The Image of God

The question of the image of God, as it relates to Man is worth study.  The Bible mentions five times directly and several times indirectly that man was made by God in his image.  (Erickson, p519)  This concept is also mentioned twice in the New Testament Apocrypha.  (Elwell, p79)  But what does this mean?  Did Adam look like God?

There are three general views presented by Erickson. (Erickson, p520-529)  The substantive or structural view states that there was some definite characteristic or quality, probably physical in the original man.  Yes he did look like God.  Some supporters of the substantive view hold that this concept is really about man’s reason or thought processes. The rational view is that the image of God we share is not physical but a relationship experience.  When we have the proper relationship with God, we are in his image.  Karl Barth held this view.  Barth presented this idea is a multi-layered opinion that touched on the relationship of man and God as something like that of a mother and fetus.  His thinking evolved over this lifetime, at one point denying any connection between God and man at all.  In the latter parts of his life Barth described the image of God as showing in the “horizontal” relationship of God and man as well as the “vertical” relationship between humans.  Barth’s overall conclusion was that we could learn a lot about humanity if we studied what was available about Christ, since we were made in his image.

The functional view is the last presented by Erickson, the idea that by how we behave or function, we exhibit God’s image.  This is the most modern or recent view.  Just as God rules humanity, men can exhibit the image of God by ruling the Earth.  This “exercise of dominion is the very essence of the image of God” in this view.

Erickson goes on to evaluate each of the four views.(Erickson, p529-533)  The relational view is correct in that it represents that only man has a relationship with God, making him unique among all of God’s creatures.  There are some problems with this view.  One is how it deals with people how love in total rebellion against God.  Do they still have his image?  The functional view also has “insightful” and correct elements.  There are problems with this image idea as well in that it does not connect well with passages other than those in Genesis. The final view of Erickson of the substantive view of the image of God is also clouded by the fact that the specific qualities within man that come from God are not clearly identified.

So what does it all mean?  Unfortunately there are no clear or direct biblical references to answer this worthy question.  Erickson’s point of view is that the image of God can be best understood by six general conclusions, ranging from the universality of God’s image in man to the idea that God’s image is fully expressed when man fulfills his destiny, to “know, love and obey God.” (Erickson, p532)  I would agree with this conclusion.

The relationship of man to woman in creation is also a worthy subject of study.  There are at least two clear biblical answers to this question. First, they are completely equal in God’s sight.  At creation, “when they were created, he called them ‘man’.”  (Erickson, p563)  He gave the same general classification after calling them male and female.  Second, woman was created as man’s equal and corresponding helper, his helpmeet.  This student is no language scholar but the case presented by Erickson of the root of this phrase, as applied to the original woman is convincing as it relates the original Hebrew word to other uses of the same word across scripture the prove this relationship as one of equality.  Although historically this has not been the presentation of the relationship of the sexes, Erickson’s presentation that they are equal in God’s sight is detailed and convincing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.