The modern view of man is conflicting. Evolution teaches that man is a grown up germ. He is nothing more than a cosmic accident. At the same time, modern man agitates for human rights, as if men were more than grown up germs. Humanism, with its concept of the dignity of man, must borrow from Christianity because an evolutionary concept leaves spiritual beliefs and moral ethics at the edge of the pond. What difference does morality make if there is no God? The sanctity of human life comes from God assigning to man dignity.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth (Gen. 1:26-28).
Today, there is a reversal of the Divine order of creation. Animals have more rights than an unborn child. However, man alone is said to be made in the image of God. Only man has dominion over the animals, and the earth. Man is the vice regent of creation, because he is made in the image of God. This is man’s imago dei, the image of God. The distinctiveness of man is found in being made in the image of God, and in being made in the likeness of God. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27).
According to Catholic theology, the Bible is describing two different concepts. Catholic theology makes the following distinction.
Image. This refers to certain aspects we have in common with God, such as will, emotion, and intellect.
Likeness. This refers to an original righteousness that was infused in our human nature at creation.
Protestant Theology understands the image and likeness of God differently. What is found in Genesis 1 is called a Hendiadys (hen-‘dī-ə-dəs). A Hendiadys is a grammatical construction in which two words refer to the same thing. The word means “two in oneness,” and is illustrated in the writing of Paul. The wrath of God is directed against all ungodliness, and all unrighteousness. The two are the same. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;” (Rom. 1:18).
In like manner, the image and likeness of God refer to the same concept. Whatever is the image of God, is the same as His likeness. The Medieval Theologians called this image of God the analogia entis, which means the analogy of being. There is some way in which man is like God. We are not God. We are very different from God. However, in some way man is like God.
Neo-orthodoxy, led by Karl Barth, rejected this historic understanding, and declared that God is wholly other. This is an effort to protect the transcendence of God and His majesty. It protects against Pantheism and Buddhism. God does not want to be protected. He wants to be believed. He wants His word to be understood and embraced. God has declared that He has made man in His image, and in His likeness.
If Liberal Theology is true, than any relationship with God would be fatal, for there would be no possible point of commonality. There would be no avenue of communication. There must be some likeness, some similarity between God and man in order for Him to speak to us.
To pinpoint that point of contact, or similarity, is that the image of God is found in terms of our rationality, volition, and affection.
Rationality. God has a mind, and man has a mind. The problem with this is that animals can also think. Not everything is instinct in animals. What is certain is that God has a mind, God has knowledge, and we can have a mind, and we can acquire knowledge. God has complex reasoning, and man has the same ability. God has self-awareness, and man has self-awareness and contemplation that is unique in creation.
Volition. God has will, and man has a will. We have the ability to make choices. To be a moral creature, there must be a mind, and the ability to choose. God has a moral character, and so do we. No animal is put on trial. Morality is not looked for in animals.
Humans are held accountable because we are moral agents. We are held accountable for the choices we make. God gives direction to human beings to be holy, even as He is holy, and to reflect something of His righteousness.
Affection. Unless humans are rational, and moral, with a sense of right and wrong, unless there was some feeling or affection, the Divine directive would be meaningless.
Both male and female are created in the image of God. Both are accountable to Him.
The term for male in Genesis is a generic term referring to mankind, so that every person is born imago dei, in the image of God. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27).
Karl Barth said that God only has a relationship within Himself, within the God, and not with males and females. God has relationship within Himself just like men and women have relationships with one another. However, this is as far as God goes. Again, this novel view makes God the wholly other One, and removes all hope of communicating with Him.
The Bible teaches that of all the creatures in the world, man has the ability, and responsibility to communicate with God. The heart of man wants to touch the Divine.
This is possible in Christ. To know Christ, is to know the Father.
Christ is the perfect image of God, and of His person. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:1-3). In the perfect obedience of Christ, we find the fulfillment of the Divine mandate to reflect the holiness and righteousness of God.
Because of the Fall, the image of God is not clearly seen in man. In regeneration, this image begins to shine through afresh, when the gospel is lived out. “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).