There are three main positions that try to explain the way in which humans are created in the image of God: the substantive view, the relational view, and the functional view.The substantive (or structural) locates the image of God in the physical, mental, and spiritual characteristics of humankind. The relational view pinpoints the image of God in the experience of how humans relate to each other and to God. The functional view identifies the image of God not through being or experience, but rather by the things that humans do.
Many famous biblical theologians throughout the years have held the substantive view, specifically the mental and spiritual nature of man being like God. An animal has a body and some characteristic of personality, but does not have reason to worship, pray, trust, and believe. This spiritual reasoning demonstrates how humans are like God and not like animals. Theologians such as Irenaeus, Thomas Aquinas, and John Calvin have, in various ways, stood behind this substantive position. Irenaeus claimed that the aspect that is most like Christ is primarily rationality.Thomas Aquinas was a firm believer that the image of God is found primarily in man’s intellect.
 Aquinas concluded that man is the image of God because like God, man is rational. John Calvin stated that the image of God in man consists in the acknowledgment of God’s goodness. All of these men were great theologians, and spent much time intellectually reflecting upon spiritual things. It is easy to understand why they single out reason as the significant aspect of human culture that is most like God.
 In addition to mental and spiritual aspects many theologians also believe that the image of God involves the physical composition of humanity.This view is not as common, but became popular during the rise of the theory of evolution in the nineteenth century. Hermann Gunkel made claims that the image of God in man was indicative of mans upright posture and used Romans 1 as the background text to display that man was superior to animals in that man acknowledged the God of the heavens and earth by standing upright. The physical nature view also states that because Seth is said to have looked like his father, in Genesis 5:3, humans also resemble their creator.
The relational view holds that the image of God is not something resident within human nature. Instead, the image of God is displayed when humans experience relationship. Emil Brunner and Karl Barth made this view popular. Barth stated, “The image and likeness of the being created by God signifies existence in confrontation, i.e., in this confrontation, in the juxtaposition and conjunction of man and man, which is that of male and female…”Barth claimed that the image of God is represented by the confrontational relationship between man and woman.
It is the fact that man was created with the capacity for relationship with fellowman that proves that humans are created in the image of God. The relationship of God with humans is paralleled by the relationship of one human to another.While Barth makes much more of the male to female relationship, Brunner tends to emphasize the interconnectedness of human relationships within all of society. For both Brunner and Barth the image of God is not an entity that man posses but instead an experience, present within all relationships. The functional view is the idea that the image of God consists in humanity’s exercise of dominion over all of creation. This view is based upon Genesis 1:26, “Then 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 birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth (ESV).’” In this passage the image of God is directly linked to the exercise of dominion over the earth. This would lead the functionalist to believe that the exercise of dominion is considered to be the representation of the image of God. SupportThe image of God is not first and foremost the structure of humans or their capacity for relationships, but instead the function that humans have been given.
Humanity has been given a physical structure and the ability to experience relationship, but it is what is done with these human faculties that carries out the image of God.The functional view drives the understanding of the image of God. I will defend a holistic functional view for the image of God, based on a scriptural mandate given in Genesis 1:26 and the example of Jesus as the perfect image of God.The holistic view has biblical dependency, the greatest argument for validity, and gives purpose to the creation of man.
This section will include the biblical basis for the functional view; a breakdown of structural, relational and functional coherence in the holistic view; address the holistic functional view in light of the fall of mankind; and confirm how Christ is the ultimate example of the image of God within the holistic functional view.In Genesis 1:26-30, after God created humanity, he gave them the task of ruling over the earth. Psalm 8:5-8 echoes this idea as the Psalmist recounts the decree given to humans. “Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet…(Psalm 8:5-8 ESV).”The linkage of these two themes, image of God and dominion over creation, is purposeful.
God has every right to rule over his creation, yet he chooses to give man the authority to rule over his creation. In this dominion, man is the image of God, because he is carrying out the function of God as ruler over creation. God fills man with substance, and then by that substance calls and commissions man to rule on God’s behalf.This authority was not given to animals, and the God given function of animals is inherently different from that of man.
Man is set apart by function, to image God. The pre-fall mandate is clear; God’s purpose for man is to be holy, like God, and to rule, like God, over creation. This does not mean that the physical body, or the capacity for relationship is lost as the image of God. These aspects of humans are necessary in order to carry out the image of God.
It is that humans are whom they are in order to do what they do. The Hebrew word for “image” is used within the Old Testament seventeen times and generally refers to a physical object. Clines states that kings in ancient near east culture often placed images of themselves in the territories they ruled to represent their presence in those occupied territories and that in the same way that man is the “image” of God placed here on earth.Again, this is not the main way in which Christ images God, but it must be reveled that man’s body is a form of the image of God in order to function as the image of God.
Hoekema describes physical functionality this way: “Since the image of God includes the whole person, it must incline both man’s structure and man’s functioning. One cannot function without a certain structure.” Man and Woman were created to function through praying, worshiping, loving the neighbor, and ruling over nature and so on.However, human beings cannot function in this way unless they are given the structural capacities to enable them. In the same way that a bird is given wings to fly, so man needs a body to image God correctly. Humans are acting agents designed to express the characteristics of what God is like through dominion, rulership, relationship, righteousness, justice, love, compassion, and wisdom.
All of these characteristics involve relationship. Barth was correct to point back to the Scriptures to demonstrate that man and woman were created to have a relationship in order to image God.However, this cannot be confused with the idea that relationship on its own images God. It is instead; the expression of relationship in its functionality that is the image of God.
God has given humans emotional relationships in order to use them to functionally image him. God’s purpose for man is not merely being and experiencing but doing. Each of the three views addresses the fall of mankind differently. Out of the three views the holistic functional view demonstrates the most credibility.
The substantive view ascertains that mans physical body, mind, and spirituality is directly affected by sin.Thomas Aquinas claimed that the image of God is primarily found in mans intellect, but that each man is not equally bright, and those who are not believers have a dim, disfigured, or practically nonexistent image. This theory is based on the direct result of sin. However, Aquinas is not basing his theory on Scripture but on ancient Greek notion of reason.
This presents a huge problem for the substantial view because it implies that the image of God varies with different human beings. For example, the more intellectual a human is the greater extent the image of God is present.What then is to be done with an unbeliever that displays more intellect than a Christian? The relational view also struggles with the fall of man into sin. Barth denies the historical fall in order to prove the validity of the relational view. However, in denying the fall, he does not provide evidence for the recognizable defects upon the relationships of man after the fall, or the need for renewal of the image of God through the redemptive process.The relational view finds problems in the universality of the image of God.
Barth claimed that having a formal relationship is the only capacity in which humans image God. If this is true then the image of God is merely capacity for relationship. The problem with this theory is that Satan also has this same capacity for relationship, for he has relational confrontation with Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11. Hoekema says it well, “What is significant is not just the capacity for encounter, but the way in which we encounter God and others.”Likeness to God must reveal itself in more than just capacity. It is only the holistic functional view that provides answers to the problem of the fall of mankind.
The biblical basis for the holistic functional view after the fall is given within the evidence of Genesis 9:6. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image (ESV).” The message here is simple and profound, God made man in his image and as God’s image man will carry out the mandate of capital punishment. Even though the human is fallen, the mandate for ruling over creation still exists.
God still commands sinful man to image him by functioning as rulers in capital punishment.This accurately portrays that function is the primary way in which man images God, even after the fall. Jesus was the perfect example of how a man can image God after the fall. Jesus functioned as a man, with the Spirit of God indwelling in Him. Jesus Christ’s perfect obedience is worked out, all the way to the cross. In this functionality of perfect obedience, the image of God is expressed clearly.
Obedience is supplied to all humans through salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is in the re-birth that the spirit-filled man has the ability to image God perfectly.This is the putting on of the new self as described in Colossians 3:10-11. One cannot take this to mean that man is just now putting on the image of God, but instead that man is now revealing Christ’s true image through obedience and holiness. This is the fathers design from the beginning as stated in Romans 8:28-29. In salvation God fills man with His supernatural power, enabling man to do what Christ calls all men to do, image God.
It is only by the Holy Spirit that it is revealed to all mankind that their greatest purpose is to function as the image of God. ObjectionsThere are two objections in one concerning the holistic functional view. The main objection is the unclear connection of the image of God with the exercise of dominion. This objection has two sides and begs the question, is the functional view accurate in holding that authority is directly represented by image of God, and is the linkage of authority portrayed in Genesis 1 biblically supportive?This section of the paper will address each objection and provide specific argumentation in favor of the holistic functional view. It is ignorant to reject the God given authority of man over creation, because an objection to this authority is disproved by Genesis 1:28.
However the main argument is that this authority does not hold the direct representation of the Image of God in man. While it can be agreed that man’s dominion over the animals is not the only way that man images God, it is more than a consequence of the image of God. Clines argues, “Dominion is so immediate and necessary a consequence of the image of God, it loses the character of a mere derivative of the image and virtually becomes a constitutive part of the image itself.”Clines backs this statement with research of Ancient Near East culture, in order to find a common vernacular, among an Ancient Near East audience, that would help understand what image of God means.
He discovered a primary context in which the image of God is seen fleshed out in royalty. Because these royal peoples were seen as the image of god, they ruled on behalf of God via proxy.Clines found that there were three features common to the context in which people became the image of God: they would receive some divine substance; they would be given power to speak and do as the God would; this would only happened to a highly selective group of people (royalty). It is very likely that this Ancient Near Eastern description of the king as the image of God, formed part of the background to the phrase given in Genesis 1:26.Man is to be understood in royal terms, not only in the command to have dominion, but also in the image of God itself. Clines says it best, “Hence the command to have dominion (Genesis 1:26:28) does not advertise some function of man which may or may not devolve from his being the image; he has dominion only because he is the image, and his being the image means, without any further addition, that he is already ruler.
”Therefore, based on the linkage and vernacular used, one cannot legitimately separate the command of dominion from man as the image of God. While this argumentation will suit some, many still desire a biblical proof for this text. Exegetically, Genesis 1:26 is closely in line with other passages preceding it. The sentence can be broken down as, “let us make man as our image…and let them have dominion.”In the sentence the Hebrew waw is joining two jussives with final force for the second. We see a somewhat closer form of this in Genesis 1:16 “God made the two great lights…and God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth and to rule over the day and night and to separate the light from the darkness (ESV).
” This sentence is not an initial act and then its consequences. Instead, the act of creation of sun and moon includes within itself the purpose with which they are to serve.Clines makes it clear, “Their giving of light is not the same as their being set in the firmament, yet their being set there cannot be fully defined without reference to their function as luminaries.” This applies directly to the Genesis 1:26 passage.
Man’s given dominion over the animals cannot be argued as the direct image of God, but it is impossible to include a definition of the image without referring to man’s function of dominion. Therefore, exegetically one can see that the image of God is biblically linked directly to man’s function.BIBLIOGRAPHYBarth, Karl. Church Dogmatics, III/1 Edinburgh: T.
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