Biblical revelation declares that “God created the heavens and the earth” (Ge.1:1). We are also told that “God created man in His own image” (Ge.1:27). Such information is more than academic. In a foundational way, such information contributes to what we produce on a practical level.
God, thought of as the Creator, should also be understood as the Designer. Surely, we recognize that we have a physical design. We understand what are “normal” and what are “abnormal” manifestations in this regard because of the concept of design. Knowing that He is not a physical being (Jn.4:24), we can conclude that the revelation that He “created man in His image” does not apply to our physical structure.
Beyond our physical design, and more in line with having been created in His image, we have a moral design which involves having a Mind, an Emotional system, a Will and a Conscience. In conjunction with such, having been designed after the Designer, we have creative capacities.
Interestingly, when we ponder the things that human beings have designed and invented / created, we see that something is designed the way it is because it is intended to perform a certain function. In Plato’s Republic, we find the statement “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Wanting something to perform a certain function, we design and make it. Everything from appliances to vehicles to computers is designed as they are in order to perform a specific function. In a sense, it’s not the design we are after, but the function. The design is driven by the function preferred.
Though the ultimate goal of this reflection is to understand God’s design and function for human beings, we know that a car, for example, is designed for a specific function. Most people state that its function is transportation, which is correct but, as a sole description, a bit misleading. In other words, flying in the air and floating on water are also forms of transportation but attempting to fly a car as a form of transportation will prove quite destructive if not deadly. We see, then, that we need proper knowledge, understanding and wisdom if we are to honor the design and function of a car (or anything else). Though the following statement deserves much elaboration and proper definition (as does the word “transportation”), the word that best and ultimately describes the function of God’s design for man is “love.” If we are ignorant or careless when it comes to truth claims we can find ourselves operating in a detrimental, destructive or deadly fashion. It is too often the case that the human race has not fully considered how God designed us to operate as moral agents created in His image, merely proceeding on impulse, personal preference and emotional reaction. Next we will consider that even when we intend to honor the design, we must engage in the right process in order to properly and effectively do so.
By way of illustration, if you were to follow the instructions, “Take my car keys, climb in my car, flatten the gas pedal to the floor and get me a burger from the nearest burger joint,” how long might it take to return with my burger? When using this illustration I receive a wide variety of responses from, “Ten minutes” to “It depends where the burger joint is” to “If it’s a nice car, I wouldn’t bother coming back” to “It depends on how many red lights there are.” The fact is, if you were to do exactly as I said, you would go nowhere as my instructions did not include starting the car. Most people say that this is a mere technicality and that starting the car would be assumed. To this I say, “It’s my illustration,” designed to make the point that failing to honor the necessary process that leads to the proper functioning of the car’s design; the car is useless. As long as an aspect of the process is violated or ignored, the intended results do not follow.
When we violated the function by attempting to fly the car, we produced destruction and/or death. When we violate the process by failing to start the car, the car is useless.
Within God’s creation, there is a design, a function, and a process that must be honored if we are to produce individual character, relationships and social structures that are based on and a manifestation of love. Paul declared, “…the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF’” (Gal.5:14). Sadly, love is rarely represented as involving the process of willfully regulating one’s mind and emotions to identify the best means of arriving at the best end and choosing such even when inconvenient, involving sacrifice or void of immediate, personal benefit. It is largely assumed that, in our daily behavior and relationships, we follow our impulses (feelings, “instincts,” urges, hunches), neglecting God’s design, violating our God-given function and, most often, failing to produce love.
Applying the concept of Design, Function and Process more broadly, we can see how it affects important personal and social relationships and institutions. Most men, for example, are not fully or clearly informed about the role they are to fulfill when they become a husband. Such a role and relationship was designed by God to perform a specific, defined function, and in order to do so, one must engage in a particular process. Rarely is any of this considered. Men enter the marriage relationship assuming certain benefits, often confusing the role of wife and mother. In other words, they anticipate having someone who will pick up and wash their dirty laundry and cook their meals while they insist on having time to play with their toys and their friends. Such role confusion based on a failure to understand God’s design becomes disturbing as they also expect this “mommy” to satisfy certain physical urges they associate with marriage. Further, upon being expected to perform the function of a husband, many men realize that they do not have the character, maturity or intention to do so. Such demands simply produce frustration and anger (or pouting). In a relatively overt case, I once had to tell a young couple that my wife and I were counseling that he was not a husband, he was a bad, little boy, and she was not a wife, she was his mommy. They did not return. They are now divorced.
Considering the various social institutions that comprise a “nation,” God has a design, function and process for each of them to fulfill their intended role. As a society, we either honor God’s design or we violate God’s design. I could expound upon this with another fifty pages of explanation but trust that, with a little reflection, we can see what we are doing to the marriage, educational, economic, ecclesiastical and governmental institutions in contemporary America / society. Might it be said of us as it was of Israel, “…the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land. There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and everyone who lives in it languishes along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky, and also the fish of the sea disappear” (Hos.4:1-3)?
Christianity is not simply about selfishly giving Jesus permission to take you to heaven when you die. God is aiming to transform individuals and nations, here and now and to “…reconcile all things to Himself…” (Col.1:20) through Christ. The intention of our heart and goal of our activity should be “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt.6:10).
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro.12:1-2)
 This consideration would also involve maintenance. Putting water in your crankcase because it is cheaper, violates the design and results in destruction. It is wise to keep this in mind in reference to man’s physical design also.
 According to the illustration, this could include putting the car into gear, turning the steering wheel properly, using the brake pedal at the appropriate time, etc.