Now that our cultural seizure is over, I want to return to considering relationships. I know: can’t wait, huh? No need to wait any longer….
When I’ve considered and taught relationships, I started with our design. If we want to have any fruitful discussion of how we are to act, it begins with how we are made. Here is a blog post I submitted for the blog of a friend: designreligionist.com
What makes design popular? It could be that it is necessary in the logical sense: essential. Design is ubiquitous. It is even in our speech; where would we be without those sticky language fundamentals? Still, I am attracted to design discussions because they concern sacramental issues. In other words, design represents something. One can look at the fruit of design and be satisfied to stop or one can follow them to their intended ends – they are signs and seals of other things. There is always more ultimate meaning to the sign than the sign itself. A simple example: “stop” signs. They tell us to stop, but you’d never tell a child that’s all they mean would you? We would be remiss if in our discussion of stop signs we never mentioned the benefits of stopping or the consequences of failing to stop. Stop signs can represent life and death. Since I believe design is sacramental, I wonder if there is one destination to which all design discussions should finally lead. Is there a meta-design whose character lays over all the others?
This discussion is relevant to me in my work is with people. I am not an artist but a church pastor. Design and its aim are very relevant in relationships. In that realm, words are design’s fruit. Therefore my role as a pastor is as a meaning assistant. My work is to help people understand their design: personal design (“how am I made?”), corporate design (“what is my part in all of this?”), and teleological design (“what is the end of all of this?”).
This particular post is about personal design. I presuppose intentionality in humanity. That is, whether we are discussing our physical being or our moral one, there are ends to our experience. We are not the product of randomness colliding with explosions. As we think through personal design, I want to suggest that it is capture in three ideas: personalness, plurality and purposefulness. I take my cues from the Bible’s first book, Genesis.
First, we are designed personally. This has two implications. On the one hand, we are designed by God who is Personal. Personal (versus impersonal and detached) creation means that we were made directly by God. In Genesis we see Him use two refrains, “let Us” and “let there be” (1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, etc.). Both indicate direct involvement, however, “let Us” indicates a hands-on element. All creation was personally made by Him but the narrative draws a distinction between man and all else that was made; He seemed more directly involved in our making. To say we are personally formed by God paints a the picture of a potter with dirty hands, “But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand” (Isaiah 64:8; see also 29:16, 45:9; Jeremiah 18:4, 18:6 and Rom. 9:21).
And, on the other, we are designed for personalness. We will specifically under-develop this point but the Bible clearly gives us the responsibility for direct involvement in each other’s lives. When the first murder was revealed – Cain having killed his brother, Abel – God’s question provoked Cain to answer, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain discerned rightly that the issue was his care for his brother. We are designed for such relations.
Second, we are designed as a plurality. That is, we are meant to be together with others. Originally that meant as husbands and wives as soon as age allowed such a union. But, after man’s fall from the sublime, that means as humans sharing life. This reflect our Maker who in Himself is plural. In the first instructional narrative, He tells the watching heavenly host, “let Us make man in Our image.” And by that He meant to craft us to reflect His plurality (among other attributes). Interestingly, His creation resulted not in two of the same sex but two of the different: “male and female He created them.”
Lastly, we are designed purposefully. There were specific reasons for our creation. There are specific ends that will be achieved by the way we were made. The first narrative clearly gave us a double-purpose: to be and to do. The ways in which the texts are written are exciting. Seven times (the Bible’s “perfect” number) in alternating rhythm we are shown our purpose: To be: 1:26a, to do: 1:26b, to be: 1:27, to do: 1:28, to be: 2:7, to do: 2:8, 15 and to be: 2:22-23.
In our being, it is to show forth the Trinity (2:22, 24) in character, that is, in personalness and plurality. In our doing, it is to show forth the Trinity’s work (1:2, 3; also in Colossians. 1:16) that is being fruitful, multiplying, filling the earth, subduing it and having dominion over it and according to God’s character, His being. Together, these verbs of being and doing imply our creation was two-fold: “to represent” and “to rule.” Our purposefulness might be the toughest to swallow. These verbs are active ones and many today believe that humans have been a little too active in the world. Maybe. It stands to reason, however, that if we pursued our created nature in the ways our Creator envisioned, we would find the balance that both uses and protects the creation.
These three elements of personalness, plurality and purposefulness represent our personal design. Upon that blueprint stands corporate and teleological design. Clearly in considering how we are made, we see that we are stamps of God Himself.