General unity can be understood as the original relationship that existed between God and his creation and between the distinct parts of creation before the fall of mankind. In the beginning all things were created in God’s image (good) sharing in his divine loving nature. This included the union of man (in God’s image) in Adam, who were lords of creation under God. In the new creation this will be the new union of mankind in Christ ruling over the new creation under God forever. The main difference between the unity in new and old creations is the superior headship of each Christ (Jesus is better than Adam). Under the perfect headship of Christ in the new creation unity will never be corrupted through disobedience (because he is God). It is Christ’s membership in the Trinity that guarantees his perfect headship over new humanity.

While the unions of God and man are the same type, the Bible maintains a clear distinction between them. At no point does the Bible ever consider mankind (or the rest of creation) to be part of the Trinity. Therefore unity between God and man (and creation) isn’t achieved through complete sameness. The Bible maintains that this is achieved by sharing a common image (the image of God), nature (the love of God) and under an order (marriage) set down by God according to his authority as head (and creator) of all things.

Unlike the specific union of God (the Trinity), creation (incl. humanity) does not actually share in the same form as God (unlimited, boundless, limitless, etc.). Rather the Bible describes the sum of the parts of creation as being more consistent with who God is (very good) than they were individually (good) or in any incomplete state on the first 5 days of creation. At the same time the Bible reveals that mankind was specifically made in the image of God, reflecting the character and union of God. Therefore creation (especially mankind) reflected who God is without becoming him (e.g. his image). In this way the Bible protects the uniqueness (power, authority, position, etc.) of God while maintaining unity between him and his creation.

Mankind (creation) has always been defined by who God is, this is why it can be said that there has never been an exclusively “human” nature. The nature that mankind had before the fall, that the elect will possess perfectly when they are raised to life in Christ, is the love of God (2 Peter1:3-4). After the fall mankind’s nature was still defined by God but in a negative sense, i.e. not love (selfishness). Mankind only shares in a common nature with God as long as they are united to him. God is love and as such it does not exist apart from him (unity with him). This love does not incorporate every definition that has ever been thought of. God defines his love, and anything that does not meet his perfect standard of love is not love. Love can only be expressed within the order established by God, the order (hierarchy, etc.) of unity. It is within defined order and hierarchy that God expresses his love within himself and as the head of all things. This is the love he expresses as creator and sustainer of all things, the same love expressed in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Therefore in the general union of all things God gives all good things for the benefit of all and in turn he was to be the focus of all mankind’s love and desire.

The fall of man in Adam not only bastardised the union of man but also the union of creation, which man was supposed to rule over under God. Therefore the unity that has always existed in God is no longer visible in creation. This is why humanity has always had an easier time understanding that God was many (e.g. Greek pantheon of gods) yet unable to perceive his oneness.

  1. Ben Pakula says:

    That last paragraph is especially intriguing, and I’ve been mulling over it for a while. Do you reckon that this is one of the reasons why the Shema (Deut 6:4) is a very significant revelation to Israel?

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