Several months ago I tweeted this question: What problem is the God of the Bible trying to solve?
I got some great answers that prompted me to give the question some serious thought and make two conclusions:
1. Our answers tell us more about ourselves than God. We see him solving the problem that we most want to see solved.
2. Our answers depend on when we think the first problem emerges.
So what problem is the God of the Bible trying to solve?
Some possibilities to consider:
- The problem of death. No one gets out of this party alive. The resurrection of Jesus is the solution.
- The problem of sin. How can God forgive our sins while maintaining his holiness? The death of Jesus on the cross is the solution.
- The problem of human folly. How can God show us a better way to live? The life and teachings of Jesus are the solution.
- The problem of human free will and our propensity to rebel against our creator. How can God woo us back into relationship with him? The sacrificial love of God, displayed through Christ, is the solution.
- The problem of a broken world in need of restoration. How can God put his world back together again? Jesus’ embodiment of the Kingdom of God is the solution.
- The problem of evangelizing the lost with the good news of Jesus. How does God let everyone is his broken world know that he’s putting it back together again? The church is the solution.
- The problem of human arrogance. How does God keep us in our place? Natural disasters, disease, and everyday difficulties are the solution.
- The problem of loneliness. It is not good for man to be alone. Sex is the solution.
- No wait, sex is the problem. Self-discipline is the solution.
- The problem of what to do with all these people who reject the will and ways of God. Hell is God’s regrettable solution.
We’ve only just scratched the surface. I’m sure we can brainstorm a much longer list of problems with accompanying solutions.
My problem with these problems is that they don’t go back far enough. Only one predates Genesis 3, where most theologians agree that OUR biggest problems started. Certainly that’s true. We can trace OUR biggest problems back to “The Fall.” But why do we assume OUR biggest problems are also God’s biggest problems?
Let’s go all the way back to the very beginning, before the very beginning actually.
Before anything but God existed, what was the problem? Maybe there wasn’t a problem and framing this discussion in terms of a problem in need of a solution may be the wrong place to start, but since we’ve come this far, I’m not turning back now.
What problem was God trying to solve when he created the heavens and earth and filled them full of plants and animals and ultimately human beings created in his image?
Not loneliness. While I like the idea of God creating us because he was lonely, I don’t think it holds up.
Another possibility is that God needed something to do with the love that was overflowing from his being? There was so much love being reflected back and forth amidst the Godhead that it spilled over and creation was the result. Interesting and plausible, but speculative.
The best clue I can find in the story itself is that God created human beings “in his image.” We were the last to be created, but not an afterthought. More like the ultimate aim. God created a world perfectly suited to sustain creatures bearing his image.
There is precious little in the text that explains exactly what it means to be created in the image of God, but we can surmise it has something to do with being endowed with all the necessary capacities to maintain and continue what God started in his initial act of creation.
Is it going too far to say that being created in the image of God is to have god-like characteristics without being made of God-like substance? Sort of like what Peter calls the “divine nature” in one of his little letters.
What if we, human beings created in the God’s image, are the solution to God’s biggest, most primary problem?
But what is the problem?!
The problem is that God wants to populate the cosmos with god-like beings (nature not substance) who reflect his glory, manifest his goodness, and multiply his love with every fiber of their being, while remaining free to choose to do none of these things.
The Biblical story, beginning in Genesis 1:1 is the beautiful, messy, and awful account of just how big a problem this turns out to be. God’s stubborn persistence to see it through to the end, even though it includes having his would-be solutions (human beings created in his image) create huge problems of our own. God graciously solves our problems, while also masterfully enfolding them into his larger purposes.
Sin and death are our problem, not God’s. They’re actually part of his solution. He uses them to discipline, grow, and perfect a people who will one day reflect his image in all of its glory to the ends of the earth.
Or maybe not.
What do you think?