Humans as Made in the Image of God
Genesis 1.26 describes humans as made in the image and likeness
of God, the only creatures to which this direct connection with the divine is
attributed. Theologically, then, the
Christian tradition has asserted a radical discontinuity between humans and
other creatures. Scientifically, the differences between humans and other
animals are ones of degree, rather than a radical discontinuity of nature. (see the paradox of the development of modern humans).
A Darwinian account of humanity can find no place for the
notion that the species suddenly acquired a property called the image and
likeness of God. Human distinctiveness evolved gradually (see the evolution of
hominids). Can theology frame its understanding of the imago Dei in such a way as to take account of this perception?
There are three main possibilities for grounding this concept:
the classical one that the image of God is in human
the image being grounded in other common
characteristics - love, uprightness, dominion, creativity
that we should understand the image in terms of
capacity for authentic relationship (an understanding particularly attractive
to certain trinitarian theologians).
This last possibility seems the most fruitful, and is
certainly in tune with the notion that the divine image developed only when
culture - including and especially religion - enabled human altruism to
transcend that of the immediate family group(for a discussion of altruism see the dialogue between Irons and Hefner in
Richardson and Wildmans book - Irons, 1996 and Hefner, 1996). A modern
description of the imago Dei should
probably also emphasise creativitywhich again is clearly an evolved characteristic.
link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate and Dr. Michael Robert Negus
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos (T&T Clark, 1999)