THEO 525 LBTS Image of God

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RESEARCH PAPER
of
The “Image of God” in mankind.
Genesis 1:26
THEO 525 LUO (fall 2011)
Systematic Theology I
Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary
David J. Miller (ID# 99761)
December 12, 2011
1
Table of Contents
I. Introduction ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. Pg. 3
II. The Image of God in Mankind is the moral Christian character traits that mankind
possesses……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. Pg. 5
III. Image is the essence of man which can not change, while likeness is the changing part of
man…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… Pg. 5
IV. Image is mankind as male and female………………………………………………………………….. Pg. 6
V. Image is the self-conscious personality of man………………………………………………………. Pg. 7
VI. Image is man’s original righteousness………………………………………………………………….. Pg. 8
VII. Image is the material aspect of mankind………………………………………………………………. Pg. 9
VIII. The image of God is found in the soul…………………………………………………………………. Pg. 10
IX. Image is the freedom and reason of man, while likeness is man’s gift or Spiritual communion
with God…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. Pg. 10
X. The image of God is a spiritual likeness……………………………………………………………….. Pg. 11
XI. Conclusion………………………………………………………………………………………………………. Pg. 12
XII. Bibliography……………………………………………………………………………………………………. Pg. 14
2
Introduction
In Genesis 1:26, this verse contains the theological problem of how we are exactly the “image”
of God, as well as the grammatical, and possibly theological, problems of why ‫ אֱֹלהִ ים‬is in the plural
form. There is also the conflict of whether or not “image” and “likeness” should be distinguished from
each other. We will take a look at several ideas and theories of what it means to be “made in the image
of God” as well as look at the proposals about the difference of image and likeness.
When it comes to the issue of what it means for man to be created in the “image” of God, we
need to have a resolved notion of where we stand because our belief on this topic will define our faith
in Christ Jesus. Colossians 1:15 tells us that Christ is the image of the invisible God. He is also fully
man, while at the same time being fully God. His being the image of God has nothing to do with Him
being fully God, but instead it relates to His being fully man. Since Christ, in the form of a man, is the
image of God, we can see how we too are in the image of God, though His image in us is marred due to
the Fall. We have to know in what way God’s image is in use in order to understand how His image
was in Jesus during His time on earth.
Erickson deems it necessary to formulate some kind of definition for what it means to be “made
in the image of God”. This process is not a simple one. We must involve both interpreting individual
references as well as various allusions in scripture. When viewing the nature of what it means to be
“made in the image of God”, there are three ways in which we can approach. Erickson makes mention
of the substantive, relational, and the functional views. The substantive view consists of certain
characteristics within the nature of the human, either physical or psychological. The relational view is
the experiencing of a relationship between human and God, or between two or more humans. The
functional view is not something a human is or experiences, but something the human does.1 These
three views or approaches will help guide us as we take on the task of determining what it means to be
1 Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology: Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998. Pg 520.
3
“made in the image of God”. Each of these views fit within one of the theories discussed in this paper.
The Image of God in Mankind is the moral Christian character traits that mankind possesses.
I try to think back to when I was really young. I try to remember of a time that I did not
understand right from wrong. When I came to the realization that I wasn’t able to think of such of time,
I thought it was just because of my upbringing. I was fortunate in the fact that I grew in a good
Christian home. Christian morals were stressed and emphasized. The more I thought about it, the more
I realized that it was impossible for me not to know right from wrong. I couldn’t tell if this was a
blessing or a curse. The best answer I had for this was maybe it was the fact that I had parents who
loved me and found it necessary to raise me in such a way. It was definitely a blessing.
I decided to talk to my friend who did not grow up in a Christian home but was fortunate
enough to find himself in the church, and accepted Christ in his later teen years. I asked him the same
question that I asked myself. “Can you think of a time that you could not determine right from wrong?”
He looked at me, paused, and humbly admitted that he could not think of a time that he didn’t know
right from wrong. There were times when he did do wrong things, but deep down inside he knew it was
wrong. Why is this? Is this something that is embedded in our DNA?
Wilson and Bloomberg specifically look at the fruits of the spirit in the book of Galatians.
Galatians 5:22-23 says, ”22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (NIV).
They insist that the fruits of the spirit as well as some qualities listed elsewhere, are traits of God that
man is capable of having.2There is no denying that a man regardless of having or not having a
relationship with God is capable of such things. But is this necessarily what it means to be “made in
the image of God”?
Wilson, R.Ward, and C.L. Blomberg. “The Image of God in Humanity: A Biblical- Psychological Perspective.”
Themelios 18(1993): 9-12.
2
4
Sidoroff looks at Exodus 34:6-7 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD,
the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7
maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the
guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and
fourth generation.” (NIV) He states that this passage lists many attributes of God that show man how
he is supposed to be and act. This is a clear indication of how God can reveal his image in mankind. 3
Both the views of Wilson/Bloomberg and Sidoroff have valid explanations and have scripture to
back what they are saying but, there are some arguments to this idea. Wallace makes mention that the
Hebrew word in Genesis 1:26 for image refers to the structure of the Godhead which makes it clear that
image is not a certain morale that is present in the actions of man, but image is rather an essence that
mankind possesses.4 It is also firmly believed that God does not reveal His image in mankind by their
morality, but instead, His goodness is reflected in man’s obedience to God’s word.
It is nice to think that the Character traits that we possess is the simple solution of determining
what it means to be “made in the image of God”. Of course these traits we possess are part of the
image, but it is simply a small part of the puzzle. Clearly there has to be more to it. We humans are too
complex to make it this simple.
Image is the essence of man which can not change, while likeness is the changing part of man.
There are two nouns in Genesis 1:26, both image and likeness, which suggests that a teaching of
two aspects of the image of God, one being permanent and the other, transient.5 Origen had developed
the thought that he saw image as something immediately given at creation, while likeness was to be
3
Sidoroff, Matti. “Man as the Icon of God.” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 28 (1993): 24-25.
4
Wallace, Ron. “The Image of God.” Online. Available from
http://www.biblefragrances.com/studies/WSimage.html/ [accessed 29 October, 2011]
5
Feinberg, Charles. “The Image of God.” BSAC 129 (1972): 237
5
conferred by God at a later time, perhaps through works. 6 Erickson summarizes the further
development of Irenaeus’ distinction by stating “the image was the human’s natural resemblance to
God, the power of reason and will (knowing wrong from right). The likeness was a donum
superadditum – a divine gift added to basic human nature. This likeness consisted of the moral qualities
of God, whereas the image involved the natural attributes of God. When Adam fell, he lost his likeness,
but the image remained fully intact. Humanity as humanity was still complete, but the good and holy
was spoiled”.7 Humanity, believers and non-believers alike are both fully human. They both possess the
ability to evaluate evidence, to recognize truth, and choose on the basis of knowledge of the truth.
Through this all persons are capable to gain some true knowledge of God.8
Martin Luther refuted this idea. As a man of great understanding and a skilled exegete, he saw
that the difference in terminology (image and likeness) as not a difference at all. Image and likeness in
Genesis 1:26 do not have separate referents. Rather, this is simply an instance of the common Hebrew
practice and parallelism. Therefore, there is no distinction between image and likeness either before or
after the fall.9 Since this is the case, we can safely assume that they both refer to essence and not
something transient.
Image is mankind as male and female.
I have always been the type of person who would always find something to do on a Friday
night. Whether it was a date with that one special someone, or with the guys to hang out and maybe
watch a game. I’m not sure why this is, but I love to be around people. Is it that I’m needy? Or perhaps
it could be something that is within me, within all of us?
Erickson sums up Barth’s doctrine of the image of God by saying, “We know from Genesis
6
7
8
9
Ibid
Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology: Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998. Pg 522.
Ibid
Ibid,. 523
6
1:26-27 that the image consists in humans’ reflecting the internal communion and encounter present
within God. The internal encounter within a human rests in the fact that the human race has been
created male and female. Thus there is an I – Thou confrontation within humanity just as there is in the
humans relation with God. We also know, from looking at Jesus for the whole meaning of humanity,
that the image of God consists in being for others. From this perspective as well, then, standing in
relationship with others is what constitutes the image.”10
Aalders and Davis share the a similar mindset when they suggest that mankind as male and
female represent the Trinity in aspect of their communion with each other in marriage, just as the
Trinity communes together. Since God is a relational being, He created mankind as relational beings.11
12
It is clear that humanity is a relational based creation, but is this the real image of God in us?
Two things come to mind when thinking about this particular theory. First thing is that while the
relational aspect of mankind is part of the image of God in mankind, but it is not the entirety of it. It is
clear that we may be getting somewhere, but we are merely scratching the surface. Secondly, Jesus was
the image of the invisible God but he was not married. Jesus was a relational human, he spent time in
fellowship and communion with man and women alike, but the relation between male and female
(marriage) did not apply to Him. Therefore the comparison of the union of marriage and the Trinity is
not a good argument for the image of God in mankind.
Image is the self-conscious personality of man.
Having the limited understanding of God that I have, I try to close my eyes and imagine what
God is. I know that God is good, God is loving, God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and the list could go
on and on. There truly is not enough words to fully describe who and what God is. But is God just a
spirit, a presence we feel? Does he have a physical body? These are all the questions that cross my
10 Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology: Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998. Pg 526.
11
Aalders, G. Ch. Bible Studies Commentary. Genesis Vol. 1: 72
12
Davis, John J. Paradise to Prison. Wisconsin: Sheffield Publishing Company, 1998. Pg 80-81.
7
mind from when I was a young boy to my years as a young man.
Charles Lee Feinberg mentions in his writing “The Image of God”, that God is incorporeal. That
is to say that God is not composed of matter, and He has no material existence. Therefore, since we
can not obtain a physical image of God, Feinberg suggests that man is a copy of God’s holiness. It is
this holiness that we possess that gives us the image of God. This holiness is in the self-conscious
personality we all possess as humans.13
Peter Alan Emmett refutes this theory by bringing up two issues. The first is if man is the
corporeal image of God, then Christ, when speaking in Genesis 1:26, is saying that He is the image of
Himself. Secondly, If man was made as a copy of God’s holiness, mankind no longer exhibits the image
of God because mankind can now, due to the fall, only be holy through Jesus Christ, which is by
grace.14
Image is man’s original righteousness.
Martin Luther rested on a unitary view of the image of God. Erickson explains this view by
saying, “All the aspects of the image of God in humans have been corrupted; what is left is a relic or
remnant of the image – not certain qualities but fragments, as it were, of all what constituted the
likeness to God remain. Ultimately, the uncorrupted image still exists as God’s intention for humans,
but is not actually present in them.”15 Since this is the case, the image of God was lost in the fall of man
and sinful men are incapable of possessing the image of God.
Three arguments to this theory. First, if you read Colossians 1:15 “The Son is the image of the
invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (NIV) and 2 Corinthians 4:4 “The god of this age has
blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory
Feinberg, Charles. “The Image of God.” BSAC 129 (1972): 241.
Emmett, Peter Alan. “The Image of God and the Ending of Life.” The Asbury Theological Journal v.47 (Spring
1992): 53-57.
15 Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology: Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998. Pg 523.
13
14
8
of Christ, who is the image of God.” (NIV) both these verses tell us that Jesus is the image of the
invisible God and has come to restore that image in mankind. Secondly, sinful man can and still does
retain the image of God; that image was simply marred with the fall of man. Thirdly, if man was not in
God’s image, he would be sinless, because sin involves rationality and voluntary decisions, which are
characteristics unique to mankind. Animals can not sin because they lack free will. Also, if man were
not responsible for his own sins, it would be wrongly deemed as sin. If mankind was not still in the
image of God, we would not be able to be held accountable for our actions.16
Image is the material aspect of mankind.
If you recall, when I was addressing the theory of image being the self-conscious personality of
man, I began asking the question of what God looks like. I remember when I was a young boy
attending Sunday school and looking at all the pictures of Jesus and God on the walls. All of them
would have Jesus appear as this man with brown hair and blue eyes, a neatly trimmed beard, nice
fitting clean clothes, and a big smile. Then there was God the father. You would see an old man with
long flowing white hair and beard. He would be sitting on a throne with an emotionless expression on
his face.
As I got older I began to realize that this wasn’t only the churches opinion of what God looks
like. I remember watching tv, it might have been Saturday Night Live and there was a skit that involved
God. In walks a man in white robes, long white hair and beard, and seemed pretty prideful. Obviously
this was a satire, and probably a little sac-religious. I can’t remember what the skit was actually about,
but at this point it doesn’t matter. The point is, we hear on earth have began to think of God as one of
us. Why is this? How did we come up with such an idea?
John Skinner gives us some ideas on this theory. He makes the statement that many Old
Testament writers would give God human attributes such as hands, eyes, ears, etc. It would be hard to
16
Clark, Gordon. “The Image of God in Man.” JETS 12 (1969): 216.
9
think and prove that the writers ever had an impression of God as a spirit without a bodily form.17
Because of these things, it makes sense to think that the image of God we possess as humans is the
actual human body.
Dr. Ergun Caner briefly addresses this idea by mentioning John 4:24 “God is spirit, and his
worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (NIV) Caner states that God is a spirit, so for our
bodies to be a image of Him would be pointless because it would be a bad image. He also makes the
statement that animals have bodies, but they are not in God’s image. 18 This may not be the best
argument out there, but my opinion is that this theory is by far the weakest so far that we have
addressed.
The image of God is found in the soul.
In this view, the image of God is predominantly in the soul, but is seen in every part of ones
being. It is this Image of God in mankind that is our ability to know God by using our memory,
understanding, and will, which are all apart of our soul.19 Calvin shared this view and maintained that a
relic of the image remained in each person after the fall. Because the relic remained, knowledge of
ourselves and knowledge of God are interrelated. In knowing ourselves we come to know God, since
we are made in his image. We also come to know ourselves by measuring ourselves against his
holiness. While all things, in a sense display the image of God, humans particularly do so, most notably
in our ability to reason.20 Augustine was also know to hold a similar view.
Bill Arnold addresses this issue in his book “Encountering the book of Genesis” by making the
17
Skinner D.D., John. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis. Edinburgh: T & T Clark LTD., 1930. Pg
32.
18
Caner, Ergun Mehmet. Theology Survey 202: Lecture Notes and Outlines. Maryland: Academx Publishing
Services, Inc., 2004. Pg 9.
Wilson, R.Ward, and C.L. Blomberg. “The Image of God in Humanity: A Biblical- Psychological Perspective.”
Themelios 18(1993): Pg. 8.
20 Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology: Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998. Pg 523.
19
10
argument that yes, God is in the soul, but He is also relational, and rational. Through procreation,
mankind also bears the likeness to God as co-creators. God can create beings and we can pass on
human life.21 Because of this we can conclude that, yes God’s image is in the souls of men, but that is
only on aspect that makes up the whole image of God in mankind.
Image is the freedom and reason of man, while likeness is man’s gift or Spiritual communion with
God.
One thing I have learned in my young life is that no one likes to think that they have no choice
on a matter. The great thing about being human and being human in America is that we have the
privilege and opportunity to reason, to choose. We get to choose what we wear, what we eat, who we
want to spend time with, etc.
To have these things taken away from us would be catastrophic. I can not fathom a life in which
I could not choose. In a sense, God can not fathom such a world either. God loves us so much that he
gave us free will to choose or reason. God wants us to choose to have a relationship with Him, but He
does not makes us choose Him. This is why this theory in particular hit home with me.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes and argument for this view by stating that freedom is not a quality
one possesses, but a relationship with one another. Mankind is free when he is in a relationship with the
Godhead. It is for freedom that Christ set us free.22 Ron Wallace states that God has given His freedom
to man just as he has given us His image, so they must relate.23
There are two arguments to this theory made by Peter Alan Emmett. The first is that the image
of God can not only include freedom; there are many more other aspects of mankind that need to be
taken into account. Secondly, When God gave mankind His image, He gave him freedom, dominion
21
22
Arnold, Bill T. Encountering the Book of Genesis. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998. Pg 29.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Creation and Fall/ Temptation. New York: MacMillian Publishing Co., INC., 1959. Pg 37-
39.
23
Wallace, Ron. “The Image of God.” Online. Available from
http://www.biblefragrances.com/studies/WSimage.html/ [accessed 29 October, 2011]
11
over the rest of the creation, morality, love, and many other things. One can not limit it to just one.24
The image of God is a spiritual likeness.
This is the more popular of all the views out there. Dr. Ergun Caner makes a statement in
support of this view by stating that “The knowledge, reason, free choice, and aesthetic sensibility of
mankind show traits of God that man possesses that are in the immaterial aspect.” 25 Tommy Nelson
writes in his book “Understanding the Bible story” That God created man with the desire to know and
to be known; God has the same desire.26
When we take a look at the trichotomist view, it shows how man’s structural image complies
with the structural image of the Godhead; man’s soul represents God most high, man’s body represents
God the word (Jesus), and man’s spirit represents God the Spirit.27 The trichotomist view without a
doubt supports such a thought process regarding the image of God in mankind. Peter Alan Emmett
makes comment regarding this theory. He notes that in the Ancient Near East, images were seen as
objects and not ideas. Images were physical and sometimes human. The image of God is not something
men have, but it is what they are; they are the dwelling place of God.28
Two arguments against this view are that the Old Testament makes it clear that God is not
formless by giving Him human characteristics, so it is clear that the human form is the image of God.
The second is that there is no evidence of a Trinity, do the trichotomist view is not valid. These are poor
arguments, but arguments none the less.
Emmett, Peter Alan. “The Image of God and the Ending of Life.” The Asbury Theological Journal v.47 (Spring
1992): 53-57.
25
Caner, Ergun Mehmet. Theology Survey 202: Lecture Notes and Outlines. Maryland: Academx Publishing
Services, Inc., 2004. Pg 9.
26
Nelson, Tommy. The Big Picture: Understanding the Story of the Bible. Dallas, Texas: Hudson Productions, 1999.
Pg. 47.
27
Wallace, Ron. “The Image of God.” Online. Available from
http://www.biblefragrances.com/studies/WSimage.html/ [accessed 29 October, 2011]
28
Emmett, Peter Alan. “The Image of God and the Ending of Life.” The Asbury Theological Journal v.47 (Spring
1992): Pg 56.
24
12
Conclusion
After gathering information on the different views, I have decided which one I agree with the
most. I believe that the image of God in mankind is a spiritual likeness. I agree with the trichotomist
view of soul/body/spirit representing the Trinity. However, the view that Image is the freedom and
reason of man, while likeness is man’s gift of Spiritual communion with God came in as a close
second. When trying to ponder my way to a conclusion, I decided that most of this view could be
included in a spiritual likeness. God is so complex that I do not believe that we can honestly attempt to
define what His “image” in us exactly is. We can only give our theories. My personal view is that
God’s “image” is in us throughout. He is in man’s soul, spirit, and even body. Some might ask how
our bodies are images of God, and this is what I have come up with: Jesus Christ came to this earth in
the form of a man. He was fully man and fully God. For that time, God was fully in man. Jesus is the
image of God. Everything about Jesus is related to God, because He is God. From that, I conclude that
since we are an image of Christ, our bodies are also an image of Christ’s body, and since Christ is apart
of the Godhead, our bodies are therefore in the image of God. Perhaps my view will change with later
study, but for now this is where I stand.
In my opinion, Erickson ended his section on the image of God perfectly, and I would like to do
the same. He stated, “Every Human being is God’s creature made in God’s own image. God endowed
each of us with the powers of personality that make it possible for us to worship and serve Him. When
using those powers to those ends, we are most fully what God intended us to be, and then we are most
completely human.”29
29 Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology: Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998. Pg 536.
13
Bibliography
Aalders, G. Ch. Bible Studies Commentary. Genesis Vol. 1: 69-72.
Arnold, Bill T. Encountering the Book of Genesis. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Creation and Fall/ Temptation. New York:
MacMillian Publishing Co., INC., 1959.
Caner, Ergun Mehmet. Theology Survey 202: Lecture Notes and Outlines.
Maryland: Academx Publishing Services, Inc., 2004.
Clark, Gordon. “The Image of God in Man.” JETS 12 (1969): 215-222.
Davis, John J. Paradise to Prison. Wisconsin: Sheffield Publishing Company,
1998.
Delitzsch D.D., Franz. New Commentary on Genesis. Klock & Klock Christian
Publisher, Original 1888, Re-Published 1978; v1 c2 BS 1235.
Driver D.D., S.R. The Book of Genesis. London: Methuen & Co., 1905.
Emmett, Peter Alan. “The Image of God and the Ending of Life.” The Asbury
Theological Journal v.47 (Spring 1992): 53-60.
Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology: Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998. Pgs
520 – 536.
Feinberg, Charles. “The Image of God.” BSAC 129 (1972): 235-246.
Groves, Henry Charles. A Commentary on the Book of Genesis. London:
MacMillian and Co., 1861.
Nelson, Tommy. The Big Picture: Understanding the Story of the Bible.
Dallas, Texas: Hudson Productions, 1999.
Sidoroff, Matti. “Man as the Icon of God.” Greek Orthodox Theological Review
28 (1993): 24-25.
Skinner D.D., John. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis. Edinburgh:
T & T Clark LTD., 1930.
Wallace, Ron. “The Image of God.” Online. Available from
http://www.biblefragrances.com/studies/WSimage.html/ [accessed 15 October, 2005]
14
Wilson, R.Ward, and C.L. Blomberg. “The Image of God in Humanity: A BiblicalPsychological Perspective.” Themelios 18(1993): 8-14.
15

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