10 September 2014
The Worth and Purpose of Humankind Defined
What is Imago Dei? Imago Dei is our worth and our purpose defined. What does it mean that humankind is created in the “image of God?” In what different ways have theologians defined this term, and what should we understand it to mean today? What difference does it make for those who look to the authority of God’s word, and what implications does this leave us with both now and for eternity? When looking for the definition of Imago Dei, one can look several places. First, one can look to the interpretations of Biblical scholars who have commit their time to studying scripture. Second, one can look for themselves all through the Bible for the definitions and contexts provided. Third, one can look to what the world believes or doesn’t believe about Imago Dei, as is evident in both the injustices and humanitarian efforts of our time. Lastly, one can look at their own life- at what they have experienced and how they have lived their lives and discover what they believe or don’t believe about being created in the image of God.
Thus said, I shall begin by answering the question, “How have Bible Scholars defined Imago Dei?” Most scholars agree with a basic outline of Imago Dei as is found in scripture, but there are several different ways of understanding its context. Theologian Wayne Gruden defines the image of God as “The nature of man that he is like God and represents God” (Gruden 1244). In Creeds of Christendom, Biblical scholar Phillip Schaff (1819-1893) explains that being made in the image of God means that God intended for us to know him intimately and to be in a reconciled relationship with him. “Man was originally formed after the image of God. His
understanding was adorned with a true and saving knowledge of his
Creator, and of spiritual things; his heart and will were upright, all
his affections pure, and the whole Man was holy” (Schaff 521). Schaff also notes the importance of knowing God’s design and original plan for us before the fall of man. God intended for us to be just like Him- holy, pure, and righteous in his sight (Schaff 521). Scholars of The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology have defined the “image of God” as a fundamental biblical doctrine, an image that is “sullied by sin and that [is] restored by divine salvation” (Elwell 545). Scholar Millard J. Erickson believes that it is critical to understand who God is and who we are to Him. He says, “The implications of the image of God should inspire us and set the parameters for our view of all humanity” (Erickson 170). Erickson believes that the image of God goes beyond the substantive, relational, and functional views and that one must draw conclusions from all of scripture. I agree with Erickson that one finds a concise definition of Imago Dei in God’s word. So then, what does scripture say about Imago Dei?
After much study of the Bible, Scholar Millard Erickson has outlined the places in scripture where Imago Dei has been best defined and explained. The first is in Genesis 1:26-27: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” This is recapitulated in Genesis 5:1: “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.” Then in Genesis 9:6, we learn: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blod be shed; for God made man in his own image.” Here we see that being created in the image of God implies that we have great worth and our lives are valuable to God. From this verse, we also see that sinful human beings continue to bear God’s image. In the New Testament, the learn about the image of God as we learn...
Cited: Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Book House, 1984. Print.
Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994. Print.
Erickson, Millard J, and L A. Hustad. Introducing Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2001. Print.
Schaff, Philip. Bibliotheca Symbolica Ecclesiae Universalis: The Creeds of Christendom. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1966. Print.
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