#write31days – imago dei defined (day 16)

So what does it mean to be made in the image of God? That is in part what I set out to answer with this series, and I’m not sure I’ve shared a concise definition. Much has been written on this topic and I have only read a little, but what follows are some excerpts I found helpful.

“As an image bearer,” Hannah Anderson writes, “you are made to reflect and represent God on this earth.” She goes on to describe the three aspects of identity that must converge if we are to live out the imago dei: “In order to know yourself and exist as you were meant to exist, you must live in dependent communion with Him; you must be in loving relationship with others; and you must exercise creative care over creation.” All of these things work together as a prism, she says, reflecting God’s glory through your identity. (Chp. 2)

Michael Horton attempts to answer the question, “What is the image of God in humanity?” with some of the features expressed in Scripture:

“First, as created, humanity was similar to God in terms of moral perfection…There was righteousness, holiness, godliness. In short, Adam and Eve were as much like God as a creature can be like its creator. All of life was to be a part of worship…

Beyond moral perfection, Adam and Eve enjoyed a creative link with their Creator. God imagined a world and brought it into being–and what imagination!…Of course, God is the Creator and we are creatures. Nevertheless, humans mimic God in imagination…

The image of God is also reflected in the religious dimension of human existence. In other words, being created in God’s image means that we share with God an invincible sense of and concern for the eternal.” (Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, chp. 2)

It is difficult to reconcile the imago dei in its created perfection with its current fallen form. I loved how Anderson fleshed out the ways we reflect and represent God in our love, generosity, wisdom, and work. Horton describes it this way: “Humanity lost moral, creative, and religious perfection in the fall; but the race did not lose moral, creative, and religious capacity.”

He goes on to list some practical benefits of the doctrine of imago dei:

“First, we have an incredibly weighty existence which requires that we respect God and our neighbor whether the latter is Christian or not. It means that we should expect to find common ground with non-Christians as a natural part of human existence. We can build cars together on the assembly line or work together on city councils and school boards without being antagonistic or adversarial. After all, civic life finds its origin in creation rather than in redemption…

Another practical benefit is that the doctrine of creation frees us to enjoy work…Before the fall, God instituted work as a holy, God-honoring, noble activity…In Eden, everyone had a calling. Even after the fall, all men and women are given a calling by God–again, regardless of whether or not they are believers…Therefore, whether one is a truck driver or a homemaker; a corporate executive or a lawyer; a dishwasher or a doctor, one is pursuing a calling which God has included as part of his image in everyone. Christians especially should be inspired by this doctrine to pursue excellence and diligence in their callings and should recognize it as instituted by God in creation.

Another thing we learn from this biblical doctrine is that God is not interested only in religion…What our convictions require is not that we deny our humanity, but that we be God-centered in the way in which we express our humanity…

The doctrine of creation also convinces us that God is in control. Out of chaos he created order; out of darkness, light; and out of nothing, spectacular variety…Our own limitations make it impossible for us to understand the purpose behind every event, for often we are too close to a situation. Yet years go by and finally we see how everything came together into a colorful and orderly pattern…

Similarly, we learn from the doctrine of creation the ultimate reason for intelligibility of the world…What seems random to us is also under God’s wise control…

Finally, the doctrine of creation leaves us without excuse. In the scientific religious ideology that dogmatically presupposes that there is no eternal perspective, we can only conclude with Dostoevsky that everything is permitted. But Scripture teaches us the significance of today’s actions in the long run. Our short lives here and now have eternal weight.” (Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, chp. 2)

This is a bit of a book report 🙂 but it was helpful for me in providing a framework for thinking about what it means to exist in the imago dei.


knowthyGodlogo-100pxThis post is part of my Write 31 Days series, Know Thy God, Know Thyself. To read more posts from this series, visit the Introduction here.

To learn more about the book that inspired my series, visit Hannah Anderson’s blog.

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