We’ve introduced monthly themes on our blog in order to more systematically work through topics at the intersection of science and Christian faith. These include some topics that don’t often get much attention on our site, like the February theme on racism, but also some that we come back to again and again because of their crucial importance in our messaging. This month falls into that latter category: exploring the biblical message that humanity is made in the “image of God.”
We have posted a lot of great content over the years related to the image of God, and we’ll dust some of that off and showcase it again throughout this month. We have also had one of our Common Questions articles on the topic for quite some time, but we have spruced it up a bit and included some new links to help you dig deeper into the topic. And we have a few new pieces to add to the collection.
The idea of the image of God is a theological concept—one that is revealed to us in Scripture. But it did not pop out of a vacuum. The idea had been used by other cultures in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, but it almost always was applied only to kings or priests. What is startlingly new about the Judeo-Christian understanding of the image of God is that it applies to all of us.
Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created adam in his image.” The Hebrew word there (adam) is best translated into English as “humankind”. Lest it be thought this is referring just to one guy named Adam, the verse continues: “male and female he created them.” The same inclusive language is found in Gen 5:1-2, even though this passage transitions into a genealogy of Adam. There is no basis for separating out some people who bear God’s image and some who don’t. All of us—both as individuals and as a collective—are God’s image bearers.
Although the image of God is theological concept, it can still be particularly fruitful to be in dialogue with other disciplines about what it means to be human. Scientists and philosophers who are armed with that concept can see their research into human nature as parts of a larger conversation in which theology is properly a participant. As a result, a more complete picture emerges about the uniqueness of humans with respect to the rest of the created order. And as you’ll see in some of our posts this month, that uniqueness is not eroded by our common ancestry with other life.
We will also be exploring the pressing issue of human gene editing. Advances in genetic technology are rapidly moving us toward a future in which human DNA is easily edited. How should Christians, who believe all humans are made in God’s image, think about this technology? How do we weigh the benefits and pitfalls? And how do Christians advocate for human dignity in the public square? Stay tuned for some great content later this month that suggests some answers to these important questions.
We hope you’ll find our resources this month engaging, and perhaps opportunities to reflect like the Psalmist about our place in the created order:
What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?Yet you have made them a little lower than divine beings, and crowned them with glory and honor.You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet. (Psalm 8:4-6)