Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Stephen Fry and Being Made in the Image of God

I'm quite a fan of QI; I love the statistics and the quirky facts they have on offer.  Famous for the television show, 'the QI elves' also publish books which they call 'Books of Ignorance' in the vein that the public are generally ignorant of the amazing world they live in.  This is true to an extent, for example: who knows that aardvarks can eat up to half a million termites in a sitting, that a cat's paws double in size when its claws are extended or that a salamander's tongue muscles attach to its hip bones.

Indeed, those facts come from a certain book, The QI Book of Animal Ignorance, which I highly recommend (it leads you through an A-Z of animals showing how amazing each one is).  Stephen Fry, famous for hosting the QI television series, writes the foreword and, though a staunch atheist, gives a real insight into what it means to be made in the image of God.

"Animals have this is common with each other: unlike humans they appear to spend every minute of every hour of every day of their lives being themselves.  A tree frog ( so far as we can ascertain) doesn't wake up in the morning feeling guilty that it was a bad tree-frog the night before, nor does it spend any time wishing it were a wallaby or a crane-fly.  It just gets on with the business of being a tree-frog, a job it does supremely well. We humans, well...we are never content, always guilty, and rarely that good at being what nature asked us to be - Homo sapiens."
Fry knows that this is, in essence, a very spiritual thing to say but admits that he doesn't know in what context; "whatever weird and unfathomable purposes there might be to existence, to whichever theory of the development of life you might subscribe".  I believe that there was once a man that changed all of history and showed one particular purpose to existence, one particular theory of the development of life, to be true: that humans are, though cursed with sin, made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

There is a reason why in the creation account, animals and humanity were created on different days; they are on a different level, created for very different purposes.  Humanity's purpose for existence is to know God and to glorify Him; the purpose of animals on earth is, ultimately, to support humanity (that's to use them, not abuse them).  Indeed, the gulf between humanity and animals is clear through intellect and self-conciousness and what Fry eludes to is completely right; animals don't feel guilt or worry what others think of them whereas humans do.

Fry implies that nature asks humans to not be guilty, to always be content and to just be who we are, like with the animal kingdom, but the Bible says the opposite.  The Bible says that, unlike animals, we are naturally sinful and it is this sinful nature causes us to be guilty, to not be content with life and to worry about what others think of us.  And we're really good at doing that (Romans 7:25)!  However, there is a solution to this problem.

Jesus' life, death and resurrection frees us from the power of sin (Romans 8:2), frees us from the need to feel guilty, to be uncontented in life and to worry about out image.  In Christ, we have been forgiven, we have fulfilment and have a hope for this life and beyond.  This is what sets us apart from animals: made in the image of God, God saw fit to make the ultimate sacrifice to fulfil our purpose to know Him and be like Him.

Tree-frogs were made to be tree-frogs and are free to do that.  Though humans were made to be united with God, we are not free to do so under sin.  God has given the opportunity to fulfil our potential, to break free from sin, but whether we take that opportunity or not is another question...