Humans as Imago Dei and the Evolution of Homo Sapiens

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

J. Middleton
Since anatomically modern humans have been around for nearly 200,000 years, but archeology suggests that there was an explosion of human cultural development much later, could that be the origin of the imago Dei? This is, of course, only speculation.

What begins as “only speculation” often turns out to become accepted science. The sudden appearance of modern humans, expressed by Jared Diamond as a ‘Great Leap Forward’, (about 50K yrs. ago) needs some further evidence to move it from the “attractive speculation” category, but it definitely supports the theological concept that God has invited humankind to rise above their evolutionary-dictated instinctual behavior and to strive to become Image Bearers. Can we say “goodby” to the Fall and “hello” to Original Blessing?
Al Leo

I sincerely hope you dont mean to say that fall of man is not a biblical absolute, if so dont call yourself a Christian. As you seem to be taking the foundation of the gospel and stamping it out for the sake of evolution. What reason have we to need Christ if there were no plight between man and God? If there were no fall then there is no gospel.


You do know (I guess you don’t) that for multiple centuries, the Eastern Orthodox communities have been rather adamant about ignoring the Roman Catholic view on Original Sin. There are lots of articles online (and now in the BioLogos archives) where Orthodox officials and writers describe their denomination’s view: that Adam and Eve were the first to sin … thus showing that humanity is at risk. But that each generation becomes guilty of its own sins… and does not bear the inquity of Adam’s sin.

You aren’t going to say that millions of Eastern Orthodox aren’t Christians are you?

Romans 3:22 This righteousness is given through faith in[a] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

No mention of the fall of man in that verse. At least from my reading, the only way that throwing out the fall would have in impact is if you think you lived a perfect life and never sinned against God. Otherwise, I don’t see how it matters.

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The usual “spiel” is that Adam is named as the source of the need for humanity to be reconciled with God, or “redeemed”.

It’s not that nobody escapes sinning… it’s that Adam/Eve are named as the source.

For me, Adam and Eve are the source of our biological nature, and so, like all biological things, we die. I don’t need original sin for this statement to be true.

As @gbrooks9 notes in the post following yours, there are millions of Christians who do not as[quote=“rawkfist, post:5, topic:37673”]
I sincerely hope you dont mean to say that fall of man is not a biblical absolute, if so dont call yourself a Christian.
[/quote]cribe to the doctrine of Original Sin. You are correct in noting that I do not follow orthodox Roman Catholic doctrine in this regard. Perhaps it is just wishful thinking on my part, but I believe that God continues to inspire us in the ways an evolving humankind can best serve him. Personally, I believe that Teihard de Chardin was inspired in this way early in the 20th century, but the Vatican thought otherwise, and for a time banished his books.
Al Leo

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Maybe this is discussed elsewhere on Biologos (I haven’t ready everything yet!), but it seems to me that we make a mistake if we equate the “human genome” with “image of God.” Surely the aspect of our human nature that is most like God is not our physical make-up, but rather our “soul” or “spirit” or “ability to make decisions about right and wrong”. Adam and Eve surely had one unique quality compared to all other animals: they could be held accountable for their own actions. The story of the Fall surely tells us that, if nothing else. Thus, is it possible to consider that Adam and Eve were the first “homo sapiens” to have the unique quality of being responsible for their own actions? This is a moral issue and one that, quite possibly, cannot be deduced from any amount of genetic analysis. Surely as Christians we believe there is more to a human being than the physical collection of atoms. Further, we believe that, as humans, we alone need salvation, because we alone, in all of creation, are sinful. Chimpanzees, regardless of their close genetic relationship, do not sin. In fact, some of us believe that a significant percentage of the human population cannot be held responsible for their own actions: we call them “children.” But children are surely genetically human!

So, is it possible that Adam and Eve were the first homo sapiens who could sin, but who lived in a world populated by other homo sapiens who were genetically identical, but without that one unique quality? I do not know if this makes sense, but I haven’t heard it mentioned before and I wonder if there is some fundamental problem with such a line of thinking.

I agree. Who do you think is making the case that the human genome equals the image of God?

Most of the time around here, the image of God is associated with a vocational calling, not inherent human qualities or capabilities.

As @JRM explains in the linked blog post:

Humans could have potentially been capable of responding to God’s call to bear his image before that call was actually given. So it is not a simple matter of genetics or biology. Again, quoting the article:

Sin is more than just failing to be moral in some general sense and righteousness is not mere innocence. Sin is trespassing God’s revealed will. Righteousness is walking in line with God’s will. You can’t rebel against or walk justly under God’s rule until God reveals himself as the ruler. That is why I think it makes much more sense to think of Adam and Eve (in whatever historical or archetypical way one thinks of them) as people God chose to reveal himself to simply because that pleased God and was his plan. I don’t think they were people God chose to reveal himself to because they had somehow “arrived” via evolution at to some key capability, whereas others around them had not. That would mean certain humans evolved the right to bear God’s image. Humans at one point were chosen. Could prior humans have also been capable of responding to that call? Probably. But God chooses whom he chooses when he decides to do so. Making his selection dependent on biology or evolutionary trajectory feels wrong to me. It doesn’t match with the picture of grace given in the rest of Scripture, where people’s election to God’s purposes is never about their own capabilities or merit.

I don’t think I expressed this quite right. I was not suggesting that homo sapiens evolved into a special relationship with God; or evolved into sinners. Rather, is it reasonable to consider that God’s creative act with respect to Adam and Eve was to breath the human spirit into them – the “spirit” (using that term loosely in this case) that gives us the freedom – the free will – to choose to sin (or not to sin)? This spirit also gives us that special relationship with God – the capability of responding to God’s call.

I don’t see the human spirit as something that comes about through a “cultural revolution” and I wouldn’t use the term “vocation” to describe the event of receiving that spirit. It seems much more fundamental than that. It also seems much more an “either/or” event rather than a gradual event. It seems to me that any being is either “capable of sinning” (us) or “incapable of sinning” (animals, plants…rocks). Given that, it seems hard to conceive of a way in which such a characteristic “evolves.”

Maybe this simply comes down to a different concept of being in the image of God. To my understanding, Adam and Eve were given something more than just a calling to represent God – they were also given the knowledge of good and evil and the capacity to sin, which they took full advantage of, unfortunately. I’m suggesting that to be created in the image of God is to be given a human spirit. I’m suggesting that God chose to give Adam and Eve this spirit in a special and unique way (i.e. they didn’t just evolve into it).

There are other aspects of humanity that can be construed as “image of God”. It could even be something connected with the soul, rather than with the neural configuration of the mind.

I think so. I don’t see how God breathing the breath of life into his creation equates to bestowing the image of God, which you seem to see.

@conflicted1 - your view (which is also mine) can be found in Kenneth Kemp 2011: Science, Theology and Monogenesis (it is available as pdf, please google it)

MaryBee - yes - this is excellent! Thank you for directing me to that - it is extremely helpful. I figured there must be others who had considered this concept, but I have not been able to find anything.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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