One of the great insights of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body series is his understanding of what it meant for Adam to be “alone.” Before the creation of the woman, man is said to “alone” despite the amazing diversity of creation. Adam is allowed to discover his own solitude within creation. Each of the animals is brought before him to be given a name. Yet, none is found suitable. This is important because we normally only think about solitude in reference to man not having a mate, i.e. man needs a woman and a woman needs a man – no other creature was found to be suitable. But, John Paul points out a deeper solitude which is rooted in our very being. Man stands incomplete and alone in the universe. In a sense, Adam is “incomplete” unless he discovers the deeper communion into which God calls him and us. God does not need to create the world in order to have fellowship.
This is where Islam, in my opinion, has a vulnerability in their doctrine of God. By rejecting the Trinity, Islam is left with a solitude God. Biblical revelation teaches that God is a communion of three distinct, eternal persons, united eternally as One. Islam rejects that in favor of the doctrine of tawhid—the absolute Oneness and solitude of God. That, in turn, means that the Muslim cannot “know God” in the sense of entering into the joy of his communion, because there is no “knowing” even within Allah’s own being. In Islam, the emphasis is on knowing Allah’s will, i.e. obeying him, not knowing and loving him and entering into fellowship with Allah.
However, in the biblical account, the answer to our solitude is that we are included in the mystery of God’s triune nature in that we are brought into full communion with him and, secondarily, we are in communion with one another. The creation of Eve deepens our identity with God because we are invited to become co-creators with him. The sexual union of two who are “others” mirrors by design our own relationship with God who is not us, but another. Adam and Eve give birth to a child. Eve is brought forth from Adam and a new man – a new Adam comes forth from Eve.
We also learn more of what is meant by the fact that we are image bearers. It means, in part, that we have been given the power to make choices. We can embrace communion with God or reject it. It could not really be any other way. You can make someone obey you, but you cannot make them love you. Thus, the tree of good and evil in the Garden is used by God to teach us what it means to be image bearers – we have choices. We are given space to love God or to reject him. Free will does not mean that we are free to create our own good and evil, but the freedom to decide whether we will embrace what is good or what is evil. The Fall is many things, but, at its root, it is the choice of man and woman to alienate ourselves from God, others and the rest of creation. Hell, as it turns out, is finally solitude – autonomy – aloneness, the rejection of community with the Triune God, with others and within the colloquy of our own inner self.
C. S. Lewis masterfully pictures this in his allegory of heaven and hell known as The Great Divorce. As you may recall, Hell in the book is a gray town; those who go there lose the solidity of their bodies; they become like ghosts. Even the grass is so hard that they can’t walk on it, and a leaf is too heavy to even pick up, because they have lost the solidity of their bodies. Hell is further pictured as a place of no communion. Every house is farther and farther from every other house; they are alone in the gray town, thousands of miles apart from one another; yet, as it turns out hell is just a tiny speck in the soil of heaven because everyone has collapsed in on their own aloneness.
As image bearers, Adam and Eve have been granted moral weight in the universe. The word “glory” is the word for “weight” in the Old Testament. Our very physicality carries with it ethical boundaries set at creation by God himself, the violation of it makes us “less weighty” or more “distant” from God’s glory and his original design, which is communion with Him, with one another and, indeed, with all creation.
Reprinted from www.timothytennent.com.