A couple of weeks ago I started a series on “what it means to be human?” In the 1st post, I introduced the series and briefly described the 3 main “categories” of responses to this question. The link to the 1st post is below.
In addition to the brief overview, in this 1st post I also mentioned (as an aside) that for Christians, this question is usually linked to what it means to be created “in the image of God”.
Let’s bring the aside to the forefront.
As most know, the phrase “in the image of God” is oh so important for us Christians. Humans are special because “God says” we are created in His image. This idea of the image of God is so ingrained that it can become a serious impediment to a Christian’s ability to “accept” evolution. (I don’t like the term “accept” here but it’s unfortunately appropriate).
Of course, ask someone to describe exactly what the image of God refers to, and it’s quite difficult. I’m currently working on a project on this… so I can certainly appreciate the difficulty. It’s very hard to put it into words. We have lots of potential explanations, but we’re not sure. And this is very important. While we cannot adequately and specifically explain what the image of God means, we just know that we “have” it because the Bible tells us we do. So if evolution is true and we share a history with all other animals, then how do we explain the image of God?
But I maintain that if we are not able to explain what the image of God is, why are we so afraid that evolution may have something to say about it? How can evolution disprove something that we can’t adequately explain in the first place? In fact, shouldn’t we be happy for another potential source of explanation?
In addition to these thoughts, perhaps it is also time that we look at the phrase the image of God from a different perspective. We take this phrase as a God-given. But where did it come from? Genesis 1 you say. But WHO wrote it?
A couple of years ago, I read the wonderful (and deeply disturbing at the time) book by Karen Armstrong, “The History of God”. My life changed after reading just the first sentence…
“IN THE BEGINNING, human beings created a God who was the First Cause of all things and Ruler of heaven and earth.”
Ever since I read that sentence, I haven’t been able to get this previously disturbing thought out of my mind… humans wrote the Bible. As an Evangelical, this seems preposterous. God wrote the Bible. Everybody knows that. Oh sure, God used humans, but ultimate authorship rests with God. If God tells us that we’re made in His Image, then we are. But is it possible that we created the idea of being created in God’s image?
This will sound heretical to some, but I can’t get over the idea that human authorship of the Bible is, gulp, more ultimate than God’s. It is humans doing the best that they can to describe in human terms their interactions with God. I feel that there is a lot of good reasons for this… but I won’t go into details on those here. Perhaps you can think of a few? I know some will say that I am on a very slippery slope, but I can’t see how to best explain the Bible and the world as I see without being on it… and embracing it.
Let’s bring this post back to the phrase the “image of God”… if we created it, perhaps acknowledging this can help in our understanding of what exactly “it” is. Equally importantly, if we created it, perhaps it shouldn’t be such as stumbling block in our acceptance of evolution? Lastly, can our new appreciation of the phrase affect how we interact with our fellow members of the natural world?
What are your thoughts? What picture, image, or thought comes to mind when you hear the phrase “the image of God”? Am I alone on my slippery slope?