Image of God in Humans

Man, Sin, & Salvation
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mattrose
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Image of God in Humans

Post by mattrose » Fri May 06, 2016 1:18 pm

There are many different opinions on what exactly constitutes the image of God in human beings.

In evaluating options, would you consider the following tests fair?

1. Is this characteristic/role unlike the animals?
2. Is this characteristic/role like God?
3. Is this characteristic/role present (at least potentially) in all human beings?

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steve
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Re: Image of God in Humans

Post by steve » Fri May 06, 2016 2:57 pm

I would say those look like the right questions.

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mattrose
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Re: Image of God in Humans

Post by mattrose » Fri May 06, 2016 3:57 pm

Here's what happens when I run a handful of interpretations through these tests

Theory #1
Image = Physical Form
May fail test #1 b/c we're very similar in form to chimps
Seems to fail test #2 b/c 'God is Spirit'
May fail test #3 b/c humans come in all shapes and sizes
Overall Grade: Failing argument

Theory #2
Image = Rationality/Ability-to-Reason
Probably passes test #1 b/c human reason seems to far exceed animal reason
Passes test #2 b/c God is not lacking in reason at all
May fail test #3 b/c different humans seem to have different capacities in reason
Overall Grade: Worthy of Consideration

Theory #3
Image = Free will / Autonomy
Seems to pass test #1 b/c human freedom seems to far exceed animal freedom
Passes test #2 b/c God is not lacking in freedom at all
Seems to pass test #3 b/c all humans possess freedom of the will
Overall Grade: Worthy of Consideration

Theory #4
Image = Moral sense / Conscience
Seems to pass test #1 b/c human moral-sense seems to far exceed animal moral-sense
Passes test #2 b/c God is not lacking in moral sense at all
Seems to pass test #3 b/c all humans possess a moral sense
Overall Grade: Worthy of Consideration

Theory #5
Image = Creativity
Seems to pass test #1 b/c human creativity seems to far exceed animal creativity
Passes test #2 b/c God is not lacking in creativity
Seems to fail test #3 b/c humans seem to have different creative capacities
Overall Grade: Weak argument

Theory #6
Image = Emotions
May fail test #1 b/c many would argue some animals demonstrate emotion
Seems to pass test #2 b/c biblical narrative demonstrates God has emotions (though many disagree)
May fail test #3 b/c humans seem to be created variously when it comes to emotions
Overall Grade: Weak argument

Theory #7 (Similar to #10)
Image = Spirituality / Soulishness
May fail test #1 b/c many would argue animals have/are souls (though many disagree)
Seems to pass test #2 b/c God has a Spirit
Seems to pass test #3 b/c all people seem to have a spiritual component
Overall Grade: Worthy of Consideration

Theory #8
Image = Authority over Creation
Passes test #1 b/c only humans were given command to 'rule'
Passes test #2 b/c God is the ultimate sovereign
May fail #3 b/c humans don't seem to be exercising authority (though perhaps we have that potential)
Overall Grade: Worthy of Consideration

Theory #9
Image = Original Righteousness
Passes test #1 b/c animals seem morally neutral (neither righteous or unrighteous)
Passes test #2 b/c God is perfectly righteous
Fails test #3 b/c it only applied to Adam, Eve, and Jesus (yet Image seems to apply post-Fall)
Overall Grade: Flawed Argument

Theory #10 (similar to #7)
Image = Capacity for Relationship with God
May pass test #1 b/c human capacity for divine relationship seems to far exceed that of animals
Passes test #2 b/c God (as Trinity) is inherently relational
Passes test #3 b/c all humans seem to have a capacity to relate to God
Overall Grade: Worthy of Considreation

Theory #11
Image = Immortality / Eternality
Seems to pass test #1 as few would argue that animals have immortal souls
Passes test #2 as God is immortal / eternal
Seems to fail test #3 as Scripture teaches that humans needed to eat from Tree of Life to gain immortality ("God alone is Immortal")
Overall Grade: Flawed Argument

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mattrose
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Re: Image of God in Humans

Post by mattrose » Fri May 06, 2016 4:05 pm

Of the remaining theories, it may be helpful to consider which theories may have contextual factors in their favor

Theory #2
Image = Rationality/Ability-to-Reason
CONTEXT? No real contextual indicator I can think of

Theory #3
Image = Free will / Autonomy
CONTEXT? Near context of Genesis 3 (free will choice to disobey God)

Theory #4
Image = Moral sense / Conscience
CONTEXT? No real contextual indicator I can think of

Theory #7 (Similar to #10)
Image = Spirituality / Soulishness
Context? No real contextual indicator I can think of

Theory #8
Image = Authority over Creation
Context? The very next verses are about ruling over creation

Theory #10 (similar to #7)
Image = Capacity for Relationship with God
Context? It is the first "Let us" of the creation week (emphasizing some, perhaps Trinitarian, relationship)

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mattrose
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Re: Image of God in Humans

Post by mattrose » Fri May 06, 2016 4:09 pm

Typing this out is helping me think through the issue....

When giving advantage to those theories that seem to have a strong link with the immediate context, the remaining theories are as follows

Theory #8
Image = Authority over Creation
Context? The very next verses are about ruling over creation

Theory #10 (similar to #7)
Image = Capacity for Relationship with God
Context? It is the first "Let us" of the creation week (emphasizing some, perhaps Trinitarian, relationship)

I would conclude, then, based on this 'live study' that the best theories as to what constitutes the 'image of God' are our ability to relate deeply with God and our role as authorities over creation. That we are made in the image of God seems to indicate that we are God's representatives in and over creation. In the post-fall era, we are all capable to growing in our capacity to serve in this God-given role (in differing ways and with differing emphasis).

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dizerner
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Re: Image of God in Humans

Post by dizerner » Fri May 06, 2016 4:36 pm

mattrose wrote:Theory #11
Image = Immortality / Eternality
Seems to pass test #1 as few would argue that animals have immortal souls
Passes test #2 as God is immortal / eternal
Seems to fail test #3 as Scripture teaches that humans needed to eat from Tree of Life to gain immortality ("God alone is Immortal")
Overall Grade: Flawed Argument
Very good post, but I think this gives far too much credence to Annihilationism. Scripture is just far too strong against it (all live to God, no rest for the wicked).
~ Classical Arminian Christian Mystic ~

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Paidion
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Re: Image of God in Humans

Post by Paidion » Fri May 06, 2016 4:39 pm

Personally, I think Theory 3—free will/the ability to choose, is the one the best fits ALL people (except the mentally deficient, and the severely ill), whereas relatively few people have a deep relationship with God, or take proper authority over creation.
Paidion

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mattrose
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Re: Image of God in Humans

Post by mattrose » Fri May 06, 2016 5:07 pm

dizerner wrote: Very good post, but I think this gives far too much credence to Annihilationism. Scripture is just far too strong against it (all live to God, no rest for the wicked).
I am of the opinion that the Scriptural case is strongly in favor of conditional immortality, but I appreciate the reminder that if I am wrong about such things theory #11 could come back into play :)

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mattrose
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Re: Image of God in Humans

Post by mattrose » Fri May 06, 2016 5:13 pm

Paidion wrote:Personally, I think Theory 3—free will/the ability to choose, is the one the best fits ALL people (except the mentally deficient, and the severely ill), whereas relatively few people have a deep relationship with God, or take proper authority over creation.
Well, I have a few thoughts on this...

1) I think those exceptions (like the mentally deficient) are important. Are they NOT made in the image of God? I wouldn't want to say that at all (nor do I think it is true).

2) While I recognize your point that more people have free will than have a healthy relationship with God... one could argue (I think quite well) that all human beings DO have a relationship with God (some of them are just negative relationships). They do possess, at least, the capacity to deepen that relationship. Indeed, it seems to me that many New Testament passages speak of our increasingly becoming image bearers. Do we increase our level of free will? Or do we increase the deepness of our devotion to God. The latter makes more sense to me.

3) About the same can be said in regards to authority over creation. We can increase in this as we draw near to Christ (The perfect image of God). But what we all have is the capacity and the calling to exercise authority, it seems to me.

Thanks to both of you for the feedback!

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dizerner
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Re: Image of God in Humans

Post by dizerner » Fri May 06, 2016 5:42 pm

mattrose wrote:
dizerner wrote: Very good post, but I think this gives far too much credence to Annihilationism. Scripture is just far too strong against it (all live to God, no rest for the wicked).
I am of the opinion that the Scriptural case is strongly in favor of conditional immortality, but I appreciate the reminder that if I am wrong about such things theory #11 could come back into play :)
So all don't live to God and the wicked get rest? How could you possibly justify that, any arguments?
~ Classical Arminian Christian Mystic ~

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