Patricia Hofer

The “Genesis” of our immortality.

Chapter 2–A Christian search for an afterlife needs to start “in the beginning” with Genesis. Using the metaphor of a week of days, this divinely inspired writer introduces us personally to the “beginning,” to the Creator of an orderly and concise creation process that continues to startle and amaze. Within the seemingly endless rhythms of earth and sky, God has constructed a huge metaphor, an intricate image of His largeness and beauty and constancy. We are reassured and inspired by nature’s grand patterns because God intended us to be reassured and inspired.
While scientists and humanists are still trying to determine or ignore what came before that “beginning,” that magnificent burst of creative energy, I am not. And Christians all around the earth are not. Others might ponder over the subatomic particles merging and the possibility of multi-verses. But we don’t. From nothing to something. We recognize the divine intention—“He spake, and it was done.”
And this first chapter of Genesis also established two essential qualities of human beings. First, we humans “image” or resemble the Creator in some way. As Origen wrote, “For no figment of the body contains the image of God, …but the one who was made ‘in the image of God’ is our internal human, invisible and incorporeal and incorrupt and immortal” (54-55). The individuality that images God is our inner spirit—the internal human instead of the external one.
Secondly, human beings were given “dominion.” Some see this to mean that we are to be the ruler of this world that God created. But, for me, it just means that we are distinctive, that we include something special. That “something special” is described in the second creation account in Genesis. The inspired writer of this narrative introduces the Hebrew word ruah, a word that is used throughout the Old Testament. This very important Hebrew word is translated in four basic ways—as wind, as breath, as mind, as spirit.
In a “special creative act of God,” in this inbreathing of the divine spirit, each human being is endowed with a “living soul,” with an “inner being” that reflects or images God. At it’s highest meaning, the Hebrew ruah denotes “the entire immaterial consciousness of man” (TWOT 836). Because of God’s inspiring ruah, human consciousness can recall the past and imagine the future. We can evaluate the goodness and the badness of things. And, most importantly, this “immaterial consciousness” makes it possible for us to meet and to know our Creator, God.

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