God’s Mark of Excellence – His Image

The soul is precisely the one that was sealed with the mark of excellence of our Triune Creator God, because it was made in His image:

“And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:27).

Wernher von Braun, in fact, recognized the human soul as God’s masterpiece. And it is in the human soul that God has impregnated the image of Him:

“Scientists now believe that in nature, matter is never destroyed. Not even the smallest particle can disappear without a trace. Nature knows no extinction, only transformation. Would God have less respect for His masterpiece of creation, the human soul? Every person receives the gift of life on this earth…The knowledge that man can choose between good, and evil should bring him closer to his Creator…” (Federer 2016)

As true as Von Braun’s analysis is, great theologians and scholars throughout history have seriously and deeply studied what concerns the “image of God.” And the Word itself gives us some portions in both the Old and New Testaments.

We have previously quoted Genesis 1: 26-27, which fundamentally have to do with God’s intention to create the human being and, in fact, with His concrete action.

Also, in Genesis 9 we find another verse where the “image of God” is alluded to, thus:

“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God is man made.” (Genesis 9:6)

Erickson comments that in Genesis 9 murder is prohibited on the grounds that the human being was created in the image of God. Although this passage does not mention that humans still bear the image of God, it is clear that what God has done before is still in effect, even after the fall.[1]

TongueLet us now quote a passage from the New Testament where the subject in question is also referred to; and through which the Scriptures evidence that the human being is created in the image of God, even after the fall.

“[The tongue] with it we bless the God and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God.” (James 3:9)

Erickson in his book “Christian Theology” presents some views about the nature of the image of God. However, he concludes by indicating that, since there are various interpretations, this is an indication that there is no direct statement in the Scriptures on the subject. Therefore, reasonable inferences must be drawn from what little the Bible says on this subject. And here we share the most relevant, according to Erickson’s analysis:[2]

  • The image of God is universal within the human race. If the passages Genesis 9:6 and James 3:9-10 are analyzed; we observe bans on killing and cursing, respectively. And these prohibitions apply without limitation to all mankind, on the basis that mankind was created in the image of God.
  • The image of God has not been lost as a result of sin or specifically the fall. Thus, returning to the analysis of the prohibitions on murder and the curse, they apply to both sinners and pious believers. Thus, the presence of the image and likeness in non-believers is assumed. If this is the case, it means that the image of God is something that is inseparably connected with humanity.
  • There are no indications that the image is present in one person to a greater degree than in another. Superior natural endowments such as a high level of intelligence; it is not evidence of the presence or of a certain degree of the image.
  • The image refers to the elements in the human composition that allow the fulfillment of human destiny. It is about the powers of the personality that somehow make humans like God, that is, beings capable of interacting with other people, of thinking, reflecting and having a will. God’s creation had a definite purpose: Humans were destined to know, love, and obey God, and to live in harmony with other human beings. And Erickson emphasizes that humans are most fully human when they are active in these relationships, fulfilling God’s purpose. He mentions here also that the attributes of God which are sometimes referred to as the communicable attributes constitute the image of God. And he points out:

“Humanity as humanity has a nature that encompasses everything that constitutes the personality or the self: intelligence, will, emotions. This is the image in which humans were created, allowing them to have the divinely intended relationship with God and with other humans, and exercise dominion. (Erickson 2003)

  • It is interesting that Erickson also mentions the thought of Karl Barth, who says that the image is present in the human as long as it is human. And he looks at the image of God not only consisting of the vertical relationship between the human and God, but also horizontally between human beings. The image is related to the fact that God created a being who, like Himself, can be a partner.
Mischievous boy covered with paints

As this boy is dirty, covered with paints; so does sin in us, the image of God. 

It is good to highlight here a synthesis of the study by Miguel Núñez, who states that the image of God has not been lost. Yes upset, disfigured, trampled, distorted; but it definitely has not been lost. By definition, he says, the image of God cannot be lost because God exists permanently. What distorted it is sin. As human beings we have a mind with which we think, just like God; emotions we feel; one intelligence, one spirit, existence, all this just like God. And in terms of soul destruction, we are not going to die, just like God. The human being will go to hell or to the presence of God, depending on whether he is a believer or not; but he will continue to exist, just like God. So, what distorts the image of God is the sin that entered man. The sinful nature affected as long as the mind was darkened, it distorts the perception of the reality of what the human being sees. Likewise, the feelings were affected, the human being has become egocentric, tries to satisfy his own needs selfishly. Before the fall, we would have lived in the presence of God, and we would not have had the deviations that we now have.

Dr. Núñez refers to two biblical passages that were also mentioned earlier in this chapter, Genesis 9:6 and James 3:9. Both passages, he says, occur after the fall. And God continues to affirm through them about the existence of the image of God in man. The image of God remains in us, and the seriousness of a crime, domestic violence or abortion basically lies in the fact that human beings are bearers of the image of God; if it were not in us, we could die just like the animals and nothing would have any consequence, he concludes.[3]

[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), 519.

[2] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), 519-533.

[3] Miguel Núñez, “¿Es el hombre pecador aun la imagen de Dios?” Edificando,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaKE_9n-G_M

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