What does it mean for human beings to be made in the image of God? Christians have long-discussed what is the image of God; but, what precisely does that mean?1
Thomas Aquinas might say that is through the use of our reason, or our unrelenting will; Clement of Alexandria, says that its that we sing that we’re most like the divine. Possibly, it could be our ability to love (1 John 4:8).2
Though discussed a few times in the Old Testament (Gen. 1:26-27, 9:6), and a couple times in the New (the ever-vexing verse of 1 Corinthians 11:7, where Paul adds the concept of ‘glory’ and James 3:9, in reference to the tongue), the phrase “image of God”, God’s likeness, has always been foundationally important for Christian thought, disproportionate to its actually usage.
For Christians, the key verse of reference comes at the very beginning of our The sacred writings of Christianity: particularly the... – Genesis 1:26-27. Genesis starts with a man named Adam, ‘Human’, and Eve, a woman named ‘Life,’ so we can postpone gender questions. But, you can find traces of Judaeo-Christian thought without. For instance, Psalm 8 portrays a fairly high view of humanity (God, angels, humanity).
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
Types of Views
Historically there could be said to be three types of views.
Structural View of the Human Person: Attributes the human being possesses that reflects something of who God is.
Relational View of the Human Person: Refers to the Relationship between us and God.
Representative View of the Human Person: They image God by playing a particular role within creation.
But, all this leads to the question – Christians assert the inherent worth of human beings? What kinds of qualities, or relationships, or representation constitute the worth of a person? There’s an incredibly mystery, beauty, fullness, to the concept, but its a question worth undertaking (and there are probably no simple answers).
- Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel is easily the best representation of the Christian doctrine of the image of God, how humanity is so close to God (though in the Christian tradition portraying God, even as Father, is kind of taboo; but, it’s perfectly acceptable to portray Christ, because he says, ‘If you have seen me, you have seen the Father’ (John 14:9)
- We definitely do not think God has a body exactly like us – so, this easily disqualifies any misunderstandings of this sort.