God created Man, so Genesis begins and the majority of people believe. Prayer, as St. John of Kronstadt is quoted, “is a state of continual gratitude” (Ware 2002 44). The gratitude is not merely thanks for being “created”, but actually, for being created “out of nothing” (Ware 1995 44). But, that requires both a question and an answer: Why did God decide to create Man? The answer Bishop Ware provides is that he did so out of Love. What is significant about this assumption is that, unlike some of the chapters of the Old Testament, Bishop Ware concentrates not on a God of vengeance (“Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord”) but as a God of Love.
This brings us to the assumption of God as merciful, caring, loving, protecting. He created Man in his own image, in order to further his love as well as the need for that love to be returned. However, one might then assume that there is a caveat to this creation: that being, we are not totally free, but in Bishop Ware’s words “contingent and dependent” (Ware 2002 45). As human beings, the Bishops states, we can never really be totally independent. In other words, the idea of free will has to be abandoned if we are to believe that we owe our existence to God, the creator. He also implies that we cannot think of God’s creations and ourselves as part of that creation in the past tense, but rather in the present. In other words, God continues to create, obviously as new births come into the world. What is important here is that the act of Creation was not a single godly masterstroke, but is a continuing process ongoing throughout eternity.
Interpreters of Man as part of this creation process, have distinct thoughts about how Man fits into this progression. Ware quotes St. Paul’s concept of three elements or concepts that distinguish human beings: “the body….the physical or material aspect of man’s nature….the soul, the life force that vivifies and animates the body….Third, there is the spirit, the ‘Breath’ from God…” (Ware 2002 47-8). By means of these concepts, man is different from other animals in that he can reason,. Can define the difference between good and evil, and has a sort of moral freedom, while animals act through instinct.
This differentiation between Man and Animal is also explained in that man occupies a unique position in the created order. “According to the orthodox world-view, God has formed two levels of created things: first, the ‘noetic’, ‘spiritual;’, or intellectual’ level, and secondly, the material or bodily” (Ware 2002 49). If this is so, then man is “higher” than the angels in terms of sensibilities and intellect. However, Man is unable to reconcile these two forms into a single unified being. That, so it seems, is God’s task.
If we can believe that Man, and only Man, was (or rather, is being) created in God’s image. Given this premise, it should not be possible to argue that one man’s value is higher, or lower, than that of another person. While this makes good sense, from the orthodox point of view, it seems that within our fallible human nature we often DO value one person more than another. One good example belongs to the Founding Fathers, who built the initial Constitution to claim that a white man is worth more than a black man. For nearly a hundred years, this was a legal and accepted fact. For longer than that- in fact, until 1920, women were not considered of enough citizenship value to be allowed to vote.
One should be able to argue that, somehow, this goes against the orthodox teachings of a continuum of equality about God’s creations. The idea of equality of Man becomes self-evident with the idea, as preached by many, that man should be ready and willing to sacrifice his life for another human being. There is also a distinction to be made, according to Bishop Ware (p. 51) between the “image” of God and the “likeness” of God, something that goes back to ancient Greece: the “image” deals with potentiality, while the likeness deals with realization of that potential. That potential seems to be “purity of heart”. Still, the answer to the question “Why do we suffer for Adam’s original sin” is that Man is interdependent. The sufferings or transgressions of one Man tends to affect us all. “God does not remain indifferent to the sorrows of this fallen world” (Ware 2002 64). Yet, there is a commingling of joy and bitterness. God suffers our pain, so it seems, which is the link between humanity and divinity.
Ware, Bishop K.: The Orthodox Way Crestwood NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press (2002)