Implications of the imago dei

As a basic theological concept, there is maybe nothing more central to our understanding of the Bible, God himself and human beings’ relationships to God than the Imago Dei. Imago Dei, of course, being the Latin term that refers to the fact that human beings have been made in the image of God and reflect or mirror in some mysterious way. I do not purport to be able to explain all that that means. It is beyond me. Anyone who tells you it’s not beyond them is lying to you. It is a wonderful mystery that we can at least begin to grasp and scratch the surface of and realize all the implications.

Now, I will say that the implications of the Imago Dei are something that I am going to cover or touch on as a focus of my next post. But today, I want to talk about the Imago Dei, where it comes from in scripture, and what is the primary implication of the Imago Dei as it relates to human beings. In Genesis 1: 26- 27, God says, “Let us make man in our image after our likeness and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image. In the image of God, he created him. Male and female, he created them.”

From these two verses right in the first chapter of the Bible, we develop the concept of the Imago Dei. He created them. What does the image of God mean about our relationship with God and our place as human beings in the cosmos and all of the created order? It means it can be boiled down to one word: value. If we are made in the image of God, human beings are, aside from God, supremely and uniquely valued in all of creation. Now we have taken these verses, we’ve studied them, we’ve looked at them and we find four distinct types of human value that are insinuated in these verses. I’ll list them for you, and then I’ll come back and touch on each one of the four. The first type of value is intrinsic value. The second type of value is equal value. The third type of value we see here is exceptional value. And the fourth type of value is eternal value. Let me go back and touch on each one of those.

Number one, we see that being made in the image of God means that human beings have intrinsic value. Intrinsic value means that it is within us. It is not something that can be taken away from humans. It’s not something that any human being in any time, history, place, socioeconomic status can ever be without. Every human being has intrinsic value because every human being is made in the image of God.

If I cut off one of my fingers, I am still valuable to God. Not because I’m perfect, not because I’m whole, but even without that finger, I am still made in the image of God because the image of God is intrinsic. It has nothing to do with my abilities. The world says that my value has decreased. My economic value has decreased. What can I produce? But in God’s perspective my value is intrinsic. Whether I lose a finger or a whole hand or a whole arm or both of my arms and both of my legs, I am still made in the image of God because it is intrinsic. It’s not based on my potential. This is a radical concept.

How does it apply to abortion and the world of abortion? It means that if you are part of the human race (we’re going to make a case here in subsequent posts that life inside the womb is part of the human race) then scientifically, morally and biblically speaking you have intrinsic value. If you are part of the human race, you are made in the image of God. All humans have it, no matter how big or small. No matter where they are, no matter how rich or poor, no matter what the color of your skin or the abilities that you have, no matter how fat or skinny or tall or short you are, you have intrinsic value.

Number two, we say from this passage that all humans have equal value. Where do we find that in this passage? Well, we find it in the words that they were made in the image of God, male and female. He created them. Every human being of all types has equal value. Men are not more valuable than women. Women are not more valuable than men. Christians, if you believe what God has written in the Bible, you believe in equal human value. We don’t say, like those under the one child policy of China in the past, that little boys are more valuable than girls just because little boys carry on the family name. No, we say that boys and girls are equally valuable. Men and women are equally valuable.

Do we at Passion Life believe that men and women are equal? We do not. We do not believe that men and women are equal. We believe that women are better at many things than our men. We believe that men and women have distinctions that are beautiful, roles that are different from one another and all of those things play into the beauty of God’s creation and design. We do not believe that men and women are equal, but what we do believe from this passage is that men and women, in the eyes of God, have equal value. As do all people of all sorts in all times and all places.

Number three, we believe that all human beings have exceptional value. What do we mean by the word exceptional? We mean that of all the created order, God made human beings different. Human beings are unique and exceptionally valuable. We are different from all the rest of the created order. When God created Adam, he gathered together the dust of the earth, blew his breath into the man and stamped him with his own image, which he did not do for anything else that he created, meaning that human beings have exceptional and extraordinary value to God. A giraffe is a beautiful thing. They’re amazing to me. You can see a lot about God’s creative power when you look at a giraffe, but what you cannot see in a giraffe is the image of God. Only human beings carry the image of God.

The fourth kind of value that we see from that passage is eternal. Only humans were made to live forever with God. Nothing else in all of creation was made to live forever with God. If you are a Christian and you have placed your faith in the forgiveness and the satisfaction of God’s wrath on the cross through Jesus Christ then you will live forever with God in heaven. You were made for this. You have eternal value. And if you don’t place your faith in Christ, we believe that you will live forever apart from God in the punishment of hell. We make no bones about that. Some people would prefer to say it if you either live with God forever in heaven or you die forever without God in hell.

The point is this: Human beings were made to have eternal value. A flower blooms and you will never see that flower again, but that’s not how human beings were made. They weremade with eternal value. So we are going to talk in the next post about some of the specific implications of the Imago Dei. But to summarize, let me say, we see four types of value that human beings have because of this passage from Genesis 1:26-27 and the theological concept of the Imago Dei. Those things will help you build a philosophical, theological and moral reasoning foundation for all of the right and wrongs as it relates to the way we treat life, especially human life. These are biblical principles that the organization of Passion Life is based on. And this is what we teach and preach everywhere we go. If we start with the Bible, we will understand that human life is always valuable.