The Imago Dei

By Sarah R. Enterline

Professor Douglas Groothuis of Denver Seminary wrote, “Given the Christian hypothesis that humans are ‘deposed royalty’ – both image bearers of God and fallen from grace – this desire for and limited sense of the transcendent must be viewed as marred by sin. The desire to transcend one’s situation, to experience glory or joy, are not pure desires, but rather a mixture of the soul desiring its proper divine fulfillment and the flesh desiring to transcend a fallen world in any way possible.”[5] We inherently know there is something more, something better. This could be a better state of being – one that is free of sin and includes immortality/eternal life. We were created in an absolutely perfect and moral state of being, and to live eternally in that state. The Fall of Man (in Genesis 3) tarnished that perfection and immorality, but we still yearn for it because God has put eternity in our hearts.[7]

If we are beings somehow imbued with an innate sense of the hope of eternal life and absolute morality, and we lost access to them in the Fall, it would make sense that we desire them. C.S. Lewis states in his book Mere Christianity, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”[8] This means you cannot call something evil or bad unless you have some idea of what good is, or what is supposed to be, to measure it against. Gregory of Nyssa wrote that, “The more we believe that ‘the Good’, on account of its nature, lies far beyond the limits of our knowledge, the more we experience a sense of sorrow that we have to be separated from this ‘Good’, which is both great and desirable, and yet cannot be embraced fully by our minds. Yet we mortals once had a share in this ‘Good’, which so eludes our attempts to comprehend it. This ‘Good’ – which surpasses all human thought, and which we once possessed – is such that human nature also seemed to be ‘good’ in some related form, in that it was fashioned as the most exact likeness and in the image of its prototype.”[9] Basically, we desire morality because we were created in the image of a morally pure (aka holy) Being. Even if we don’t all agree on what those specific moral rules should be, we all agree that rules of fair play and justice should exist of so that society does not collapse in chaos.

Because we have some innate morality and sense of absolutes, we inherently know that there is a God of absolutes and so we crave a relationship with Him. We were modeled after a Trinitarian God, an eternal Being in communion with Himself. That is what the Trinity is – three persons in one nature, all in relationship with each other. This is embedded in who God is, for He is not an absolute Monotheistic deity like Allah is described to be, but a compound Monotheistic deity. He is One, but He is also Three. This is why Genesis chapter one says, “Let us make man in our image”.[10] There is a plurality to the unity that is God. This is why our souls crave a relationship with the divine, because God has been in a relationship with Himself for all this time. So it’s natural for us to desire a relationship with Him since we are made in His image. Dr. Geisler writes, “Few theists would rest their case for God on any one argument…But if there is a real need for God, it is far more reasonable to believe that there is a real God who can really fill this real need.” [11]

Of course, it is one thing as a Bible-believing Christian to say that we are created with a sense of right and wrong, and a desire to have a relationship with God, but is there evidence outside of the Bible for that belief? This is where anthropology comes in, where you go back through history until you get to the earliest people group (who were the developers of this thing we call “religion”), and find out what they believed. They originated religion because they must have encountered something or Someone (some type of information), that made them believe that worship, and a moral law code, was absolutely necessary .The question comes then, which religion or God is right? Since so many people desire a relationship with a deity, one probably exists, but there are so many that people desire and invent, how do we know which one is the first, true one? Find out what by reading “Original Monotheism” here.

[5] Douglas Groothuis. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Kindle Locations 3923-3925). Kindle Edition.

[7] Ecclesiastes 3:11, HCSB

[8] Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. New York, NY: Macmillan, 1960; p. 45.

[9] Mc Grath, Alister E. The Christian Theology Reader. Malden MA: Blackwell, 2007; p. 412.

[10] Genesis 1:26-27, HCSB

[11] Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999; p. 282.

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