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Man

Man is God’s spe­cial crea­ture. He is the only one “cre­at­ed in the image and like­ness of God” (Gen 1:26). He is cre­at­ed by God from the dust at the end of the process of cre­ation (the “sixth day”) and by the spe­cial will of God. He is made to breathe “the breath of life” (Gen 2:7), to know God, to have domin­ion over all that God has made.

God cre­at­ed humans as male and female (Gen. 1:27; 2:21) in order “to be fruit­ful and mul­ti­ply” (Gen 1:28). Thus, accord­ing to Ortho­dox doc­trine sex­u­al­i­ty belongs to the cre­ation which God calls “very good” (Gen 1:31), and in itself it is in no way sin­ful or per­verse. It belongs to the very nature of human­i­ty direct­ly willed by God.

As the image of God, ruler over cre­ation and co-cre­ator with the Uncre­at­ed Mak­er, man has the task to “reflect” God in cre­ation; to make His pres­ence, His will and His pow­ers spread through­out the uni­verse; to trans­form all that exists into the par­adise of God. In this sense man is def­i­nite­ly cre­at­ed for a des­tiny high­er than the bod­i­less pow­ers of heav­en, the angels. This con­vic­tion is affirmed by Ortho­dox Chris­tian­i­ty not only because of the Scrip­tur­al empha­sis on man as made in God’s image to rule cre­ation, which is not said about angels; but it is also direct­ly affirmed because it is writ­ten of Jesus Christ, Who is tru­ly the per­fect man and the Last Adam (1 Cor 15:45) that “God has high­ly exalt­ed him and bestowed upon him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heav­en and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should con­fess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glo­ry of God the Father” (Phil 2:10–11).

It fol­lows from belief in Jesus that man is cre­at­ed for a life far supe­ri­or to that of any crea­ture, even the angels who glo­ri­fy God and serve the cause of man’s sal­va­tion. It is pre­cise­ly this con­vic­tion which is affirmed when the Church hails Mary the Moth­er of Christ as “more hon­or­able than the cheru­bim and beyond com­pare more glo­ri­ous than the seraphim.” For what is glo­ri­fied as already accom­plished in the human Mary is pre­cise­ly what is expect­ed and hoped for by all men “who hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk 11:28).

Thus we see the great dig­ni­ty of man accord­ing to the Chris­t­ian faith. We see man as the “most impor­tant” of God’s crea­tures, the one for whom “all things vis­i­ble and invis­i­ble” have been cre­at­ed by God.

It is the Ortho­dox doc­trine that one can under­stand and appre­ci­ate what it means to be human only in the light of the full rev­e­la­tion of Jesus Christ. Being the Divine Word and Son of God in human flesh, Jesus reveals the real mean­ing of man­hood. As the Per­fect Man and the Last Adam, the “man from heav­en,” Jesus gives us the prop­er inter­pre­ta­tion of the sto­ry of cre­ation giv­en in the book of Gen­e­sis. For as the Apos­tle Paul has writ­ten, Adam finds his sig­nif­i­cance as “the type (or fig­ure) of the one who was to come,” name­ly Jesus Christ (Rom 5:14).

Thus it is writ­ten, “The first man Adam became a liv­ing being”; the last Adam became a life-giv­ing spir­it. But it is not the spir­i­tu­al which is first but the phys­i­cal, and then the spir­i­tu­al. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the sec­ond man (Christ) is from heav­en… Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heav­en. (1 Cor 15:45–49).

Accord­ing to Ortho­dox the­ol­o­gy, to bear the image of God is to be like Christ, the uncre­at­ed Image of God, and to share in all of the spir­i­tu­al attrib­ut­es of divin­i­ty. It is, in the words of the holy fathers, to become by divine grace all that God Him­self is by nature. If God is a free, spir­i­tu­al, per­son­al Being, so human beings, male and female, are to be the same. If God is so pow­er­ful and cre­ative, hav­ing domin­ion over all cre­ation, so human crea­tures, made in His image and accord­ing to His like­ness, are also to exer­cise domin­ion in the world. If God exer­cis­es domin­ion and author­i­ty not by tyran­ny and oppres­sion, but by lov­ing kind­ness and ser­vice, so are His crea­tures to do like­wise. If God Him­self is love, mer­cy, com­pas­sion and care in all things, so must His crea­tures, made to be like Him, also be the same. And final­ly, if God lives for­ev­er in eter­nal life, nev­er dying, but always exist­ing in per­fect­ly joy­ful and har­mo­nious beau­ty and hap­pi­ness with all of cre­ation, so too are human beings made for ever­last­ing life in joy­ful and har­mo­nious com­mu­nion with God and the whole of cre­ation.

Accord­ing to Ortho­dox doc­trine, human being and life is nev­er com­plet­ed and fin­ished in its devel­op­ment and growth because it is made in the image and accord­ing to the like­ness of God. God’s being and life are inex­haustible and bound­less. As the Divine Arche­type has no lim­its to His divin­i­ty, so the human image has no lim­its to its human­i­ty, to what it can become by the grace of its Cre­ator. Human nature, there­fore, is cre­at­ed by God to grow and devel­op through par­tic­i­pa­tion in the nature of God for all eter­ni­ty. Man is made to become ever more God­like for­ev­er, even in the King­dom of God at the end of this age, when Christ will come again in glo­ry to raise the dead and give life to those who love Him.

Thus the holy fathers of the Ortho­dox faith taught that what­ev­er stage of matu­ri­ty and devel­op­ment man attains and achieves, what­ev­er his pow­er, wis­dom, mer­cy, knowl­edge, love, there con­tin­u­al­ly remains before him an infin­i­ty of ever-greater full­ness of life in the most blessed Trin­i­ty to be par­tic­i­pat­ed in and lived. The fact that human nature pro­gress­es eter­nal­ly in per­fec­tion with­in the nature of God con­sti­tutes the mean­ing of life for man, and remains for­ev­er the source of his joy and glad­ness for all eter­ni­ty.

It must be men­tioned at this point as well that accord­ing to Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian doc­trine, the fact that humans are cre­at­ed male and female is the direct will of God and is essen­tial for prop­er human life and activ­i­ty as reflec­tive of God. In a word, human sex­u­al­i­ty is a nec­es­sary ele­ment in human being and life as made in the image of God. This does not mean that there is any sort of sex­u­al­i­ty in God, but it does mean that human life must be sexual—male and female—if it will be what God Him­self has made it to be.

Man and woman, male and female, are cre­at­ed by God to live togeth­er in a union of being, life and love. The man is to be the leader in human activ­i­ties, the one reflect­ing Christ as the new and per­fect Adam. The woman is to be man’s “help­meet,” the “moth­er of all liv­ing” (Gen 2:18; 3:20). Sym­bol­ized in the rela­tion­ship of Mary and the Church, the New Eve, to Christ, the New Adam, as the one who inspires man’s life and com­pletes his being and ful­fills his life, the woman is not man’s instru­ment or tool. She is a per­son in her own right, a shar­er of the nature of God, a nec­es­sary com­ple­ment to man. There can be no man with­out woman—no Adam with­out Eve; just as there can be no woman with­out man. The two exist togeth­er in per­fect com­mu­nion and har­mo­ny for the ful­fill­ment of human nature and life.

The dif­fer­ences between men and women are real and irre­ducible. They are not lim­it­ed to bio­log­i­cal or phys­i­cal dif­fer­ences. They are rather dif­fer­ent “modes of exis­tence” with­in one and the same human­i­ty; just as, we might say, the Son and the Holy Spir­it are dif­fer­ent “modes of exis­tence” with­in one and the same divin­i­ty, togeth­er with God the Father. The male and female are to be in spir­i­tu­al as well as bod­i­ly union. They are to express togeth­er, in one and the same human­i­ty, all of the virtues and pow­ers that belong to human nature as made in the image and accord­ing to the like­ness of God. There are no virtues or pow­ers that belong to man, and not to woman; nor to woman and not to man. All are called to spir­i­tu­al per­fec­tion in truth and in love, indeed in all of the divine virtues of God giv­en to His crea­tures.

The hos­til­i­ties and com­pe­ti­tions between man and woman that exist in the present world are not due to their respec­tive “modes of exis­tence” as cre­at­ed by God. They are due rather to sin. There should be no tyran­ny of men over women; no oppres­sion, no servi­tude. Just as there should be no striv­ing of women to be men, and to hold the male posi­tion in the order of cre­ation. There should be rather a har­mo­ny and uni­ty with­in the com­mu­ni­ty of being with its nat­ur­al cre­at­ed order and dis­tinc­tions. The one­ness of nature with the dis­tinc­tion of var­i­ous modes of being with­in Divin­i­ty, the Most Holy Trin­i­ty. For in the Divin­i­ty of the Trin­i­ty itself there is a per­fect uni­ty of nature and being, with real dis­tinc­tions between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spir­it as to how each of the Divine Per­sons lives and express­es the com­mon nature of God. There is an order in the Trin­i­ty. There is even a hier­ar­chy if we do not take this term to mean some dif­fer­ence in nature between the Father, Son, and Holy Spir­it, but mere­ly the way in which the Divine Per­sons relate to one anoth­er and to man and the world. For in the Trin­i­ty itself the Father alone is the “source of divin­i­ty.” The Son is the expres­sion of the Father and is “sub­ject” to Him. And the Holy Spir­it, of one essence and ful­ly equal with the Father and the Son, is the “third” Per­son who ful­fills the will of the Father and the Son. The Three Divine Per­sons are per­fect­ly equal. This is a dog­ma of the Church. But they are not the same, and there is an ordered rela­tion between them in which there are “pri­or­i­ties” in being and act­ing which not only do not destroy the per­fec­tion and per­fect uni­ty of the God­head, but even allow it and make it to be per­fect and divine (see Holy Trin­i­ty). It is the Trini­tar­i­an Life of God which is the Divine Arche­type and Pat­tern for the being and act­ing of male and female with­in the order of cre­ation.