Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Image of God

In their book, Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology, Boyd and Eddy indicate three views concerning what the imago Dei (image of God) could refer to: The Soul (the Substantival View), Our God-given authority (the Functional View), and our relationality (the Relational View). It is my conviction that this “image” refers to the human soul, and therefore I agree with the Substantival View. In defining how the imago Dei is the human soul, Boyd and Eddy comment, “the spiritual substance of humans sets them apart from all other animals as beings who are uniquely created in the imago Dei (emphasis in original).” Considering this “spiritual substance,” Boyd and Eddy describe five Biblical aspects which support this view. These five aspects are the following: “…humans are beings who shall never cease to exist spiritually…humans have the capacity to think rationally…humans possess a capacity for moral goodness…Humans can and should sense God’s Spirit calling them into relationship with him…humans possess the capacity to love.” It seems that the strongest argument to me for this view, apart from the Biblical evidence, is the essence of human beings. Boyd and Eddy remark that, “If we associate the imago Dei with something humans do rather than with who they are, then individuals who cannot or do not perform these tasks cannot be regarded as truly human (emphasis in original).” This is an excellent argument not only for supporting the Substantival View of the imago Dei, but also for supporting the sanctity of human life in our secularized post-modern culture. The first of three examples that come to mind are the 50,000,000 (fifty million) children aborted since the U.S. Supreme Court established abortion-on-demand in their infamous Roe v. Wade decision. The second example would be the value of physically/medically disabled individuals whose lives are considered below the acceptable norm. One of the saddest and most frustrating recent examples of this was the nationally-televised torturous death of Terry Schiavo by withholding both food and liquids to an alert and conscious woman because her estranged husband was waiting for the insurance money to enjoy with his adulteress companion and new family. The nation stood by and watched as Jeb Bush, several judges, Michael Schiavo, and medical doctors did nothing to stop the wicked destruction of a human life, but rather allowed the bedridden Terry to simply waste away. The third and final example is the value of the lives of mentally challenged/mentally unstable individuals. The US has seen in decades past the institutionalization of individuals with Down’s Syndrome or simple learning disabilities because they have been deemed a burden to society. Additionally, a common practice for mentally incompetent individuals who have been arrested is to simply put them in lockdown in the infirmary of the local county jail as state-run mental hospitals do not have the bed space. It is quite easy to see the complications we encounter when the value of human life and the image of God in that life is based upon either what we do (the Relational View) or how we act (the Functional View). As a final argument, Scripture tells us that, “You shall not murder.” In determining why God would command this of us, we can understand that if human beings are made in the image of God, this means to murder an individual is to profane the image of God. Therefore, if the image of God is based upon what we do or how we act, it would be illogical for God to command this. However, because the image of God is the human soul, prohibiting the destruction of that image by the sin of murder makes perfect logical sense. This is why I believe that the image of God is the human soul, because it is the only way to agree with God that human beings are of infinite value and worth, as we bear His holy image.

Boyd, Gregory A. and Eddy, Paul R. The Divine Image Debate. Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.
MacArthur, John F. The MacArthur Study Bible. Thomas Nelson: La Habra, 2006.

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