Beware of counterfeits

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).1 But He did more than that. He created people — “namely, a male and a female, or a he and a she”2 — as the foundation for all of human society.

It took God six days to make everything recorded in Genesis 1. Yet the week is not six days long. The week’s seventh day was born out of God’s desire for companionship. He valued being with Adam and Eve enough to create a world for them to live in, and when He was through, He set apart the Sabbath for communing with this pair made in His image.

By placing the man and the woman in a brand-new world they knew nothing about, and by spending time with them afterward to show them what He had made, God established a basis for the entire enterprise of education. He was our first Teacher. We were created to be curious, to learn, to know. He wanted us to know Him, to have fellowship with Him and with each other, and to relish learning about the amazing world He created.

Thus the Creator gave Adam and Eve three great gifts: the holy estate of marriage, provision for education under God’s own care, and an entire day for both worship with the Creator and fellowship with each other.

Tragically, that’s not the end of the story. An enemy deceived our first parents, and they fell from their state of mutuality and joyful fellowship with God to a state of fear and alienation.

Since then “we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6).

Our humanity with its male-female differentiation and relationship, the Sabbath with its joyful fellowship with God and others, and education with its infinite possibilities of learning under the Creator-Teacher — all of these contained within them the seeds for unlimited happiness and development. However, in each case the deceiver offered a counterfeit, an imitation designed to defraud us of the treasures God wants us to have.

Moving the day of rest and worship from Sabbath at the end of the week to Sunday at its beginning not only reverses the original sequence of work and rest, but also challenges the Creator’s right to set order and sequence in the universe. This counterfeit might seem subtle, but it defrauds us of the blessing of the Sabbath and the joy of celebrating the wonders of creation in companionship with God.

The second counterfeit involves secular education, in which nothing we learn has anything to do with God. This impoverishes the Edenic educational system, in which the infinite God is both the source and the object of learning.

The third counterfeit attacks the Edenic model by putting aside the divine plan for male-female marriage and replacing it with a male-male or female-female pairing. This effaces something in us, and also in God, because together — male and female — we reflect the divine image (see Genesis 1:27). The great theologian, Karl Barth, observed that man is the imago dei only and in so much as he is male and female “in open differentiation and joyful relationship” both to each other and to Him.3 Together, man and woman exercise dominion over the created order.

The last book of the Bible, describing conditions at the end of time, implores: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water” (Revelation 14:7). This is more than a command to remember the original Sabbath of creation week. It is also an appeal to acknowledge that God was wise and right when He established all things just as He did in the beginning. This would include the wisdom of ordaining marriage between a man and a woman.

It is misguided to think that a God of love must indulge any and all forms of behavior. It is also misguided to think that the Bible calls upon us to serve as advocates for all who are socially marginalized, irrespective of the reasons for their marginalization. We should help anyone who is in need. Christ did this. But defending the sin that produced the problem is not something the Bible calls us to do. As we help others, we should relieve immediate suffering and also work to remove the cause of the suffering. God loves the sinner but not the sin, and we must learn to make similar distinctions as we reach out to those who, for whatever reason, find themselves on the fringes of society.

Some might wish to use the Pauline argument that in Christ there is neither male nor female (see Galatians 3:28) to redefine marriage, but this is not the point he is trying to make. What Paul argues here is that in Christ, the differences of race, social status, or gender that society uses to exclude or oppress are no barrier to our salvation. Even God’s law that condemns us is no barrier, because it leads us to Christ (see Galatians 3:24). In Christ we are legitimate heirs to the promises of redemption made to Abraham. Thus, Paul’s argument has no room for Gnostic Encratites who would not marry, or on the other hand, the counterfeit to Genesis that denies the male-female prerequisite for marriage.

Read Davidson’s article and De Oliveira’s book review in this issue of Dialogue for more on what is at stake in the debate about same-sex marriage. God still wants to be known and understood by His human children, and in doing so to restore us to His original design. The surest way to receive the full measure of blessing God has in store for humankind is to avoid counterfeits and implement His will in one’s life.

—Lisa M. Beardsley-Hardy


Lisa M. Beardsley-Hardy (Ph.D., University of Hawai’i at Manoa) is director of education, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. She is also an adjunct professor of health promotion and education, School of Public Health, and adjunct assistant professor, School of Religion, Loma Linda University, California. E-mail: beardsleyl@gc.adventist.org.


  1. All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.
  2. See Martin Luther on “The Estate of Marriage,” http://pages.uoregon.edu/dluebke/Reformations441/LutherMarriage.htm
  3. See Church Dogmatics III/1 (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1958), pp. 184-191 passim. See also G.C. Berkouwer, Man: The Image of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962), p. 72.