Why should we be involved in culture? Isn’t culture wicked and base? Shouldn’t we spend most of our time being involved in spiritual matters? The answer is not quite so simple.
Imago Dei is a Latin phrase that simply means you are created in the image of God. So to use it in a sentence, “Giovanni, your incredible artistic ability reveals your Imago Dei.” (Honestly, how many times do you get to use the name Giovanni in a sentence? Take advantage of it when you can!) One of the most prominent manifestations of this is that the God of the Bible is a Creator. As the Creator, he intends for us to create as well, as His image bearers.
The first command God gave to Adam and Eve is recorded in the first chapter of Genesis.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:27-28 ESV)
In the next chapter Adam is also given the responsibility of naming all the wildlife (Genesis 2:19). Just like God named Adam as a way of showing His dominion over him, Adam names the animals as a way of showing dominion over them. (As an aside, “[having] dominion” in no way promotes or condones abusing creation. To say we can abuse plant and animal life because it’s our dominion would be to imply that we’re ok with God abusing people because we’re His)
Theologians call this command the Cultural Mandate. Adam wasn’t just supposed to hang out and enjoy the garden, he was to be about the business of ruling and contributing to creation. Many people believe that the garden of Eden was lush and green, but the rest of the earth had not yet been cultivated. So Adam was to take what God had begun, and continue it. He was to create culture.
As culture got more complex people built more intricate buildings (Genesis 11:1-9), developed craftsmanship (Exodus 31:1-11), mastered musical instruments (1 Chronicles 16:41-42) and more. Some of these cultural achievements were sinful. Others were commanded and empowered by God. That’s why the answer to the first paragraph is not so simple. God commanded for culture to be developed, but like everything else, people have corrupted it with sin.
Be a Part
People have always created and participated in culture. This is why people feel compelled to spend hours writing and recording a song. Why people literally shed blood, sweat and tears painting a fresco. It’s also why we like to hum a song while we work. Culture is unavoidable. At the very essence, it’s what we do. Don’t run from it – redeem it.
So take a few minutes to enjoy the beauty of a painting, listen to the intricate notes in Beethoven’s 9th, plant a garden with your kids. By enjoying and participating in beauty, you may find yourself longing for the One who created beauty itself.
***I’m spending some time at the beginning of my quest as “perfectly fractured” to explain some basic beliefs I hold and the goals of this site. Since perfectly fractured is “thoughts on culture, worldview, the gospel and more . . . but mostly Jesus,” it seems proper to explain why these thoughts are important. To see the first post, on some of my most basic of beliefs, check out Broken Beginnings.***