Spin-off: What does image of God mean to Christians?

(Christy Hemphill) #1

Image of God means different things to different people. I agree with the idea expressed in this oldie but goodie article by Pete Enns, that in the ancient context in which it appears in Genesis, “the image of God” referred to a role as God’s ambassadors and representatives to run the temple of his creation. I don’t think it refers to innate characteristics or abilities that humans evolved, with or without divine intervention. Humans have free will to step into the calling to “image” God, and the problem of human history has been our inability or unwillingness to fulfill that vocation.

How do you Reconcile Evolution with Genesis?
(Mitchell W McKain) #2

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”). 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 is 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.

Thus I share Pete Enns’ disagreement with equating “created in the image of God” with being “souled.” I don’t even believe in the “soul” stuff anyway. I believe in the spirit created by the choices we make in the self-organizing process of life. But I also don’t agree with Pete Enns’ idea of equating “image of God” with dominion over nature either. For me it is all about our relationship with God.

(Mark D.) #3

Thank you, Christy. It will be interesting to get a feel for how everyone who cares to answer feels about it.

(Christy Hemphill) #4

This is an interesting thought to pair with the idea that God’s Word became incarnate and pitched his tent with humans (John 1:14) and that Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15).

I think the concept “image of God” has taken on many more theological nuances of meaning and more philosophical baggage as Christianity has developed than the phrase “image of God” would have triggered with the original audience in Genesis. Not that there is anything wrong with that, that’s how theology and language work, but I think it is good to keep straight in some discussions whether we are talking about what Genesis means or whether we are talking about our theological concepts of the nature of humanity and their relationship to God, as encoded by the label “image of God.”

(Randy) #5

I would agree strongly here. It can be a stumbling block if we try to attribute “image of God” to nuances of Adam, relationship to God, etc. Enns’ note helps us avoid that. Thanks.

(George Brooks) #6

Like the issue of how the “soul” is delivered to a human … how the “Image of God” is delivered comes down to two arenas:

A) It’s something that is encoded in the flesh of the brain… or

B) It’s something that is encoded in the metaphysics of the Soul or Mind.

For either the soul or the Image of God, I’ve never been a fan of a “fleshy” encoding. That doesn’t seem to make any sense to me.

I vote that it’s delivered to us in our soul or spirit .

(Mark D.) #7

Would that cover consciousness as well?

(George Brooks) #8


I consider the brain to be a channeler of the conscious awareness. In the general case, the brain influences the impulses and perceptions of the Soul/Awareness.

With the right kind of conditioning , the brain and body can be shown to have less influence on the mind and awareness than for the average person.

For Free Will to work, it would seem quite reasonable that the awareness, and the thoughts of the person or soul, operate freely in one of the dimensions that string theory requires to function.

In these other dimensional spaces, entanglement is normal, a single photon interfering with itself in a double-slit experiment is normal. And so on…

(Randy) #9

Do you have a reasonable study on this idea, Mr Brooks?

(George Brooks) #10

I do not yet have one…but was surprised to see several people in Google ALSO using the “channeling” model!

Google brain and channeling…

(Mark D.) #11

I’ve heard people suggest that consciousness and soul were like a radio wave while the brain was like a radio receiver. To my mind that has always seemed like a real Rube Goldberg of an arrangement. It also begs the question why nearly every has a receiver if it is only ever put to work in humans, though perhaps you’re not denying souls to other animals? At any rate it does not seem like a very elegant arrangement.

(Randy) #12

I’m just really skeptical of their ideas–it sounds too much like ID to me from the spiritual realm!

I don’t think we’ll find a “spirit of the gaps” that holds up to scrutiny. So speaks the Christian, albeit skeptic and naturalist!

Thanks for your comments.

(George Brooks) #13


How is this anything like Intelligent Design?

(Randy) #14

Maybe I’m over interpreting it; sorry if I sent the wrong impression. Rather, it’s from my own insecurity.

The mind is an amazing thing. However, every time we think there’s something that may be different from our brains and body function, it seems that we’ve found an organic cause that proves us wrong.

I am concerned that if someone labels a given functional part of our interaction or consciousness as nonmaterial or spirit, and nails their belief in God on that, a proof that this is based on evolutionary adaptation will destroy their faith.

Thanks. I’m willing to be proven wrong :).

(George Brooks) #15


And that’s because you can only imagine God making things by special creation, instead of sometimes by natural/lawful means.

If God used Evolution to create humanity, and he wanted humans to approximate a more moral state before testing “Adam” … using Evolutionary principles that favored morality would make as good a sense as anything else.

Generally speaking, if spirit and morality is based on FLESH … there will be more of a tendency to be hijacked by evolutionary discoveries.

There’s only the vaguest of evidences that consciousness, as a non-material entity, evolved for as long as the brain has evolved.

(Randy) #16

I’m a bit confused. I would have thought God would do things by natural/lawful means; it’s the idea that we could test for and confirm a nonmaterial thing that makes me nervous, Mr Brooks. But I’m getting a bit confused on this–it doesn’t matter too much :).

So clarify for me, if you don’t mind–yes, I would have thought evolution was the cause of our psychology. I don’t think there was a historical Adam, nor a historical fall. I think that there isn’t any concrete evidence for non-evolutionary cause of consciousness. …at least, as far as I can see. I’m willing to learn.Thanks.

(George Brooks) #17


Now I’m confused… what is your status?
Strong Evolutionist - Agnostic?
Strong Creationist ?

(Mark D.) #18

You specifically addressed Mr. Brooks but I hope neither of you mind if I respond as well. Naturally, I agree that psychology as well as consciousness would be products of evolution. By my lights that still leaves a place for a God to play a significant roll in our evolution. It is possible that consciousness produced the God entity as a communal focus of a dawning awareness of deliberate action as an option over instinctual response. I suspect that the idea of taking a deliberate action as opposed to reacting to circumstances without reflection might have been first experienced as acting at the direction of God. Acting at what one perceives to be one’s own direction would likely have to come later.

This is all theorizing of course but it is a challenge to imagine how a gregarious animal species with cognitive processing to spare would have transitioned from moving through the world reflexively on the basis of instinct, culture and personal discovery to our current state.

If deliberate action originates in the intentionality of the God entity perhaps that entity remains involved in volition still? Would that make what we are now God’s creation?

(George Brooks) #19


I’ve long felt that the most viable metaphysical model for how Humans “have” souls is that God has arranged for the neural networks of our fleshy brains to either

1] “hold-on” to the soul spark when it arrives from God; or

2] to “ignite” the fire on its own (per the brain configuration God has blessed each of us at birth), and once it has germinated, it’s ultimately up to God to preserve it for eternity, or to snuff it back out.

(Mark D.) #20

I tend to see it more as God having stood down so that we could stand up. I think the baton has been passed.