When God created man in the person of Adam, He used inanimate matter to create that man. Most of us who are “believers” must consider that statement, in some form, as a component of our credo (a Latin word meaning, “I believe’). In other words, in order to be a believer, one must have a set of beliefs – a set of things one believes to be true. If, for example, one professes to be an atheist, part of that person’s belief set (credo) is the proposition that there is no god. When we use the term believer, though, we generally refer to the large body of persons who “believe” in God and in the redemptive work of Jesus the Christ. Our beliefs may vary considerably in the specific details and in the degree of commitment to them, but these are somewhere in the individual credo. Interestingly, they are not necessarily viable in the set of persons who acquiesce to some creed which does not require they be considered and examined. I say this because such a person cannot actually believe that which he/she has not examined in light of the other things such a person also professes to believe.
In the case before us is the simple statement: “So God created man in his own image . .” (Genesis 1:27, NIV, partial). A second claim is: “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7, NIV). So, scripture makes these two assertions. They are not presented to us as theories in some cosmogony. They are presented as facts. These facts enter the credo of any given believer or they do not. I submit for the moment that these are not disputable matters insofar as scripture is concerned. I also submit that any person’s credo which has not examined these matters for the rendering of a final position on them is a deficient credo. Further. I submit that any thoughtful credo that refuses to attach proper authenticity to this matter will remain deficient.
This blog will examine a component of this portion of a believer’s belief holdings. In order to begin the conduct of the examination, I offer the following question: From whence comes the “life” in Genesis 2:7? By the most straightforward implication, the “life” was found to be in the breath of God that was “breathed into his (the man’s) nostrils.” Once the breathing event was completed by God, “the man became a living being.” Some are still reluctant, so let’s go a bit deeper.
Let’s ask the following question. At the moment God “formed the man from the dust of the ground,” was the man alive? Any reasonably straightforward reading of the text will yield a clear answer of “No” to the question. Had God stopped His actions right after forming “the man from the dust of the ground,” the man would not have had life in him. If life had not entered the formed dust of the ground, then the man would have never had life. It entered the man in some manner. The manner in which life entered the man was not dependent on the shape into which God had formed the dust of the ground. God determined the shape of the dust used, but the shape did not determine whether or not life came into the shaped dust. God might have chosen many shapes for the dust of the ground He was using. He might have used other materials. He used what He used and He shaped it the way He shaped it. Life was still in waiting regardless of this work.
Life could have waited forever until God shaped (made, created) the vessel into which life would be placed. That life, in some sense, must have existed before the dust of the ground was chosen and shaped by God. Let us be clear. The existence of the life in question was independent of the question of the vessel into which it was to be placed. The life did not “need” the shaped dust in order to exist. The shaped dust did not “need” the life in order to exist. The shaped dust could have remained forever an object of shaped dust (barring erosive effects found in nature). Of course, we must here ask the question: What might have been God’s purpose in simply shaping some dust? We cannot actually answer such a question, but the scripture clearly states there was a purpose, related to Himself. It seems clear that purpose was not simply that He would have an object of shaped dust to admire, or whatever. The narrative clearly indicates He shaped the dust as the receptacle of a particular manifestation of life. Again, the shaped dust was just shaped dust until matters progressed beyond its shaping.
Another question emerges here. Could it be that the life that came into the shaped dust was nothing more than some kind of reaction of the shaped dust to the actions of God? This seems quite unlikely because we see that God was acting with purpose, and in a sequential manner. First, came the determination to do the thing He was doing per Genesis 1:27. Next came the shaping of the dust. Then, came the act of breathing-into the dust. At that point, “the man became a living being.” Before that point, the shaped dust was not a living being. Furthermore, it took no activities after that on God’s part in order for the shaped dust to become “a living being.”
We must conclude, for our credo, that God was very deliberate and that the pivotal act in the creation of man was the breathing-into the nostrils of the shaped dust. Yes, the dust had to be shaped, but was still inert. It was the breathing-into that fulfilled the purpose. From that point, the living man was a reality. Any other conclusion produces a deficient element in or credo, per scripture. Actually this is a fairly important doctrinal issue as it determines how we view what a person is.
This inevitable question emerges now. Was the life inherently in the shaped dust, or was it inherently in the breath of God? If the shaped dust never interacted with the breathing activity of God, it would always remain shaped dust until nature eroded it into non-being. If the breath that was within God never had any shaped dust into which to be deposited by the breathing action of God, would it never have life? Of course not. It always had life. While it remained “within” God, it was imbued with the very life of God. It was “alive” before there was any shaped dust – even before the creation cycle began. So, the life in the breath was not dependent on these activities of God. That life, and its impartation to the man, were the point of the whole thing.
Well, what about the life of the body? The man became a living being when the life that is found within the “breath” of God came into the shaped dust. Suppose the life were to depart from the shaped dust? What then? In that case, it is likely that the shaped dust would return to a lifeless state. We actually know this to be true. We know that when life leaves the human body, the human body will again become only shaped dust and then become dissociated from itself over time.
What about the leaving of the life from the shaped dust? Does that “breath” of God cease to exist? Does that “breath” become something dead after it leaves the human body? No – of course not. The life that is in the breath of God remains in the breath of God, regardless of whether it currently resides in a body of shaped dust or not. It is as eternal as God Himself.
If we call the living, shaped dust by the name “flesh” then we must conclude that the life came before the flesh and will remain after the flesh has been completely obliterated. The life is eternal. The flesh is momentary insofar as any particular shaped dust manifestation is concerned.
The soul is what happens when the living breath of God is deposited within any particular manifestation of shaped dust. The soul is the phenomenon that keeps the two together, so to speak, and helps their coexistence – at least by design. It is nothing more than a device that serves primarily as a connective. The soul functions on behalf of both the flesh and the breath-life (spirit) of God.
The soul will typically obey (respond to) the needs of the flesh and it will respond to the presence of the spirit. If the spirit does not need the flesh in order to exist, but the flesh needs the spirit in order to remain alive, what is the design function of the soul? It must be that the soul informs the flesh concerning matters the spirit thinks to be important.
You know, the way most of us live most of the time, our souls inform the spirit that the flesh is not interested in what the spirit has to say in the matter. Hence, the “saving of the soul” can be thought of as the process of restoring the design balance to the living being. In order for that to be the case, our spirits must bring our souls into proper alignment and keep them there, regardless of the whining of the flesh. All three of the dimensions of the sin found in Genesis 3:6 were appeals to the soul to ignore the will of the spirit. It seems we haven’t figured that out yet. The world and the accuser make every attempt to persuade our souls to ignore what our spirits know. The salvation we find in the work of Jesus the Christ empowers our spirits to overcome the world and the accuser in the battleground of our souls. Are we paying attention?
What does your credo hold to be true in these matters – scripture, or self-oriented excuses