There’s something interesting about the God of Genesis 1. Compared with the Roman and Greek gods and goddesses of the ancient world who used existing matter to create something, the God of Genesis, chapter 1, created everything out of nothing. It shows that God is the Eternal Being – the Source of all things. But the profound description of Genesis, chapter 1, is to show that God’s means to create comes from His words. We humans usually consider that words are cheap; they don’t have a physical ability to materialize the things that we want.
For example, you say, “I want to eat ice cream.” Although you mentally and verbally described the ice cream that you want to eat, the existence of the ice cream that you describe and desire at that moment will not show up. In other words, your words don’t have a magical characteristic to bring about the things that are not there physically. That’s the major difference between God’s word and human word. This doesn’t mean that God’s word is magical; the right word is supernatural and omnipotent. We usually use the word “magic” when we try to describe the things that we don’t understand happening. But the power of God’s word is not magical.
Genesis, chapter 1, shows us clearly “how” things came into their existence. The agent of God’s creation is His supernatural words. God spoke and things came into being. The author of Hebrews comments on this divine ability by saying, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Heb. 11:3).
God’s speech is supernatural. It’s the invisible power that materializes the visible that God mentally desired and described since eternity past. God’s speech-act then is never separated from His desires. He has the ability to materialize and manifest the things that He likes. He is the only Being that can do so – the very reason why we call Him “God.” And yet, Gen. 1:27 tells us that we were created according to His image and likeness. But then common sense tells us that we don’t have a divine ability to create and manifest the things that we like, the way God did in Genesis, chapter 1. This is the reality and characteristic of our creaturehood. So, what does it mean to be created according to God’s image and likeness?
Well, to answer this in relation to the concept of speech-act, it means the rational ability to desire things within the bounds of God’s desires and design. Human speech-act is a “rational ability” because unlike animals, we have the ability to think, to give reason and motive on what we say and do. However, since we are not God, our ability is limited by our finiteness. Unlike God, we don’t have the ability to create, that is, to bring into existence something out of nothing. Our human ability to create, technically speaking, is actually production and innovation of something into another something. Thus, when it comes to speech or the verbal communication and expression of what we think and desire, God wants that we reproduce the things that He created in the form of human discovery, invention, experimentation, innovation, and development. The rise of modernity and technology was due to the creative imagination, dream, rational expression, and productive industry of man.
Our speech-act then is a reproductive ability to develop the creation of God. This is the reason why in the garden of Eden, God made Adam and Eve as His vice-regents and managers of creation (Gen. 1:26-30). Although Gen. 1:31 says that “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good,” there’s something in creation that God intentionally left untouched (so to speak) in order to give man a responsibility and work to do. God wants to hear and see man say and do (speech-act), “I am created in God’s image and likeness. I will think and produce something that will mirror the goodness of God’s image in my life through the productive ability that He gave me as His image bearer.” That’s the language of the creature that honors the Creator. It’s a language of submission and praise to the God of creation.
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