So God created man in his own image,in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. — Genesis 1:27
We begin not with ourselves but with God. This is the initial assertion of Scripture: “In the beginning, God.” All history moves in linear fashion from this fixed point. Anthropology follows Theology. We must begin with God.
God’s choice to create is a free one. He is not driven by any external compulsion to create. Nor does He create out of some inward necessity. Rather, God creates ex nihilo. As Barth says, in creation, God chooses “something” and rejects “nothing.” He chooses to share His divine image in creation. As such, creation is the free, loving act of a free, loving God. God shares the divine image with humanity out of His great love.
As participants in the divine image, we will best understand who we are in light of who God is. Our identity is rooted in the image and identity of God. Morality, Creativity, Productivity, Rationality, Relationality…these characteristics are ours only to the degree that they are first characteristic of God. We image God as moral beings in the cosmos. Human creativity, in all its forms (art, poetry, literature, reproductivity, etc.) bears witness to God’s identity as Creator. We image God through work and labor. Our identity as rational creatures springs from the very mind of God Himself. And God, the eternal relational reality, creates us to image Him in relationship — relationship with creation, with others and with Himself. In the words of Stanley Grenz, “The image of God is a community concept. It refers to humans as beings-in-fellowship.” To image God is to be relational. Or more succinctly, to image God is to love.
We possess the image of God already. It is intrinsic to human nature. The presence of this divine image differentiates humanity from the rest of creation. All of us, both saint and sinner alike, are possessors of this image. This means that in God’s economy, great value is ascribed to human life. The implication is that we should hold human life in similar esteem. The imago Dei requires that we subscribe to a consistent ethic of human life. It requires a wholesale shift in perspective. It means I begin to view people the way God views them. Imago Dei demands that we see the sanctity and intrinsic value of all humanity.
- Imago Dei means that I hold fast to the principles of love, community and reconciliation.
- Imago Dei means communion is the goal of history.
- Imago Dei means individualism is the enemy.
- Imago Dei means people are more important than issues.
- Imago Dei has radical implications for my understanding of myself and my life’s purpose.
- Imago Dei has radical implications for my understanding of those around me.
- Imago Dei means I value the lives of the poor and the homeless in my community as much as I value the lives of my own family.
- Imago Dei means the life of the Al-Qaeda radical is as precious as the life of the yet-born fetus.
- Imago Dei means that I understand terms like male, female, black, white, Republican, Democrat, rich, poor, American, European, Baptist, Catholic, Muslim, Jew, homosexual and atheist as peripheral, not primary, identifiers.
And yet, the image of God is restored to us progressively. We image God both already and not yet. We are all in process. We continue to image Him more fully as Christ is more fully formed in us. The divine design I have received and currently fulfill will be actualized in the coming eschaton. The image of God will one day be borne by resurrected humans in the new creation.
And so we end just as we began, with God.