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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Saturday, 21 February 2009

A Quick Thought on the Image of God

The idea of the image of God has a rich heritage in the Christian tradition. Typically we look for some feature of humanity that is unique and say, "This special feature is the image of God." Soul? Rationality? Imagination? Creativity? Language? The ability to use tools? The problem is that it is hard to find a specific feature that is absolutely unique to humans (for all of the aforementioned qualities one can find other animals that exhibit them to some degree or other). I am not for one moment suggesting that humans do not possess these features in a unique combination and to an unprecidented degree. My point is simply that boiling the image of God down to some aspect intrinsic to human nature is not unproblematic.

In Genesis the divine image is connected to human rule over creation. It is a divine calling and mission - to image God in creation.

What if we thought of God as more to do with divine calling and commission rather than inante human qualities? It is rooted in God's will and God's command rather than biology.

In this case the capacities of human nature are simply what enables us to image God (a God who thinks and speaks and acts) but in and of themselves they do not constitute 'the image'.

This opens up a way to think of there possibly being a real moment in the story of human evolution when humanity became in the image of God. It would be the moment of divine commission. On this account there is no need for the fruitless (?) search for a moment in the evolution of human biology when something 'magical' happened and 'in the twkinkling of an eye we were changed'. We don't need a point of ensoulment or anything of the sort to speak meaningfully of a moment when humans became in the image of God (if we wish to have such a moment)

4 comments:

jonnyjpg said...

thanks for this Robin. I found that really helpful. Especially the last bit - as I was trying to think through this week how my understanding of theistic-evolution.

Also, this seems to fit well with an archeological idea about rulers such as the pharaoh's setting up images of themselves (in this case statues/sculptures) throughout their land in-order to express there rule and reign in that place.

Me said...

Good thoughts. I was presenting at a meeting the other night along with somebody else and we were sharing very similar thinking from both a genetics and future-possibility perspectives.

Jason said...

Robin,

I agree with these folks, these are helpful thoughts.

Any chance of you writing a gentle critique/counter-point to Andy Crouch's new work (a lovely read, many good thoughts, but a bit off the historical background of "image of God")?

Robin Parry said...

Thanks all

Jason - which book by Andy Crouch?