“All people, at all times, everywhere, bear the image of God.”
Dr. Bruce Rosdahl concludes his vlog series over the fundamental dignity that belongs to every human being. Rosdahl explains the necessity for society to return to a Biblical understanding of the image of God and how that image is reflected in all individuals regardless of gender or ethnicity.
– [MUSIC PLAYING] As a theologian and as somebody who is interested in church history, it pains me to know that it is a reality that we in the church, us not them, us, me, theologian, that we developed a theology, that actually asserted, that women do not bear the image of God equal to men. Did you know that? You see, this theology can be traced in the patristics and, of course, the chief theologian of that period is going to be Augustine. And Augustine said directly, that women– he argued that women were inferior in mind and body, and, therefore, they do not bear the image of God equal to men. Can you imagine that? Ladies, you do not bear the image of God. You’re not equal. Well, then let’s move to the Middle Ages, let’s get the prince of theologians of that period. Well, now we’re talking about Aquinas, and what does Aquinas say? He’s actually in agreement, that women are the glory of men, but they don’t bear the full image of God. And ladies, I know you’ll love this. You’ll appreciate this greatly, because you are the ornament of men. Thank you for making us look good. OK. Of course, the sad thing is, it’s just not even funny. He agreed that women were basically some way defective. It’s just blatantly unbiblical. I don’t know what else to say. Women bear the full image of God equal to men, and the Bible is emphatic about that. And what we need is a return to the biblical understanding of the image of God. And in a world that is trapped in moral fog, we need a clear message of what scripture tells us, that all people, at all times, everywhere, bear the image of God. And so I’d like you to look with me just for a brief moment, and I recognize this is a little long getting us to this, but I think we can do this quickly, here, today.
And that is what does the Bible say about the image of God? We can turn to Genesis, where it always begins students, because Genesis provides so many foundational truths, they become paradigmatic for the rest of scripture. We get a principle that’s laid out, and then is applied all throughout in a paradigm, and that’s true when we’re talking about the sanctity of life. You see we read in Genesis 1, the creation story, how God creates out of chaos and brings order and beauty. And He creates an incredible world. All God’s creation is glorious, every aspect of it glorifying Him. And it’s why we need to be good stewards of our world. But at the height of God’s creation, on that final day of His creative power, what does He do? He creates humanity. And in Genesis 1:27, we read this. That God created humanity in His image, and, in the image of God, He created them. Now help me for a moment, students, because I want you to put your Bible study skills together, OK. I’ve color coded this to help us a little bit. So in the image of God, He created them. Male and female, He created them. I think you see there’s a pattern there. This is not happenstance, this is done intentionally in Hebrew poetry. This is a chiasm, a chiastic structure, you see how it repeats that God created humanity in His image. And now, let’s repeat it, in His image, He created them. The A, B, B, A structure so common in chiasm. It’s not meant to say two different things. It’s saying one thing, that God, Elohim, created humanity in His image. But what I’m so glad of is that it didn’t just stop there, because I’ll be honest with you, the way our history is going that we will tend to say, oh, well, He’s talking about men. But God wants to make it clear He’s not just talking about men, because He says, here, that He created them male and women to bear the image of God. Men and women equally bearing that image. The message is clear that all of humanity has the image of God, men and women equally, in tselem Elohim, in that image of God. And so what does that mean? Quickly, if I could just point out four truths I think are really important for us. And then, I’ve got something I really want you to see, today. You see the image of God is intrinsic to who we are. If you are human, you bear the image of God. It doesn’t matter who you are. It comes from our relationship with God, our creator. He has endowed as with this. It’s not from the state. It’s not the evolution of nature. And it’s not conferred by society. And so, this is really important, the image of God is not some changing attribute that is different qualities of different people. We all bear the image of God equally. That’s why we can’t downgrade anybody. Nobody bears the image more than another. Every person has it intrinsically. It is a corporate idea, that the image applies to all of humanity as a group. It’s what separates us from the rest of creation. And as I’ve said before, if we deny that in us, we deny it in each one of us, individually.
You see biblical Christianity doesn’t allow for any form of racism, prejudice, and stereotypes. I know this is maybe not as profound for some of you, related to some of the philosophers we talked about or mentioned today, but if I could be allowed to quote from Mandisa and Toby Mac. [AUDIENCE CHUCKLING] We all bleed the same. It’s not only incorporate, it’s individual. It’s not just us as a whole, but every person is made in the image of God. And this truth is essential for recognition of individual dignity and rights. Now, students, I want to be really clear, this doesn’t mean everyone is saved. We recognize that you can only come to salvation by grace through faith through Christ. There’s only one way, we recognize that. But that’s not what we’re talking about, we talking about the image of God. Because whether you’re saved or not, believer or not, whatever lifestyle you’re bound in, you are made in the image of God, and you have value and dignity, and we treat you accordingly. And it’s also egalitarian, as we said, every man and every woman created in the image of God. Well, what I want to do, now, is really ask this question, so what does this mean for us in SAGU? We’re believers. This institution has as its core value, that we are Bible-based. I don’t think I’ve told you anything today that you don’t know, in terms of our commitment to the value and dignity of every life. That we want every person, here, every person that walks through these doors, every person that we would come in contact with, to know that we value them and be treated with dignity. But what I would like to do for a moment is I’m going to invite you to listen to your peers, your classmates, to help us think through this issue. If we could play this for a moment.
[MUSIC PLAYING] That I’m an athlete and that I play sports, and although I did for a very long time, it’s kind of a let down, just because I have so much more to offer, and basketball was never my end goal, you know. I wanted to become someone who creates film and create different things and just goes far in the industry. But, you know, I’m, kind of, put into a box, whenever someone’s idea is that, oh, he’s an athlete, so he’s probably not smart, probably just knows how to play football, or just play basketball, or run track, and has, kind of just like, peanuts in his brain. But it’s not that at all. Fundamentalist, racist, misogynist, and that’s not as a merited stereotype there are quite a few people like that, and it’s not one of the worst stereotypes in the world. Like it hasn’t personally degraded me constantly, but it is something I’ve had to deal with, then outwardly tried to show, that I am not one of those people. A lot of my friends would say stuff like Angie, you’re white on the inside, or like you’re not black, or if they listen to rap music, they would say, I’m blacker than you. And I’m like, that’s not really true, but, like, I used to take it as a compliment, because I was very– I was at a time, that I didn’t like the fact that I was African-American. And so, I would say, hey, that’s a good thing, kind of thing. But no, like, now that I look out about that. That’s a very toxic kind of mindset to have. There are certain assumptions that come with my last name. The assumption that I only speak Spanish at home, the assumption that I come from a low socioeconomic status, that if I’m not wearing a certain clothes or dressed a certain way, the assumption is that I’m either a gardener, or a lawn caretaker, or that I am a criminal of some sort. My mom is Hispanic, and so my entire mom’s side is Hispanic, like speaks Spanish, cooks the good food, like that good food. You know, I lived in Southside San Antonio for a good portion of my life, so I grew up around a lot of Hispanic culture, but I look completely white. So it was an interesting journey for me growing up, growing up around this Hispanic culture and looking the way I do. And then encountering other people, who, I felt, I identified with, who I felt comfortable with, kind of reject me, because I didn’t look Hispanic at all. You know, I would say something about Hispanic culture and I was immediately shut down, with OK like, who’s this white girl trying come in and infringe upon our culture? But I felt it was a part of my culture too. Some stereotypes I’ve dealt with, that I’m a rapper, if I tell people I do music. They’re like, are you a rapper? I’m like, no I don’t rap. I sing, but it’s not as funny to me. Growing up, you tell somebody you’re from Dallas, they automatically assume that you’re just angry, or violent, or that you have an ulterior motive every time you go to do something you. Go in the gas station, they’re watching you. They think you’re gonna take something. [MUSIC PLAYING] I think one of the things where I’ve most clearly felt with my experience, particularly being black in America, is that I’ve always felt I’ve had to almost compensate, I’ve had to almost prove, maybe not my worth, but prove my worthiness. I’m not sure how to explain it, but it’s almost as if I’ve had to work twice as hard to get the same recognition is maybe my white counterparts, or to get the same advantages, or the same benefits. When I was in junior high, I remember a woman told me that, this is a man’s world, and we’re merely just living in it. And at the moment, I didn’t really understand it, but then as I’ve gotten older and I’ve come to understand more things, I see that, that is a mindset for a lot of people. As a black person, you know for me, my American experience has been one that’s been filled with a lot of great pride and happiness. But also one that has been filled with a lot of grief and disappointment. I was in a Burger King with a friend of mine, and we were getting ready to buy a meal. And there was a white male, that was standing behind my friend and I, and he proceeded to refer to my friend and I as the n-word. For me, that was the first time that anyone had to refer to me using that term, and it was the first time that I had felt the stinging venom of that word. I think growing up, especially with a lot of the social justice issues, I was fairly oblivious to them going up. I mean, a lot of us were, especially a lot of white people were. But as I started to grow, I started to see the tensions a lot more. And as I moved down to the South, obviously, just like in the Dallas area, there’s a lot more tension there. It’s been interesting to me in America that whenever someone, who looks like me or someone who’s African-American, complains in some way about something that they find immoral in American politics or American policy, they’re told immediately, well, if you don’t like it, then you can leave. And I remember going through the Bill of Rights and thinking, how that’s so intrinsic to our society. And I always thought that there was a disconnect with that, when minorities express their First Amendment right, that they were shut down immediately. [MUSIC PLAYING] It’s been a really good experience, I will say that. I haven’t heard any– I, personally, never had any encounter issues. I’ve never had any blatant forms of things that I felt that just rubbed me the wrong way. I guess, if anything, I would say that there isn’t too much openness to other ideas. Yes we, in the different departments, we talk about those ideas and we bring them up, but for someone to actually hold to them or to have some leaning toward them, is almost seen as just a horrible thing. And that’s probably one of the things that I’ve probably disliked the most about being here at SAGU. But apart from that it’s been pretty good. I have a lived in Savel throughout my entire experience at SAGU. So this is my fourth year in Savel and this year I’m an RA. And when I first got to SAGU, Savel was dumped on. Like immediately people were like, oh you live in Savel, you live in the ghetto, you live in the party dorm, the athlete dorm, the dorm that doesn’t care. And I was really confused, because I was like, what, you guys have never lived in Savel. And over the last couple of years, it’s been really cool to like watch this transition of that stereotype. It’s still there, but there has been change and there has been progress with that. So I think one of the things that, for me as a black student, that has affected my experience, here at SAGU, is the lack of representation. And while I don’t assume that it has been intentional or that there hasn’t been any effort made in order to bring about representation and to bring in more faculty members and more speakers that would represent my demographic, its just been my experience in the last four years that, that has been lacking. My experience here in SAGU has been phenomenal. I’ve enjoyed it for sure, especially the department that I’m in, media and communications. My goal is to definitely push the culture forward and to see this place grow and to turn around and be a top-tier school in this industry. And I believe that there’s been moments where, you know, without conscious or without, you know, malicious motive, that things were said in a certain way, or a certain tone, or questions were raised that just weren’t delivered in a way that would show the love of Christ, or that would show embodying unity and diversity. [MUSIC PLAYING] Let’s make it a cohesive culture, instead of a, you know, as a woman, it’s your responsibility. Don’t look at them too long. Don’t dress this way. Make sure you’re dressing not too feminine, so that way you don’t catch their eye. I think let’s make it a teamwork effort. Let’s hold our women accountable. Let’s talk about it from a godly perspective. And let’s hold our men accountable, and talk about it from a godly perspective. I think that we can be a lot more mindful about our liturgy and how unitive it can be. And it’s not just necessarily an entertainment liturgy, one that just makes us happy or feel good, but liturgy that actually is sharp and incisive towards our culture. Recent scholarship by evangelical scholars, such as Michael Emerson, George Yancy, and Christian Smith, has actually shown that although there’s no longer legal segregation that in the church, the evangelical church, there’s still, in fact, what they call de facto segregation. In fact, one of the most alarming things that their research has found, recently, is that a large amount of evangelicals, when polled, reported that they would be more open to having a relationship or marriage with someone of a different religion than someone of a different race. And I think these are things that we need to face as lovers of the church and as members of the Church. We need to understand that we’re working toward something that’s revealed in scripture, with every tribe, and every nation in every tongue worshipping together in unity and in harmony. And if we can admit that we have blind spots and admit that there’s a problem, we can work towards bettering those things and representing the kingdom of Christ. One of God’s commandments was for us to love our neighbors. And, I feel like, if everybody embodied that and we saw people and we didn’t look at them by the color of their skin or how they dress, and just embraced each other, because everybody goes through something. I think we all look at each other and feel like we can’t relate. Maybe we all can relate more than we actually think. We would grow as a family and this school would change, the dynamic would be shot, just because everybody can recognize that we can love past what each other has been through and what we look like. [MUSIC PLAYING] [AUDIENCE APPLAUSE]
Obviously, I need to give thank you to Angie, Antoine, Payton Bernhard, Jordan [INAUDIBLE],, Weston Combs, Malik Golden, Emily Hudspeth, Devon Petty, Demari Williams, and I need to give special props definitely to Andre Gray, who helped head that project, for me and Kevin Kazadi, who did all the masterful editing. So thank you SAGU students for helping us with this issue. Yes. [AUDIENCE APPLAUSE]
So how do we respond to what we’ve heard today? Let me suggest three things just quickly. The first one is it’s time to change our lenses. Let’s just start there. How do you view other people and yourself? Do you first see race, do you see culture, or color, do you see status, maybe even political party? That’s how we first see one another. Or as you’re standing here looking at me, is the only thing you can see is some old white male? Or do you first see somebody created in the image of God? When I see you, do I first see an Asian, a Hispanic, a Middle Eastern, male, female, what do I see? Can I change my lenses to first say, you know what, you are a person created in the image of God, no matter who you are. And whether we agree or disagree on certain issues is not the point. You have dignity and value. We need to change our lenses and to acknowledge the stereotypes. And by the way, I’m not saying that just for you. This is an area of deep passion for me. I have to acknowledge I have my own blinders. I do have my blinders, which is why we need to hear one another speak, and to listen and not be defensive. That’s hard for me. I want to be defensive. This is a passionate area for me. I think about it, and yet, it hurts to find out when I’ve got blinders, and I have misspoken, and I have not treated somebody properly. So we need to, yes, enjoy our distinctive cultures, do not think I’m suggesting that we are colorblind or that God is colorblind. No, I actually believe it takes the colors and all the diversity of our cultures and races to glorify Him, and it just exhibits the greatness of who God is in our diversity. But that diversity doesn’t divide us. We can enjoy our distinctiveness, but still recognize each one of those distinctive traits are very much part of the image of God. So we need to change our lenses and get rid of our prejudices and mistreatments. And what about changing our speech? How do you talk about other people, not just race issues, students, any person? I’m not only talking about the words out of our mouth. I recognize we did a lot more talking today through our thumbs. What do you post? How do you talk about people, when you post about them, the tweets and the things that are out there and all this stuff I don’t even know. I feel like I’m cool just because I can say tweet. [LAUGHTER] But are we pejorative towards other groups of people, races, ethnic groups, parts of the country they’re from? Ephesians 4:29, Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth. Let no unwholesome word come out of your thumbs, your fingers. Finally, besides change our lenses and speech, I would call upon us, because I think this is our hearts desire, I don’t think I’m talking to a school, to a faculty, to a student body, to administration, who doesn’t want this. I think this is who we are. So then, what I’m calling us to do is then change our actions. Put into action the second greatest commandment. All of us were moved. I was moved, when Dr. Clarensau preached, and he called on us to put into action loving our brothers and sisters. You could sense, here in the chapel, this hitting our hearts. So I’m just calling on us to do the same thing here, at SAGU and every person we meet around the world, to treat all people with dignity and respect. Because students, every person, everywhere, at all times, has human dignity, created in the image of God. God bless you. [MUSIC PLAYING]
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