By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
26 Then God said, “Let us make manh in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27) This is an astonishing text in which the trinitarian God purposes to make a different kind of being than had been created thus far—one that would image Him. Not be Him, but be His image and likeness.
Who are we and what are we? Why questions, as opposed to how questions, have haunted the landscape of my heart and brain ever since I can remember. What is our identity? God answers that for us, very clearly. Since we are made in God’s image, then we cannot know who we are or what we are without knowing who/what God is first. That is one reason why we looked at Him first in our study. As Calvin noted in the first pages of the Institutes—the knowledge of God and of ourselves are inextricably connected at a thousand different points.
There is a crisis today in our culture re purpose and identity. Think about: ask the average person on the street what they would say if you asked the purpose of life, and who they are? If we jettison the living God, then it comes at a very high price; human dignity and purpose. So our country is becoming increasingly barbarous—slaughtering the unborn.
Perhaps the hardest book I ever read was Jean-Paul Sartre’s book ‘Being and Nothingness.” In it he stated that existence precedes essence. Think about that term for a moment…..(you, me, chair, all facts are brute meaningless facts—non-interpreted). We are meaningless. All facts are meaningless intrinsically—until we choose, in act of courage, to give them meaning or essence. In other words, there is nothing outside of us to give essence or meaning to our lives. On the other hand you have the other existentialist Albert Camus asserting that the only question remaining is should we commit suicide? So, the credo of the secular humanist or pagan is this: I originated in meaninglessness and am destined for meaninglessness, but in-between these 2 poles of meaninglessness, my life it is magically imbued with essence or meaning. Talk about leap of faith, and absurd. That is the sad situation of modern man. If we are but cosmic accidents, personal warts on the face of an impersonal universe, then our origin and destiny are equally insignificant. No basis for human dignity or worth. The 20th century is a murderous testimony to the inevitable fruit of that kind of thinking: man is the measure of all things. We have become zeros-less than zeroes.
Our origin, destiny and meaning are tied to God. He declares that we have essence or meaning-value and dignity. God alone has intrinsic dignity and value, but He has assigned us extrinsic value and dignity; we are made in His image. What does that mean?
Some have suggested (some RC theologians) that image and likeness refer to different things but the structure of the Hebrew indicates that they are synonymous, and the bible uses them often interchangeably. What does imago dei mean? Tons of ink has been spilt over this issue!
The short answer, but I think still profound, of what it means to be made in God’s image is that we image Him! Isn’t that what images do? Images express likeness to something or someone else—it mirrors or expresses what the original is like. 100 yards away from my apartment is a national Military Park commemorating the battle of Guilford Courthouse, and especially General Greene, whom our city of Greensboro was named after. Greene was Washingtons brilliant leader of southern campaign of revolutionary War. Ever since I was a kid we used to go see this enormous image of him on horseback—still there. This image of Greene is meant to portray or represent Greene…his dignity and honor and brilliance a military strategist. Images of all kinds of people that are important are all over the place.
So, as God’s image we are to image Him to the world. We were created with that express intent or purpose—at heart of our humanness and identity/purpose. We are to mirror to the world what God is like—His holiness and love. Walking and talking images, and in our behavior and words we are to express His character to all the rest of His creation. So that we adorn the gospel—people look at us and can say: that is what God is like. We mirror to the animals, the angels, other people-- God.
We do not exist for ourselves but for God—and He designed us with unique and incredible dignity.
Since we are Gods image bearers may be one reason for second commandment—there is already one image of Him, and that is us, and to be only us—which shows our dignity!
Be more specific: We are like Him in some ways or analogous. Though He is Creator and we are creatures, we alone are made in His image. God is holy, creative, rational, communicative, gregarious (relational), a will. We are to mirror to the world His holiness, for example. Likewise, though we cannot create from nothing, as His image bearers we can create beauty—whether in home, garden, or on canvas, we mirror Gods creativity when we create and this pleases Him.. All the traits I mentioned we share with Him which make up our image bearing.
In a word, God is personal—Infinite/Personal God. We may not be able to verbally express what person is, but we know instinctively what a person or personality is. And we are finite/personal….infinite/personal.
Immediately after the verses describing our being made in God’s image we are said to be His under-shepherds in ruling and caring for this earth. We are to reflect God’s righteous rule over the cosmos in how we build culture. That is crucial aspect of our image-of-Godness.
This view of the image of God is contrary to a platonic view of spirituality that is common in bible believing churches in which there is a spiritual compartment and a non-spiritual compartment. Plato taught that the soul was all that counted and the body was the prison house of the soul. Matter was inferior to spirit. We must resist this super spirituality, platonic tendencies which dehumanizes the whole man. But true spirituality sees Christ as King and Lord over the totality of life: the arts, government, academics, every day life. It also means that of all people, Christians should be the most sensitive to environmental issues; the most excited about the humanities and sciences. Knowing that we do have dominion over it as the secular environemntlaists deny, we are still to not recklessly rape Gods good earth in advancing culture.
That we shall live forever is perhaps another way we image God, though he alone is immortal. Our soul is not intrinsally immortal as Plato taught—we live forever only bc God decreed so. Our soul is not made of intrinsically immortal stuff.
Notice that it is the intra trinitarian communication in which we are discussed as being made in “our” image. So, as a communicative triune God, what we say, and how say it, is a salient aspect of our image of Godness. Language and the ability to communicate is an expression of it.
Like God, we are rational, creative, communicators, have spiritual side—so our image of Godness is rich. Some have also suggested that since were created with bodies and will have bodies forever, then they in some sense reflect God’s image as well—though God is spiritual…but the glorified Incarnate Christ has body. Fearfully and wonderfully made—images God’s wisdom in our bodies.
Note too, that the male and female comprise God’s image—we need both to complete this image. This further enriches the beauty and multi-faceted nature of God’s image.
We are told that God Himself brought Eve to Adam and in the garden chapel it was like the Father walked his daughter down the holy aisle to join hands with her husband. Marriage officiated by God Himself.
Last segment we talked about the consequences of the Fall, in which ghastly things happened. The image of God in us was severely tarnished. Our ability to mirror God’s holiness has been greatly affected; our hearts, minds, and wills have all been adversely affected. The mirror is fogged.
I had mentioned that the Fall has much explanatory power re the world and ourselves. A powerful example is how the Creation, image of God, and the Fall alone can adequately explain the paradox of mankind; the simultaneous Majesty and misery of mankind. The history of the world bears this out over and over: breathtaking expressions of our singular nobility/potential for such beauty on every level, including relationally. At the same time, we are capable of the most horrendous inhumanity to man..or on every day level, just our pettiness and selfishness. We are a study in contrasts: majesty and misery!! When we say the bible is true we mean that not just in spiritual matters but it alone expresses and explains the complexities of the world we live in-including ourselves. The bible is really true.
Note that biblically, though we are the pinnacle of creation, we are not the goal of creation. The last and most sacred day is the 7th day which focuses on God. The sixth day is penultimate, but the ultimate day is the seventh. Perhaps that explains, at least in part, the meaning of 666. It elevates part of creation/man as the ultimate, raised to third power, which in Jewish thought is highest way of accenting something. Holy, holy, holy…God is dethroned in this antichrist scheme and mankind is elevated as the measure of all things. Imaging not God but Satan. I think that is the essence of 666 perhaps. And some person will come that personifies this satanic scheme. But we must remember we don’t exist for ourselves but to mirror God.
There are 2 extremes regarding the results of the fall and the image of God in us: some virtually deny that it affected us at all (like modern day Pelagians or paganism), and others say that the image was totally destroyed. We shall deal the first error in depth later, but re the latter the bible is clear that we are still made in His image—Gen. 9:6; 1 Cor. 11:7; James 3:9
6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image. (Gen. 9:6)
9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. (James 3:17)
We are still humans, and the goal of redemption is to restore our true humanity—in all its earthy, lovely splendor.The goal of salvation is degree by degree restore God’s image in us.
The restoration of the fullness of the image of God in us is being accomplished by Christ. He is as Hebrews 1:3 says :”the brightness of His glory and the express image of His Person.”
Sanctiifcation is the restoration of our true humanness; as His image in all its rich fullness is restored degree by degree.
1. God created human beings—both male and female—in His image and likeness
2. There is some analogy between God and mankind that makes communication between them possible
3. Human beings, like God, are moral agents with the faculties of mind and will and creativity.
4. Humans are called to have dominion over the earth-subdue and build culture but not rape it.
5. In the fall, the image of God in us was marred
6. Christ is the perfect image of God, and he is restoring us to the fullness of the image of God.
Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook format.