal value to God.

This is my final post in the sequence on creation in my theology in bullet points series. I will follow it up with a post with all the links for the entire series thus far.
All humanity is of equal value to God--all nations, every social status, both male and female.

Galatians 3:28 gives us the baseline of the kingdom of God: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." The principle that Paul is presenting is that of justification by faith as the mechanism of incorporation into God's family. A Jew is established as a child of God by faith, just like a Gentile. A man is a child through faith, just as a woman. Master or slave, both become children through faith.

While we wish the issue of equal value in the eyes of God ended there, there is often push back. For example, sometimes parents favor one child over another. People can have different gifts that make them more suitable for different roles. The Pauline corpus itself, for example, at times seems to conform to the social scripts of its ancient culture (e.g., 1 Cor. 11:3; Col. 3:18-4:1).

Nevertheless, we can see the ideal of the kingdom of God in the teaching of Jesus. Jesus ministered on the principle that "the last will be first" (Matt. 20:16), meaning that God would even out the lesser social status of those in this world with a higher status in the kingdom of God. Similarly, the Parable of the Good Samaritan indicated to the legal expert that the command to love one's neighbor extended to everyone, including those we would least want to value, including individuals from enemy groups (Luke 10:25-37). We are to love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-47). Indeed, we are to treat all others with respect and dignity since they are the image of God (e.g., Jas. 3:9).

The principle here is that all human beings are of great value to God, regardless of social status, gender, or race. Although the primary issue had to do with the extension of the gospel to non-Jews, Acts 10 declares the more general principle well enough: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right" (Acts 10:34-35). In the kingdom of God there will be individuals "from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb" (Rev. 7:9).

The leveling factor is that the Holy Spirit comes upon everyone equally. It does not matter whether a person has a male or female body because, "the Spirit gives birth to spirit" (John 3:6). We are thus not surprised that, in the age of the Spirit, "your sons and daughters will prophesy" (Acts 2:17). A sign of the Spirit age is the fact that women will speak for God much more than they did in the time of the old covenant.

We have been speaking of the restoration of all things here because it speaks to the creation of all things. When we look at the consequences of Eve's sin in Genesis 3:16, it is only after she has sinned that it is said, "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." The clear implication is that God did not create woman with this subordinate status. He created her to be a "helper" for Adam (Gen. 2:20), a word that is used of God as our helper elsewhere (e.g., Ps. 33:20). God created both male and female in his image (Gen. 1:27).

Similarly, the confusion of the languages at Babel represents a consequence of sin (Gen. 11:1-9), not the ideal. The ideal was for the whole earth to be one people, with one purpose. Whenever the Bible allows for disparities of empowerment or limitations to freedom, these are either a consequence of the Fall or an accommodation to context.

It will not be so in the kingdom of God. Women will not be given in marriage to men (Mark 12:25). "The one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person" (1 Cor. 7:22). Nor are we in the church to show favoritism to those who are rich (Jas. 2:1-9).

All humanity is of equal value to God, and he wants everyone to escape judgment (1 Tim. 2:4), whether they are male or female, of high or low status, of one race or another. In God's kingdom, all people have the same value, just as he created them to be in the beginning.

Next Sunday E1. Evil is not a thing.


Martin LaBar said...

Is a yet-to-be-implanted embryo part of humanity, and of equal value?

Is a frozen embryo?

Could a computer/robot ever achieve value equal to a human?

Ken Schenck said...

In my opinion, the answers to these questions are far more ambiguous than most people think they are. I'm not sure that any of the biblical texts come anywhere close to giving a clear answer.

Bud Bence once suggested at a lunch table that if clones were to live among us, we would inevitably end up considering them of human value, perhaps even come to think of them as having a soul.

Martin LaBar said...

I think Bence is right about clones, should any come to exist. Presumably God doesn't have any trouble giving identical twins equal value with, say, me or you, and we don't, either, yet they don't come about exactly like most of us.

Yes, I think the answers to those questions are ambiguous, Biblically. You covered the main bases, though.