A Very Brief Look at the Imago Dei

What does it mean to be made in the “image of God“?

The statement from the opening lines of the Book of Genesis, “Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness…(1:26a)”, have long puzzled theologians and philosophers alike and have caused a number of theories to be floated around, but it is actually a video by an atheist, which was surprisingly good and thorough until it turned into a non-sequitur at the end, that put that very question in mind.

If, as good theists, especially Christian theists, we look at the idea of the “image of God” and do not take time to grasp it and roll it around in our minds, then we are neglecting the one gift by which we have to gain some manner of grasp on the infinite. So, with no further ado, when I consider what the imago Dei is, this is what I come up with:

1. Rational. The image of God is an encompassing of the concept of rationality. This is where intellect and reason come together and intersect with the laws of logic. It means that we are thinking beings, considerers of life and it’s facets.

2. Emotional. This entails the ability to give expression to thoughts, as well as feelings. The ability to express oneself is summed up in this.

3. Moral. The fact that we have an innate sense of rightness or wrongness of something is the primary indicator of humanity’s uniqueness among earth’s creatures.

4. Relational. Humans are meant to relate to one another and their environment in a specific way. In fact, if we are honest, any time there is a problem with any of the proceeding three this aspect is immediately affected.

This is just a superficial overview of the subject, which is enough for early on Wednesday, but it should give you enough to think about for this week, so that if you are confronted with the issue you’ll have some fuel for the engine of your thoughts.


      • Then it would be “dei imago homo hominis”, but then you’ve got to get past the time-space-matter barrier and explain the origin of the universe, in other words, you’ve got to explain content without intent when intent always proceeds content.

      • So, rather than accept a full-orbed explanation of the universe, one that embraces the three-fold explanation, you’d rather not even stray into that territory?
        Sounds perfectly reasonable…

      • “Because there are things that are being done by someone with an intent, everything must be something being done by someone with an intent?”

        Really? And you call that “logical”?

      • So, you cannot justify it, but you feel the need to repeat it, hoping that it will somehow gain weight? How boring. Please, continue, by all means, but I hope you’ll excuse myself until the time you found an actual argument for that. Could take a while.

      • Anything that begins to exist must have a cause.
        The universe began to exist.
        Therefore, the universe has a cause.

        In other words, intent proceeds content.

      • Calam? Hard to find something more trite. Too many problems with this argument, for example, the first premise is unproven and tries to argue from stuff we see everyday INSIDE the universe to the universe itself. No to mention that “beings to exist” is an attempt to include god in the premise. etc.

        But, even more importantly, even, if we were to agree that this argument is actually sound (it isn’t), nothing states that this first cause has to be something with conscience or, as you put it “intent”.

      • Now, aside from that, we have to deal with information theory in regards to DNA, which is a quaternary code made up of self-replicating elements that not only reads, but writes itself, and manufactures different parts for different purposes from two different sources into one, but…..wait, wait, wait, hold up there doggy… You’ve just thrown in a red herring, you haven’t dealt with argument in the post, just thrown in an unfounded, unreasoned assertion, then have the gaul to question my logic…

      • In the post is a description of what the imago Dei, which resides in the being and person of man and what it consists of in regards to Christian theology. Now, if you want to argue that it goes in the opposite direction, bottom up, do so. The essential argument of the concept of the imago Dei is that it is to serve as a touch point for human to divine, as well as human to human, the intent prior to the content. So, to argue in the opposite direction you have to demonstrate a bottom up, as opposed to a top down, that content proceeds intent, that the effect proceeds it cause. If that’s not clear it’s because I’ve been awake since 0530CDT, and it is now 2330CDT.

      • Technically, I didn’t make an argument, just a remark.

        We can safely assume that humans exist, I hope we agree on that (otherwise we could stop this conversation). And, we probably also agree on the fact, that humans tend to invent gods. They did. Thousands of them, all different. Humans simply make up personalities for gods, etc.

        Now you claim, that in one, specific case, humans didn’t invent it, but this god is actually real, while I simply assume the default, that, as no religion has been shown to be more true than any others (otherwise there would be just one and no conversions to any other), your religion number 2.741 (“Christianity”) is no special case.

        I would say, that’s a pretty rational thought and a pretty logical assumption (while unproven, of course, it is the most simple assumption in this case). But of course, as soon as you bring up evidence that your religion should be considered a special case, we can talk about that.

        You argue in direction of Kalam, but, as I told you, the problem is, that even the first premise is unfounded: We have never seen anything to truly “begin”. We have seen stuff to be transformed into other stuff (with and without any human interaction). But we have never once seen something actually “begin” in this context. So this premise is nothing more than a claim. You can that everything that begins needs to have a cause.
        And, even worse than that, you postulate that this cause has to have a personality, while it could be, for example, an infinite quantum vacuum out of which universes emerge (which would also qualify for the “doesn’t begin to exist” part). No personality whatsoever, no god needed for that.

      • Now we are getting somewhere.
        I would agree that humans have created millions of deities (Hinduism and Mormonism for example). And when logic is applied to the question, a plurality of equally powerful, equally intelligent, and, in some cases, competitive beings is a logical impossibility since they would cancel each other out. Also, given our current understanding of the universe, it is reasonably certain to assume that matter and energy had a beginning nearly 14 billion years ago. Of course, quantum theory has emerged over the decades because some scientists are unwilling to accept the possibility of a definite beginning, but, looking at the latest research, quantum particles (Higgs, quarks, and the like) are causing more problems than they’re solving because of inherent instability where they won’t remain in a state beneficial to generating any information other than the fact that they are unstable and require tremendous amounts of energy to create, which begs the obvious logical question: if we are having to generate tremendous amounts of energy to create an environment where we can even detect them, where did the energy come from at the beginning of the universe?

        But, back to the question of manufactured gods, when looking across the spectrum, which system posits a deity which is self-existent? Every religion than I have looked at, even those which are no longer practiced posit deities which had a beginning themselves, exhibit human qualities (hunger, exhaustion, sexual desire), and, at some point, enter into a logical contradiction, except the big three monotheistic religions, which posit an eternal, incredibly intelligent, self-existent being.

        Now, two of those three claim essentially the same deity so we can compare essentially two contradicting representations between Islam and Judeo-Christian understandings: one, Allah, who is inconsistent, appears ignorant of qualities of the universe, and ignorant of exact claims of the other religions it criticizes; while Yahweh presents a consistent character, recognizes and accurately depicts features of the universe albeit simplistically, and accurately represents the claims of other religions it criticizes. So, just on the basis of those two comparisons alone, if we apply a test of coherency the Judeo-Christian concept wins out. Does it mean that they are true? No, it is merely a coherency test.
        But if Christianity is no “special case”, it must be demonstrated that it is logical for a religious system to arise out of a city where its “founder” was murdered, based on claims that are evidentially falsifiable, and endure under extreme persecution without resorting to violence or extracting itself from that society, unless it were true in its claims. And if true in its claims then resistance to it is either emotional or volitional because to be intellectual is to hold a contradiction in ones mind, because something cannot be both true and false in the same way at the same time in the same sense.

        Now, as to your refutation of the Kalam, go look in the mirror and look at your identification card, which most certainly has a birthdate on it. Before that point, legally, you did not exist. You have a beginning. Anything that BEGINS (<==key word) to exist has a cause. You began to exist. Therefore, you have a cause. Of course, we can bring all sorts of scientific arguments in and argue back to the first organism, but they are irrelevant to the discussion. You, Atomic Mutant, have a beginning, a definite approachable beginning. You have a cause. Now, of all possibilities YOU began, and although there was a long, drawn out process, YOU were the result. I, personally, do not believe in coincidence as a fact, rather as a perception and really bad description of human experience, but of all possibilities out there floating around YOU were the result, you began to exist. I think that alone is a refutation of your point, but it begs a question: if, of all possibilities, that you are the result, what does that mean? Which, of course, directs us to the conclusion, "intent proceeds content."

        If there is a God, if Christianity is true (and on a historical and philosophical examination appears so) the claim laid out is that you have a purpose. In fact, in Romans it seems to indicate that people have essentially two ends: life or destruction. Man was created for a purpose: to know God, and enjoy Him forever. Man chose destruction over life, purposelessness over purposefulness, useless knowledge over encompassing knowledge. But God is merciful, and he is patient, and he pleads for his creatures to return to him for safety and happiness, to reject ways that lead to misery and death and embrace ways that lead to joy and life. And to make that possible, the eternal God, in the person of His Son, condescended from on high to live a perfect life, then took the place of one rightfully condemned to die in the place of all the rebels who are fully deserving of death for their lies, their hatred, their utter lawlessness, was buried and was raised again as a promise to all who would quit their rebellion and come seeking forgiveness that they could be restored to what was lost.

  1. […] originally created a world absent of that suffering, but our parents, the ones from whom we descend as image bearers of God, rejected that so that they could have knowledge like God, but not the power to deal with it, nor […]

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