TH 502 - Humanity, Angels and the Personal work of Christ - Dr Steve Tracy - ImageGod

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Steve Tracy

Phoenix Seminary, T 502

Fall, 2008


A.        This is an extremely important doctrine with major ethical and theological implications (cf. James 3:9)



B.        This is a difficult doctrine—inductive investigation

            An inductive determination of IOG from nature yields somewhat inconclusive results

C.        This is a difficult doctrine—deductive investigation

            A deductive determination of IOG from scripture is difficult because it is never specifically defined



A.        IOG as a desired function but not an intrinsic endowment—Humans don't have IOG, but are to function "as God's image" (Clines, Augustine)

+1.       The Hebrew preposition used in Gen 5:3 can be used to indicate "as God's image."

+2.       Various passages indicate that humans are to be God's representatives on earth (cf. esp. Ps 8:5-6)

-1.        This is a very rare use of the Hebrew preposition bet.

-2.        Image (selem) generally means actual representation as an end result, not as a hypothetical possibility (EX 25:40)

-3.        The use of image (selem) in Gen 5:3 parallels the use in 1:26, and indicates that image is an intrinsic (ontological) endowment. It is what we are.

-4.        In Gen 9:6 the basis for the severe sanctions against murder is that humans are made in the image of God. The basis for not cursing other humans is that they are made IOG (James 3:9). Thus, IOG is extended to every human being, which indicates that it is an intrinsic, universal endowment.

-5.        The strong biblical affirmation of universal human worth regardless of moral behavior, socio economic status, or personal accomplishment strongly implies that all humans are IOG (cf. Matt 9:9-13; 18:1-14; 25:35-40; Col 3:11).

B.        IOG as physical resemblance.

Some (Mormons) say IOG indicates that humans bear a direct physical resemblance to God. Others such as Koenig say that the physical resemblance involves the capacity for facial expression, speech, human countenance which looks upward, and a facial blush which communicates shame.


+1.       Gen 5:3 says Adam fathered Seth "after his image." Supporters of this view say this indicates the similar physical appearance of father and son.

+2.       Animals don't blush, engage in speech or have deliberate facial gestures.

-1.        Some primates have similar physical features to humans.

-2.        Scripture says God is Spirit (John 4:24) and can't be seen by humans (John 1:18). The Jews were not to make a graven image of God because when He spoke to them at Horeb, they did not see a physical image (Deut 4:15-16).

-3.        The biblical discussions of IOG always center on immaterial characteristics (moral qualities, etc.)



Rational Transcendence (the capacity to know, reason)

Language (capacity to communicate abstract thoughts )

(cf. J. Oller and J. Omdahl "Origin of the Human Language Capacity: In Whose Image?" in The Creation Hypothesis, J.P. Moreland ed., InterVarsity, 1994, 235-69)

Darwin "I cannot doubt that language owes its origin to the imitation and modification of various sounds, the voices of other animals, and man's own instinctive cries" (The Descent of Man). Furthermore, the acquisition of any sign system must have happened gradually, over the course of time much like the acquisition of language by a child.

Increasingly, however, linguists are discovering that language acquisition involves the absolute necessity of "preprogrammed" innate capacities. Going back to the philosopher Immanuel Kant, many now assert that humans must be "hard wired" with mental categories to acquire language. Kant said that humans must have innate color categories, for example, or they would never know what blue is when they saw it. Einstein spoke of the gulf between the field of experience and the symbolic representations based on formal correspondence perceived by the intellect. Many current researches also argue that the entire mental conceptual "system" must be in place before it can be used to interpret experience. This explains why only humans are equipped to acquire languages.

Language and intellect are inextricably related. For example, the Swiss psychologist Piaget discovered that a child will develop symbolic language signs far exceeding what the child's own experience would allow. Furthermore, a child deprived of the opportunity to acquire the language of the community will be severely hindered in his or her mental development.

What about Koko and the chimps? Oller, 258

Language acquisition experiments with primates have been a series of failures. After several years of training, the best results of "language acquisition" with Koko is about a thousand words she recognizes (with an 80% accuracy rate and the need for frequent repetition).

What is more telling is the linguistic behavior of any normal human child which can't be performed by the brightest primate:

(All of which relate to the ability to use fully abstract representations. Can't make abstract representations—separate the sign from the situation to which they are appropriate.


NO questions (in spite of the fact that apes are very inquisitive creatures)

NO grammar (dependence on syntactic structure a child quickly learns the difference between a subject and a verb; structure dependence, 263)

NO pragmatic recursion—ability to talk about talk about talk. Children often argue about who said what. Koko never argues about the meaning of signs or their appropriateness. She never comments about comments.

NO infinitely expandable vocabulary, never high degree of vocabulary precision. 80% accuracy rate at best, whereas children seldom get words wrong or forget meanings once they learn them. By age 6 a normal child's linguistic output exceeds the capacity of experimenters to record and analyze it (258).

IN short, the differences between primates and human's language abilities can be compared to difference bet the language of a rooster crowing to announce sunrise and a husband and wife in a conversation laying out plans for their day.

Moral self-determination (capacity to choose)

Relationship (capacity for free responsible relationships with God and fellow humans)


Sometimes this aspect is seen as the only aspect of IOG, and sometimes it is seen in tandem with the structural aspect (because of his endowment, man can function as God's representative).

In the creation account, humans stand as God's royal representatives to care for the world God created (cf. Sauer, The King of the Earth, 72-91)

Gen 1:26:

"let us make man in our image" is immediately followed by "and let them have dominion."

Gen 2:5:

We notice that some plants did not grow until man was created to care for them. Again, in 2:15 God put Adam in the garden to "cultivate it and keep it." While Scripture ultimately assigns the providential care over the created world to God Himself (Ps 104:14-30; 135:7; Acts 14:17) He has made humans as Imago Dei His vice-regents to care for creation. This involves both control (subdue—Gen 1:26; Ps 8:5-6) and cultivation (Gen 2:15).

PSALM 8:5-6:

Clearly connects humans being made in the image of God with the command to rule over God's creation. This connotes that humans in God's image rule in His stead.



Some neo-orthodox theologians such as Barth so construe the relational aspect of IOG that they essentially deny the structural aspect, and hence deny that all humans are actually IOG. This is often a result of their rejection of the historicity of Genesis 1-3.

The plural "we" in Gen 1:26 strongly suggests that IOG is somehow predicated on the complexity of the Triune God. We are to mirror the unity of the Godhead within our relationships. Thus, in John 17:21-22 Jesus prays that we Christians would all be one, even as He and the Father are one.

The relational aspect of IOG may help us understand the over riding emphasis in the NT on unity among Christians (John 13:35; Acts 2:43-47; Phil 2:2-4), and on love as the quintessential Christian ethic (1 Cor 13; Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:13-15).

Even in terms of human development, we know that if a child is isolated from other human beings, they cannot develop into a normal human being. Children who have been isolated for long periods of time permanently lose intellectual capacity, their ability to acquire language skills, to bond with other humans, and to function in human society.

Thus, individualistic self existence has no place in the Christian life, for it doesn't mirror the divine existence. Macaulay and Barrs (Being Human, 171) note, "Each individual man and woman is the image of God in that each is a person. But God's personality cannot be considered apart from His diversity; three persons constitute the one true God...we may say therefore, that a person is the image of God only in community."



This meaning of image is clearly seen in Gen 5:1-3, for Adam bore a son Seth in his own image and likeness.

"When man is what he ought to be, others will be able to look at him and see something of God in him: God's love, kindness, and God's goodness" (Hoekema, Created in God's Image, 67). Cf also Col 3:12

Christ, being one with the Father and untainted with sin, is the true image of God (John 1:18; Col 1:15; Heb 1: 3). Hoekema notes the three characteristics of His life which reflect the IOG—He was wholly directed toward God (John 4:34), wholly directed toward other human beings (Mark 10:45), and He ruled over nature.

Though the IOG is seriously marred by sin, it remains but is barely visible. Once we become Christians, however, God begins the renewal process. Through the sanctification process, the IOG is restored as we are increasingly transformed (2 Cor 3:18) by being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). This is a renewal to the original, pre fall image of God condition. In Eph 4:22 Paul says to lay aside your corrupt old self and "be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth" (vv. 23-24). This process will continue until we are glorified (1 Cor 13:12), when we will be morally perfect and holy (Eph 5:27).

While the restoration of the IOG is a work of the Spirit of God (Gal 5:22), the Christian is responsible to cooperate with the Spirit. The restoration of the IOG is in view in the commands for believers to renew their minds (Rom 12:2; to put off the old self and put on the new (Col 3:8-12), to walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16, 25), to put to death the flesh and not yield to sin (Rom 6:11-14; Col 3:5), and to put on Christ (Rom 13:14; Gal 5:27).

How are these different aspects of IOG related?

The functional aspect of IOG (we are God's representatives and make Him visible) is possible only because we have been given an endowment which distinguishes us from the animal world. We function as IOG through relationships.

Hoekema notes, "since the image of God involves the whole person, it must include both man's structure and man's functioning...human beings were created to function in certain ways: to worship God, to love the neighbor, to rule over nature, and so on. But they cannot function in these ways unless they have been endowed by God with the structural capacities that enable them to do so. So structure and function are both involved when we think of man as the image of God" (Created in God's Image, 69).

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