The other day I was fortunate to get into a conversation with my roommate, who isn’t a Christian, about God and faith and so on. During the course of the conversation, he asked me what being made in the “image of God” actually means. I’ve read several books on basic Christian doctrine and the like, so I’m relatively able to answer questions concerning the implications of being made in God’s image, but was somewhat stunned speechless when asked how we are made in the image of God.
Annoyed that I didn’t have a definitive answer to this question, I started pulling out my Bible and books to come up with one that both made sense, and was Biblically sound. After going through the relevant passages of Mark Driscoll’s Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe, and Wayne Grudem’s Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know, I still wasn’t satisfied with the answer to the “how?” question.
Being someone who can’t stand not finding an answer, I decided to pull out the big guns: Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. In this book, Grudem points out that by trying to answer the “How are we the image of God?” question by attempting to make a list of ways we’re like God is actually thinking too narrowly. He teaches us that both the Hebrew word for “image” (tselem, Strong’s #6754) and the Hebrew word for “likeness” (demût, Strong’s #1823) refer to something that is similar, but not identical to the thing it represents, or is an “image” of. The word “image” can also be used of something that represents something else (p. 443). So, to the original readers, Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…’ ” would have conveyed a meaning of “Let us make man to be like us and to represent us.”
Now that we have a working definition of “What?” being the “image of God” means, we are free to address the “How?” question at a deeper level. First, we must realize that any attempt to do this will always fall short of complete accuracy, because to make a comprehensive list would require a full understanding of who God is, as well as a full understanding of who man is. Second, we want to ask the question this way, “How does man represent God?” Genesis tells us that we were created to represent the Trinitarian God, which tells us that we are made to be in community with each other. This is why Adam’s being alone was “not good”, and his being in community and unity with Eve is “very good” (Gen. 1:27-28, 2:18-25). We also see that God made us to represent His dominion over the Earth (Gen. 1:26). Third, rather than trying to come up with a list, it may be better to ask “How should we represent God to the lost?”, rather than try to detail out every way man was created to be like Him.
Thoughts? Questions? Let me know in the comments.