Mike Ovey is the new principal of Oak Hill Theological College. His seminar was billed as one that would be more “stretching,” which drew me in like a moth to light. New Word Alive certainly seemed to be familiar with substantial and weighty teaching, which is very encouraging to see.
We began by being asked to do some of the work ourselves. Mike pointed us to Psalm 8 and asked us to consider what it tells us about the place of mankind in God’s creation. God is a wonderful creator, but also has given a wonderful role to us. In fact, we have been given an honored role. But we live in a time when mankind has put itself out of its rightful place. We forget that God placed us in that place. The doctrine of God is intimately connected to the doctrine of humanity. We say things about God because we think things about God.
Mike is actually an engaging speaker and helped everyone in the audience to engage with his material. For example, when quoting from John Calvin he used a stereotypical French accent reminiscent of Inspector Clouseau!
Mike went on to say that atheism is a comparatively recent and minor arrival in the history of philosophy. We didn’t start with atheism—we started with a denial of humanity, which led to a denial of God.
Ironically, a human rights-based society tends to demean us. For example, we become nothing but a consumer to supermarkets. Some feel that they themselves are genuinely worthless, while thinking that other people do matter. We only understand our true place when we realize that because we are created, we have value. Because we are created as material beings our bodies do matter. God says that his creation has value, so that makes “the who” of it (and hence us) valuable. It is not the highest value, since our value is derived from someone higher. We have a derived importance due to the creation order. We are God’s representatives, wielding authority over the rest of the creation. Creation does not have an independent existence; it was made from nothing and so is entirely dependent on his will for it to exist.
Mike, like me, is a town man, living in North London. He spoke about how he was struck by the beauty of creation on his journey here, having been living surrounded by man’s creations of tower-blocks, etc.
Sin is not just a sin against people. It is a sin against the owner of people. If we belong to God, we cannot simply say that sex between two consenting adults is not sinful. Because we are God’s possessions, that violates his ownership rights.
We can also value things made by human beings as something that God enabled them to do, even if they are not Christians.
We are relational creatures. We are designed primarily to relate with God. Sin disrupts our relationship with God, but it also disrupts our relationship with each other. Family relationships were instituted before the fall and therefore are part of God’s plan for his creation. Thus the state is a secondary institution designed to protect the family. There is a clear order in value. Anarchy is obviously not desirable, so the state is necessary, of course. Ultimately the state is temporary. Family, marriage, and God come first because God has made us and values us. Our value is based on theocentricity, i.e. it comes from God. It truly is a marvelous thing to be a human being made in the image of our Creator!