The Image of God and Self Perception: A Literature Review

The Bible tells us in Genesis 1:26-27 that man is made in God’s image. Some argue the meaning of this passage and what it means to be created in His likeness. Being made in God’s image- does this mean we made in His physical, spiritual, or intellectual likeness, or a combination of all three? However, additional research has taken this theory and used it in a different context. Scholars of theology apply this concept and used it for research and tools for Christian counseling and assessment. As a result, Christian researchers and theologians have put this theory to use for pastoral practice, therapy, and spiritual guidance. The image of God and man being made in His likeness help counselors to assess spiritual and emotional health, relationships, and how the individual perceives one’s self.

The God Image Inventory is a survey that references the individual and his relationship to God. Those who perceive God as a self-image tend to regard themselves as such. In addition, it dictates how others judge themselves in relation to the image of God. Scholar and pastor, R. Lawrence suggests that, “the God image is a psychological work, an internal model of the sort of person that the individual imagines God to be”.[1] When identifying God with the self, this can be associated with human behavior, perceptions, and self-esteem. Although God is God and the creator of all living things, when it comes to the body and physical presence we can conclude that as children our first concept of God can be seen in our parents. Parents are the first representation of God. Like God, parents look after their children providing for them physically, spiritually, and emotionally. In this way, people will often “aggregate memories from various sources and associating them with God”.[2]  Associating God with our parents and ourselves, this can mold the concept of God’s image, self-perception, and the relationship we build with others.

“Normally the God image is largely a projection or inflation of parent images, favorable or unfavorable”.[3]  When parents are inadequate or fall short in parenting, this can have an effect on self-image and the perception of God. God is viewed as a “safe haven” and “secure base”.[4] So when the first god -our parents- are unable to provide a safety net, some associate this false sense of safety in God our Father, themselves, and others. The God Image Inventory separates these associations and provides clarity to the meaning of the God image. It provides guidance relating to His image and how this influences individual self-perception. Consequently, “The God Image Inventory… is administered as a part of a battery given new clients for pre-nuptial or other pastoral counseling”.[5]

This survey can help others shape their self-image, their relationship with God, and the true meaning of what it means to be made in God’s image. An example was illustrated by the author when discussing the God image and Christian counseling. Administering this survey, pastors and counselors can create dialogue and use the results as a foundation for pre-marital counseling. For instance, when one couple was administered the survey, the results concluded a “low presence score”.[6] The low presence score suggested a false definition of God’s image that manifested from their parents. This assessment revealed that “both had distant parents”. [7] Once discovering the distance between the parent and the self, Lawrence found an emotionally distant relationship manifested in the couple’s current relationship and their relationship with God. Once this correlation was understood, “a large emphasis was placed on the marriage covenant as a sign of God’s covenant commitment and finding ways for them to be present to and for each other”.[8]

The image of God is more than a concept, it is an intricate and every evolving relationship between the individual and God. It also reflects how people perceive themselves or others through the interpretation of the first god- mother and/or father. Being made in His image provides people with a sense of belonging, acceptance, meaning, self-esteem, and control. In this way, God’s image and self image have an interweaving relationship.  Being made in God’s image entails much more than the physical form of the person, it is associated with the self: characteristics, behavior, perceptions, values, and beliefs. God is the Father. Being a child of God means that we are of God and God is of us. This relationship of parentage allows people to look up to God, seek Him in times of trouble and in times of joy. We treat God like a real father and rejoice in his love, mercy, and kindness in ways that many do not give to their human father or mother. The image of God is more than an image; it is a way of life, a way of being, and an association with ourselves as His son.



Richard Lawrence, “Measuring the Image of God: The God Image Inventory and the God Image Scales,” Journal of Psycology and Theology 25,2(1997): 214-226 Retrieved from:

[1] Richard Lawrence, “Measuring the Image of God: The God Image Inventory and the God Image Scales,” Journal of Psycology and Theology 25,2(1997): 214-226

[2] Lawrence, 1997

[3] Lawrence, 1997

[4] Lawrence, 1997

[5] Lawrence, 1997

[6] Lawrence, 1997

[7] Lawrence, 1997

[8] Lawrence, 1997


About Russia Robinson

I use my writing talents, and skills I’ve learned through academics and experience, to benefit the greater good of society. Conducting research, writing articles, essays, and blogging, I give informative information on a variety of topics and issues that affect society. I also write creative works like children’s books, short stories, poems, and a novel in progress. I earned a BA in English creative writing and American literature from San Francisco State and graduate studies in Technical Writing at Kennesaw State University. Through my career in education and mental health I have spent more than 10 years’ helping young people succeed. I am a certifiable Language Arts teacher, working in education, social services, and mental health. Interested in my writing services? Feel free to contact me via email.
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