Very well put. Especially as Enns indicates that “image” referred to an image representing a ruler in ANE times, placed in different parts of the empire.
While animals (especially beagles) certainly reflect God’s goodness and glory and something of his image. I still say that humans alone are made fully in the image of God. It is the basis of human dignity, responsibility, and human rights.
Perhaps there is an implicit unspoken caveat “on this planet” in what you say, and you only mean compared to the other living things we know about – in which case, what you say is not so different. I also think humans are made more fully in the image of God compared to the other creatures on the planet. Though perhaps I should make this more specific, that this has nothing to do with shape or biology but life itself, and I do think we have this in greater measure. Though it does seem to me that much of this can “rub off” on the animals we associate with – and in their greater simplicity they can often show some of our better qualities with an admirable purity.
I think you’ve made too much of the yetzer hara and yetzer hatov. These are not a biological explanation of altruism. These are an abstract way by which the author sought to express the idea that mankind is possessed of the ability (in Hebrew this is called an ‘inclination’) to act counter to their natural desires and instincts. That’s it. Period.
Now, it also happens that the moral content of almost all biblical narratives is that being good means rising above one’s natural inclinations, not submitting to them. This is one of the major messages of both creation stories - the explicit demythologizing of the pagan gods of nature. Under God, we are not to worship (or take guidance from) nature [gods]. St. Paul and other New Testament writers knew this and dutifully remind us to avoid submitting to the temptation of the flesh, i.e., pursuing our natural desires in ways counter to God’s will.
You might also keep in mind that the author is very specifically advancing a salvation theology based on this idea of two opposing inclinations. In the absence of the second Yod (the yetzer hatov), we would cease to be human. We would be as animals unencumbered by moral conflict.
What does the dichotomy between good and bad inclinations tell us about our humanity? Here’s a paraphrase of an article I wrote sometime ago.
One implication is that our duelling inclinations place a boundary on what we ought to pray for. Specifically, efforts to remove the yetzer hara are doomed to failure. A human person without yetzer hara is no longer human, but rather a lobotomized creature with no moral agency. We are not to pray for the removal of the evil inclination within us for that would dehumanize us. Rather, we are to pray for the strength and wisdom to choose rightly and not follow our natural inclincations. To do otherwise is to ask God to rescue us from our humanity.
Our choices are what distinguishes mankind from the rest of the animal kingdom! Thus, we pray for the wisdom to make right choices. Alas, praying for wisdom and reason alone is insufficient because knowing what is right is not enough to resist temptation. For that we need strength of will because reasonable and wise men can and do make evil choices. Therefore, contra the Greek philosophers, reason will not save us. Once we know what is right, we need the wisdom to make and the strength to live by righteousness.
Take a chill pill.
Okay but animals can also act counter to their ‘natural desires and instincts.’
And many other species do this.
I think we’d be okay if there wasn’t a second yod written in Genesis 2.
ditto… I moved on in the conversation and you are still dwelling on that one?
very well… if you INSIST on dragging us backwards then I will oblige.
Apparently my suggestion that you merely omitted an implicit unspoken restriction of this to our planet alone was not to your liking. And in that case, it is an extra-ordinary anthropomorphic conceit. There is absolutely no reason Biblical or otherwise to believe any such thing. God could have made millions of intelligent species in the universe and all of them in the image of God. And there is nothing in science, logic, or the Bible to contradict this. Your suggestion that I shut up and say nothing when people display this kind of attitude is rejected.
I should say, however, that this is only a possibility which must be accepted not that it is a surety. I am actually rather taken with the fact that 13.8 billion years as the age of the universe does not seem all that long to me considering all the things which has to happen before intelligent life can occur.
Given what we know, I think it’s safe to say that humans (maybe others in the genus Homo) are uniquely made in the full image of God. It is the basis of the sacredness of human life (Gen. 9:6). God tasked humanity alone with tending the garden and taking charge of all creatures–we have unique responsibilites. I’ve always said there could be ensouled aliens out there. I’ll cross that bridge if and when we learn more.
There is nothing safe at all about assuming you know things which you do not.
Incorrect. The existence of other non-human people made in the image of God says nothing at all about the sacredness of human life. It is almost as if you believe there is a finite amount of sacredness which has to be divided up among everyone.
The only way for me to even make sense of such a claim is to suppose you assume the Bible is telling you everything. That is not even close to reasonable since it is demonstrable that the Bible is not telling us everything. All we have from the Bible is that God tasked human beings with certain responsibilities and from that you cannot make any conclusion whatsoever about whether anybody else has been given similar responsibilities. Thus this word “alone” is your insertion into the text. Why?
I prefer to stick with reasonable beliefs to begin with, and with what the Bible actually says instead of adding things for no good reason.
And this does not even have to be about aliens. If we found a species of cetaceans had all the intelligence and language that we do, would this be a problem? Not for me. Would the Bible really give us the mandate to treat them as non-persons? No. Do we really have any reason to claim that God has not created them in His image and not given them similar responsibilities? I don’t think so. It is not that I think the scientific evidence supports any such thing. I don’t. But my evaluation of the evidence is an objective one. I think it would be wonderful if we found that another species on the Earth had intelligence and language. We could learn so much from them, I think it would make us better people. But alas… this hope doesn’t appear to be panning out.
Should we give whales the vote? Do we take them to court? If their babies die from neglect can we truly hold them morally culpable?
Really? Come on? no relevance here.
Should we give Argentinians the vote? No. Because voting has absolutely nothing to do with being made in the image of God. That has to do with citizenship. Legalities and moral judgments are entirely different issues as well. Moral judgments are dubious even when we are talking about human beings, so usually neglect is more of an issue of legality which like the vote and taking people to court is a matter of the laws of a country – it is a matter of social contracts, not theology.
What is relevant and does apply is as I already mentioned is whether it would be a problem for your theology if we did find that some species of cetaceans had all the language and intelligence we have, and whether you think the Bible gives you the right to treat them as non-persons because you imagine that it means you have some sort of magical divinely-ordained special-ness granted by this book. You may think so, but I do not. And like I said, I don’t think the evidence supports that any of the cetaceans have either language or intelligence comparable to our own. But if they did, rather than being threatened by any bizarre religious hang ups, I would be excited to communicate with them and see what could be learned from them. And yes I would be fighting for their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even more than we do already. And while I would be refraining from making moral judgments even as I strive to do for human beings, I would recognize the need for legalities which would be pursued on the basis of some combination of diplomacy and our own integrity.
By the way… another way to explore these same questions is found in the Freeform network production of the show “Siren,” which brings the mermaid legend to life in this science fiction show. Not only are these creatures superior in intelligence as well as quite capable in language, but they have some rather frightening instincts which challenges efforts to refrain from judgement. Furthermore, there is a group in the military which feels quite free to make them the subjective of their viscious experiments and exploitation. This suggests that we humans have made little progress in morality and integrity in the treatment of those who are not protected by the law – (content removed by moderator).
Because I can’t think of anybody else who might have been given similar responsibilities. Can you?
Should we make whales citizens?
But the cetaceans that are part of reality should be protected by humans. I don’t expect them to return the favor. Perhaps in the future you could be a whale whisperer.
I thought that you prefer to stick with reasonable beliefs to begin with? Science Fiction is great. I have never seen your mermaid show, but the plot looks similar to “The Shape of Water.” That was a great movie. It was hard to watch the abuse of the intelligent water creature. It’s definitely a gift that we can suspend our disbelief and be swept away by stories like these. But it seems you are stewing in moral outrage over the treatment of these mermaids and projecting the faults of the bad guys onto me.
But, is there really an absence of evidence?
Based on John chapter 1, especially verse 1: in the beginning the Word (i.e. THE defining difference between humans & animals as discussed above); and verse 14: the Word became flesh (Jesus took the form of a human - who are created in God’s image). It is remarkable that God created us in such similarity to Himself, that His ONLY Son was able to become alive in our created human form.
Furthermore, humans are THE only biological form that is capable of recieving the Holy Spirit (restored commune with God). Coincidentally, in Acts 10:9-48, Jesus uses a vision of animals of all kinds - telling Peter to kill and eat , as a way of teaching Peter that salvation is available to all of humankind, not just the Jewish ( though animals were clearly distinguished in Peter’s vision as food).
So to me, John chapter 1 is an update of the creation story, in the light of Jesus’s arrival. As discussed by others above, human ability for clear language and transfer of information, is the reaffirmed Biblical evidence that humans are indeed the only creature made in Gods image.
I would have guessed you and @mitchellmckain would agree that responsibility in the case of humans had been given, a phrasing I of course wouldn’t choose. But I get the impression that more of what Mitchell thinks does not stem directly from the bible. For example I believe he thinks free will arises naturally with life, perhaps proportionately to neurological capacity of animals? If that is right then I can see where becoming capable of being held accountable would seem to be a natural extension of free will.
Of course I may be off base but I wouldn’t mind the clarification if my hunch is off. If so, I’m sure I’d find it interesting.
Humankind as image bearers of God is an idea I first encountered here. One general question I would be interested to know how this community would answer involves the transfer of God’s image to mankind. I think most would hold that as a special gift requiring creative intervention in our development. But I wonder if it would be a reasonable position for a Christian to take to see becoming image bearers of God as a natural extension of life, complexity and free will. If so, conceivably, other life forms could join us in achieving that status. (This is my own question and not something I’m suggesting is part of Mitchell’s position.)
For that to be true one might envision the onset of life, its evolution, and becoming bearer’s of God’s image as stemming from a single creative act that never needed correction or divine adjustment. I wonder if any EC’ers actually hold that view? If so I think it would require a major revision in the interpretation of Jesus’ resurrection and message.
Spin-off: What does image of God mean to Christians?
No I certainly do not think that John chapter 1 supports divine anthropomorphism. There is no evidence whatsoever that being created in the image of God has anything do with shape. That is the same kind superficiality which is behind such things as racism and sexism. No, I do not think God shares such stupid ways of thinking.
Yes humans are different from animals. We are “very good” rather than only “good” for because of language God can communicate with us and share of Himself with us more directly. But there is NOTHING in the Bible to say that God has not created others elsewhere with the same capabilities and just as much in the image of God as we are. And what a blow to our racism and anthropocentric arrogance it would be if they did not go down the same road of sin and separation from God as we have?
The difference between man and animals is great indeed, for meme life is a vastly greater measure of life than mere biological life. A zygote is no more a human being than a cancer cell. It is not biology and genetics which makes us humans or even special as the racists would like to believe.
Nope John chapter 1 doesn’t say anything like this any more than Genesis chapters 1-2 says anything of the sort. The Bible just says that man is created in the image of God, not that ONLY man is created in the image of God. But I do find this reading of anthropomorphism into the Bible curious because of the logical connection with racism. Is this why a sector of Christianity clings to this unreasonable creationist reading of the Bible, because it supports their preference for racism and the justification of human slavery?
On the contrary, I stopped watching the series because I find this sort of thing a little boring. I prefer to think people are more intelligent than this even though recent evidence suggests otherwise.
Power and responsibility go hand in hand. Our responsibilities are logically connected to our capabilities.
But this is my position. Being in the image of God is already basic to the nature of life itself. We are only the more perfect image of God (“very good” instead of only “good”). I will give my exact position here once again. Infinite potentiality is implicit in the ability of life to become more than it is through growth and learning, and it is our infinite potentiality which is the image of God’s infinite actuality. It what makes us capable of receiving all the infinite things God has to give in an eternal relationship – this is the meaning of “eternal life.” With language we can at least in principle receive what God has to give from God directly rather than learning everything from scratch on our own. That is a very big difference.
But I see no evidence, in the Bible particularly, that the only ones in the universe made in the image of God is the human race or that this has anything whatsoever to do with our shape. It is not that I believe this to be the case, or that we are not the first in some sense (though the relativity of simultaneity makes this somewhat meaningless). But I think it is a possibility and we should accept that this is possible and abandon the superficialities of anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism along with racism and sexism.
I do not share this view however. That is more one of theism versus deism. I certainly do believe in an on-going involvement. God is a loving parent not a disinterested scientist. God created us in order to have a relationship with us, not simply to watch and see what happens.