Understanding the “Image of God”

The concept of the “image of God” comes from Genesis 1:26-27 which sites:

And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God Created man in his own image, in the image  of God created he him; male and female created he them.

From this scripture, many theologians have discussed and debated “the image of God” and what this means. While some claim the image of God is a representation of self[1] others suggest the image represents our morality and spirituality.[2] Research and theories by scholars provide no clear and direct answer to this meaning. Incidentally, the Bible gives no indication or definition of what being made in His image means specifically.[3] With no clear or definite meaning the image of God is presumably up to the beholder. Analysis on on theoretical concepts of theology support this. When creating man, God gave us choice.[4] Through this choice, man is allowed, knowledge, thought, creativity, and the ability to make rational and conformed decisions. However, it may be possible that the image of God concept is beyond what is humanly conceivable. Martin Luther also believed in this unconceivable concept of the image.[5] The concept of the image of God is changing, flexible, and layered. The true meaning of the image is beyond human comparison.

THE IMAGE OF GOD AND HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS

Many scholars and theorist have interpreted the meaning of God to the relationship that people have with themselves and others. This includes self-identity, parental relationships, relationships with peers, and the relationship with God. However, it is the relationship and the intimacy of this relationship that allows others to perceive the human image with God’s image. The image, from this stand point, is not a physical image. It is associated with the emotional relationship that one may have with themselves, others, and God. In this manner, “the God image develops through what people experience”.[6] The image of God, from this point of view is one that is emotional and corresponding. The image of God cannot be viewed with the eye but observed through example. It can be personal feelings or even cognitive thoughts and thinking. It is an image that cannot be supplemented or described as a physical manifestation. Instead it is by human relationship. This is specifically seen with images and representation of parent to that of God and self-identity.

God is known to be the human creator as indicated in the Bible. As the creator He is observed as our Father in heaven.[7] The Bible has given and provided us with the human relationship with God. The things that He does for us as our provider, nurturer, healer, excreta demonstrate the intimacy and closeness of this relationship. Like a parent, we can come to him when we are hurt, in want, in need, in trouble, in happiness, and in praise. The things that He does for us, further substantiates the relationship of God and man. As a spiritual Father, God is often associated with physical fathers and mothers.  On a survey conducted on adolescence, the study found that 48% associated God to a parental figure; and as a result, “the classical picture of God as a father clearly dominated”[8]. Through this influential relationship, individuals can better interpret the image of God. Even those who do not have a physical father or do not have a close relationship with their earthly father, can identify with the role that God plays as a Father, a provider, and nurturer. The individual will act in accordance to what he was taught by God. As his son, man will have the same beliefs and moral values as God. He will believe and follow all that God preach and ask for of us. In addition, he will have the physical and emotional attributes and characteristics of God. He will be humble, kind, loving, nurturing, and a provider. This relationship is especially significant. It influences how one will act, think, and value themselves and others. It has a significant influence on ourselves including how one will treat others as well as how one will treat themselves. All of this will be done with respect, honor, and dignity. Therefore, “parents influence the formation of God image with the idealized parent, regardless of gender”.[9]

The parental relationship is also associated with the relationship that the individual has with God. This relationship is developed and maintained and will eventually influence the self. This includes self-perception and self-identity. All of this can then be interpreted as being made in God’s image.  God implies that people should live in love and honor, following his will and commandments. As a result, “one’s image of the sacred helps ground the sense of who one is”.[10] Following His divine guidance will then influence and alter the image and perception of self. The relationship that humans develop with God can mold and transform this bond. The bond that people develop with God will then shape human behavior, how individuals treat others and themselves. “It is suggested here that this multiplicity of function in relationship with God both influences and is influenced by one’s image of God”.[11] As people, we internalize our feelings and relationships with others. When a relationship is reliable, refreshing, and honest, these feelings are internalized and associated with the self. The more the individual commits to this relationship the more vital this relationship becomes as a part of self-identity and a consistent involvement in our behavior and reasoning. This relationship then becomes a committed and intimate relationship. It can be seen through friendship, partnership, or familial ties. “Individuals become increasingly committed to a relationship, they come to think of their partners as part of the self and come to regard themselves as part of a collective unit that includes the partner”.[12] In this manner, individuals conceptualize the image of God. The relationship allows an intimate partnership that makes this “image” innate and relevant to perception and collection of self. This relationship is constantly changing, shifting, and moving as the relationship matures or declines and the perception of the individual. This evolvement of the image demonstrates its complex nature of the true meaning and significance of “the image of God”.

THE IMAGE OF GOD THROUGH HUMAN CAPABILITIES AND DISTINCTION

Many scholars and researchers suggest that the image of God can be distinguished through human capabilities and the distinction of human creation. It is a popular theory that dawned through Biblical interpretation and facts. It is true that God gave humans dominion over the earth and all living things both literally and metaphorically. In a literal sense, humans have dominion over the earth. Humans have control over animals which we domesticate for food or friendship and also the earth as we build homes and broads changing the environment. In the other sense, humans are much smarter than other creatures. We have the ability to make moral decisions, rationalization, knowledge, and wisdom. Furthermore, God created humans separately from animals and did so in a very distinct way. The differences found in humans when compared to the rest of God’s creatures, humanity is original. Humans have abilities unprecedented in the animal kingdom. “It is evident from the context of Genesis 1 that the image of God denotes in a number of ways how men resembles God, and yet at the same time is distinct from animals”.[13] These associated differences give physical facts to God’s image rather than an emotional one that is relevant to emotional conceptions, relationships, or perceptions.

When God created man, in the same breath he created man in his image and to have rule over the Earth. “The Bible paints a picture of man as a being that stands on a different level from other creatures”.[14] Humans have the power to rule the most dangerous and ferocious animals such as lions and poisonous snakes. Humans are also capable of rule over the earth such as land. Today humans have molded and shaped the land to what we see today, creating damns to control the flow of water and bulldozing mountains to create roads and railways. In addition, humans consume animals and plants for nourishment. This dominion gives humans special powers that other species are not capable of. This allows “God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends”.[15]  It is suggested to represent the image of God in addition to the fact that these things were spoken inside a verse. This underscores the association between humanity and dominion. However, Feinberg indicates otherwise. He suggest that, “the image of God constitutes all that differentiates men from the lower creation”, and not some that represents our God image.[16]

When creating the animals, He commanded them into existence and thus it became so.  However, when God made man, it was something that he thought and considered. This is emphasized in the first line of Genesis 1:26 where it says, “And God said, Let us make man in our image”. The use of the plural, “us” suggests that not only God decided this. This is what is called, the “God-head” known as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.[17] Together, God decided to create man in God’s image and to have dominion. This he did with thought and consideration, making a being that had similar qualities of God.  In addition, when creating man, the Bible indicates that man was made from, “the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”.[18]  Yet, when creating the other creatures of the earth, they were made after “their kind”, to habitat the water, the air, and the earth.[19] Some suggest that, this breath given to us by God and being made in his image provided humanity with the ability of morality, consciousness, choice, the ability to speak, worship, gain knowledge, and so on.[20]  This is directly associated to human consciousness, ability, and capabilities. This consciousness suggests human likeness of God. This is seen through His mental likeness. Examples include social likeness and bodily form.[21]

The idea that man is made in God’s human form, provides physical likeness to this image. In the physical form, God then has limbs, appendages, stands and walks upright, and is capable of facial expression that demonstrate human emotion. By this, Griggs indicates that, “there is something about the human body therefore which is uniquely appropriate to God as manifestation of Himself”.[22] Therefore, God is a being that has emotions. God gets angry, jealous, and also express feelings of love. People too have these characteristics and attributes of emotional and mental capabilities. This emotion gives us consciousness and choice. Humans are then able to learn from others, their environment, and can gain knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. These attributes can be associated with the God image that makes humanity uniquely distinct from the other creatures of earth.  Consequently, being made in God’s image is a “direct gift from God”.[23] “No other living being was endorsed with the capacities and capabilities, the potential and the dignity, that God instilled in each man and woman”.[24]

THE GOD IMAGE AND GENDER IDENTITY

As an alternative to the image of God through interpersonal relationships or selective creation and abilities, others view the God Image with association with gender identity. Scholars and theologians of previous generations one considered the image of God to be gender specific. This suggest that the image of God was only relevant to males specifically and not women. However, from this perspective others can better understand the God image and what this means. Although some scholars may have concluded that women were not of God’s image because of bias, their reasoning for this originated from biblical scripture. The idea was presumed due to women being created from Adam and not from God. They rationalized that man was created from God; woman was created from man. This view was substantiated with scripture, “for a man indeed oughtt not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God but the women is the glory of man”.[25]  Despite this, Genesis removes this idea of gender bias in Genesis 1:27 where it states that God created both male and female in his own image. Therefore, as it was always assumed, the male vernacular “he” is used consistently throughout the bible as generalization or a normative to provide a generic perception”.[26]

Describing and differentiating the differences in gender provides others a different understanding of the image of God. Man is made in God’s image in the same manner that female is made in His image. God created both genders. Unlike with the beast and creatures of the earth, man was not created after “their kind”. When God created animals they were made in relationship of another animal which is associated with the variety of fish that live in the water and the birds of the air. Instead, man was made in God’s image, from the dust of the earth, and of his breath. There for when creating man, He made no difference is species or kind. Instead he differentiates humans by gender, that being man and woman. As a result, man and woman was created in God’s image. This represents the, “masculine-feminine dimension of God”.[27] This suggest that female represents God’s image as well as male meaning that both females and males are associated with God and God represents both womb and seed. Man and woman were created as a correlation of each other. The unity of man and woman is considered the complete portion of separate halves. Through marriage and unity these halves come together to create the whole, of the complete image of God.  This leads, “rabbis to consider men and women human and in God’s blessing when they unite as husband and wife”.[28]

CONCLUSION

For those who believe in Darwinism, there would be no conflicting analysis of the God image. Darwin himself stated that, “man in his ignorance thinks himself of great work worthy the interposition of a deity; more humble I think to consider him created from animals”.[29] With an atheist concept such as this, the rational is simple and straight to the point. In contrast, the image of God is complex, every changing, flexible, layered, and interweaving. The large scope and dimensions of the “image of God”, demonstrates the variety of concepts associated with this. With researchers and scholars finding little common ground on the God concept, it causes others to rationalize the range of the analysis. While it is easy to distinguish false concepts such as that idea that only males are made from the image of God are simple to ascertain. However, when associating the God image with emotional relationships like self-identity and relationships with others, it is hardy to find the true meaning of the God image. It becomes more difficult when analyzing various perceptions and concepts of the image, such as human dominion over earth and human consciousness. Most authors and scholars presented valid points. However when recognizing the shift, change, and moving perception of the God image, many can see the vast scope that this topic assumes. Feinberg concluded his article siting that, “There is no need to restrict the image too narrowly to mind, reason, or logic”[30]. Another scholar indicated that, “the image of God is shrouded in mist: there is no vocabulary of formulas or common poetry to life that shroud”[31]. After conducting this research and analysis, these concluding arguments present to be relevant. Individuals perceive the God image in a number of ways, all of which provide adequate and sufficient evidence of to their theories; however the scope of this image is so vast that its true meaning and definition transcends human awareness.

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Feinberg, C. “The Image of God.” Bibliotheca Scra 129 (1972), http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/01-Genesis/Text/Articles-Books/Feinberg-Image-BS.pdf (accessed October 10, 2012).

Griggs, R. “Made in the image of God.” Creation Ministries International. http://creation.com/made-in-the-image-of-god (accessed October 11, 2012).

Hill, P and T Hall. “Relational Schemas in Processes One’s Image of God and Self.” Journal of Psychology and Christianity 21(4) (2002), http://drtoddhall.com/images/Relational-Schemas-JPC-2002.pdf (accessed October 14, 2012).

Hoffman, L, Jones, T, Williams, F, & Dillard, K. “The God Image, The God Concept, and Attachment.” Vangard University of Southern California. http://louis-hoffman-virtualclassroom.com/Publications_Page/God Image & Attachment Vanguard CAPS presentation 2004.pdf (accessed October 05, 2012).

Horowitz, M. “The Image of God in man- is woman included.” Harvard Theological Review 72 (1979), http://bhporter.com/Porter PDF Files/the image of God in Man is Women included.pdf (accessed October 08, 2012).

Janssen, J, de Hart and M Gerardts. “Images of God in Adolescence.” The international Journal for the Psychology of Religion 4 (1994), http://www.jacquesjanssen.nl/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/images-of-god-in-adolescence.pdf (accessed October 10, 2012).

Lyons, E, & Thompson, B. “In the image and likeness of God [Part II].” The Apologetics Press Inc, March2002, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=151 (accessed October 09, 2012).

Rachels, J. Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1990. http://www.jamesrachels.org/CFA.htm (accessed October 08, 2012).

White Jr., L. “The historical roots of our ecological crisis.”Science 155 (1967), http://www.theologylived.com/ecology/white_historical_roots.pdf (accessed October 10, 2012).

[

1]Hill, P and T Hall. “Relational Schemas in Processes One’s Image of God and Self.” Journal of Psychology and Christianity 21(4) (2002), http://drtoddhall.com/images/Relational-Schemas-JPC-2002.pdf (accessed October 14, 2012).

[2] Griggs, R. “Made in the image of God.” Creation Ministries International. http://creation.com/made-in-the-image-of-god (accessed October 11, 2012).

[3] Feinberg, C. “The Image of God.” Bibliotheca Scra 129 (1972), http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/01-Genesis/Text/Articles-Books/Feinberg-Image-BS.pdf (accessed October 10, 2012).

[4] Acts 15:7

[5] Lyons, E, & Thompson, B. “In the image and likeness of God [Part II].” The Apologetics Press Inc, March2002, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=151 (accessed October 09, 2012).

[6] Hoffman, L, Jones, T, Williams, F, & Dillard, K. “The God Image, The God Concept, and Attachment.” Vangard University of Southern California. http://louis-hoffman-virtualclassroom.com/Publications_Page/God Image & Attachment Vanguard CAPS presentation 2004.pdf (accessed October 05, 2012).

[7] The Holy Bible, King James Version; Mathew 18:10

[8] Janssen, J, de Hart and M Gerardts. “Images of God in Adolescence.” The international Journal for the Psychology of Religion 4 (1994), http://www.jacquesjanssen.nl/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/images-of-god-in-adolescence.pdf (accessed October 10, 2012).

[9] Hill, P and T Hall. “Relational Schemas in Processes One’s Image of God and Self.” Journal of Psycology and Christianity 21(4) (2002), http://drtoddhall.com/images/Relational-Schemas-JPC-2002.pdf (accessed October 14, 2012).

[10] Hill, P and T Hall. “Relational Schemas in Processes One’s Image of God and Self.” Journal of Psycology and Christianity 21(4) (2002), http://drtoddhall.com/images/Relational-Schemas-JPC-2002.pdf (accessed October 14, 2012).

[11] Hill, P and T Hall. “Relational Schemas in Processes One’s Image of God and Self.” Journal of Psycology and Christianity 21(4) (2002), http://drtoddhall.com/images/Relational-Schemas-JPC-2002.pdf (accessed October 14, 2012).

[12] Hill, P and T Hall. “Relational Schemas in Processes One’s Image of God and Self.” Journal of Psychology and Christianity 21(4) (2002), http://drtoddhall.com/images/Relational-Schemas-JPC-2002.pdf (accessed October 14, 2012).

[13] Lyons, E, & Thompson, B. “In the image and likeness of God [Part II].” The Apologetics Press Inc, March2002, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=151 (accessed October 09, 2012).

[14] Lyons, E, & Thompson, B. “In the image and likeness of God [Part II].” The Apologetics Press Inc, March2002, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=151 (accessed October 09, 2012).

[15] WhiteLyons, E, & Thompson, B. “In the image and likeness of God [Part II].” The Apologetics Press Inc, March2002, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=151 (accessed October 09, 2012). Jr., L. “The historical roots of our ecological crisis.” Science 155 (1967), http://www.theologylived.com/ecology/white_historical_roots.pdf (accessed October 10, 2012).

[16] Feinberg, C. “The Image of God.” Bibliotheca Scra 129 (1972), http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/01-Genesis/Text/Articles-Books/Feinberg-Image-BS.pdf (accessed October 10, 2012).

[17] Feinberg, C. “The Image of God.” Bibliotheca Scra 129 (1972), http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/01-Genesis/Text/Articles-Books/Feinberg-Image-BS.pdf (accessed October 10, 2012).

[18] Genesis 2: 7

[19] Genesis 1:20-24

[20] Feinberg, C. “The Image of God.” Bibliotheca Scra 129 (1972), http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/01-Genesis/Text/Articles-Books/Feinberg-Image-BS.pdf (accessed October 10, 2012).

[21] Griggs, R. “Made in the image of God.” Creation Ministries International. http://creation.com/made-in-the-image-of-god (accessed October 11, 2012).

[22] Griggs, R. “Made in the image of God.” Creation Ministries International. http://creation.com/made-in-the-image-of-god (accessed October 11, 2012).

[23] Griggs, R. “Made in the image of God.” Creation Ministries International. http://creation.com/made-in-the-image-of-god (accessed October 11, 2012).

[24] Lyons, E, & Thompson, B. “In the image and likeness of God [Part II].” The Apologetics Press Inc, March2002, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=151 (accessed October 09, 2012).

[25] I Corinthians 11: 7

[26] Horowitz, M. “The Image of God in man- is woman included.” Harvard Theological Review 72 (1979), http://bhporter.com/Porter PDF Files/the image of God in Man is Women included.pdf (accessed October 08, 2012).

[27] Horowitz, M. “The Image of God in man- is woman included.” Harvard Theological Review 72 (1979), http://bhporter.com/Porter PDF Files/the image of God in Man is Women included.pdf (accessed October 08, 2012).

[28] Horowitz, M. “The Image of God in man- is woman included.” Harvard Theological Review 72 (1979), http://bhporter.com/Porter PDF Files/the image of God in Man is Women included.pdf (accessed October 08, 2012).

[29] Rachels, J. Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1990. http://www.jamesrachels.org/CFA.htm (accessed October 08, 2012).

[30] Feinberg, C. “The Image of God.” Bibliotheca Scra 129 (1972), http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/01-Genesis/Text/Articles-Books/Feinberg-Image-BS.pdf (accessed October 10, 2012).

[31] Janssen, J, de Hart and M Gerardts. “Images of God in Adolescence.” The international Journal for the Psychology of Religion 4 (1994), http://www.jacquesjanssen.nl/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/images-of-god-in-adolescence.pdf (accessed October 10, 2012).

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About Russia Robinson

I am an independent freelance writer and free thinker. I strive to use my writing talents to benefit the greater good of society, one word, one sentence, one page at a time. Originally from Richmond, California I attended San Francisco State University receiving a BA in English Creative Writing and American Literature in 2004. After this I attended post graduate studies in 2008 at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University in Technical Writing. With an academic background in English, I have spent more than 10 years’ helping young people succeed. This can be seen in my career background in education and mental health. I am a certifiable Language Arts teacher for the state of Georgia. I also worked in social services including juvenile mental health treatment services and counseling. As a result, I understand the diversity of problems people face in their everyday lives. With words put together like so, I promote equality and a healthy society for all people regardless of individual differences. Conducting research, writing articles, essays, and blogging, I push to educate others about various issues that affect people. I also do this creatively through short stories, poems, pictures, and a novel in progress. My hobbies and interest are reading and learning. I enjoy all things art and all things nature. From camping and astronomy to photography and cooking, I enjoy sighting seeing and socializing just as much as I enjoy curling in bed with a good book or binge watching TV.
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