Tag Archives: creature-Creator distinction

Language and Dominion: Results of the Image of God (Part 3)

(2) Language and Creativity as the image of God:

The following two views are seen by their proponents as being the imago dei.  I would like to demonstrate that although these views come close to hitting the mark, they fail to see the difference between the the results of man being created in the image of God and man being the image of God.

The second view has many things to commend to itself.(1) Language is definitely something unique to man, and we see the first thing God did in the beginning was create, and man likewise is a creative being. After all, a few contrasts can be given between man and the beasts in this regard. While humans construct beautiful architecture, communicate in propositions, build societies and make things for the purpose of beauty, beasts do not. They don’t speak an intelligent language or communicate in propositions.  However, I do not think we are totally left to speculation as to what the image of God in man is. We have already quoted thus far from Genesis and Job. The Job passage makes clear part of this image is understanding and Colossians mentions knowledge. That language is unique to man is clear, and that man has knowledge, indeed, innate knowledge is clear from such passages as Romans 1 and 2. But is there something more foundational to the image of God in man than language and creativity? The point is that we don’t have the biblical basis to say the image is language and creativity. We have conjectures once again. We will leave this view and come back to it later. We come now to the third view.

(3) Dominion in Righteousness as the image of God:

Some Scriptures seemingly show the third view to be correct:

Genesis 1:26-28:

“And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (27) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (28) And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

However, an aspect of the image of God should be noted which I think makes this view not as plausible as perhaps might be seen from a superficial reading of Genesis 1. It is this: before and after the fall, man is the image of God.(2) There are a few problems with asserting that dominion is the image of God. First, some men don’t take dominion. Most men are rebels against God and don’t think they need to take dominion. Secondly, whatever limited dominion some men may take in an analogous fashion, is not the dominion talked about in Genesis 1 which is dominion under God or in righteousness.. One could say the Socialist is taking dominion in terms of his Socialistic ideals, but to say dominion in general is what is referred to in Genesis 1 cannot be substantiated by the context. Even Christians are not as faithful as they ought to be in taking dominion for Christ the Lord. Does this mean in a Christian’s life he wavers from being the image of God and not being the image of God? Scripturally and Confessionally, this cannot be so. Man is the image of God; he is not, as some have put it “imaging God” as if the image of God in man is something man does.(2) It is who he is. As Dr. Robert Reymond writes,

“[I]t is because man is God’s image that God bestows dominion over the earth upon him”.

Gordon Clark says something along the same lines,

“The image of God is not something man has, somewhere inside of him, or somewhere on the surface, as if God had first created man and then stamped him with a signet ring. No, the image is not something man has, man is the image. First Corinthians 11:7 pointedly says “He [man] is the image and glory of God.” (4)

“[And since man is the image] the image must in some way or other be a permanent characteristic of personality.” (5)

One reason adduced in the Scripture for the immorality of killing an innocent person is man is the image of God (see Gen 9:6). This was stated after the fall.  Note too that this bears upon those who assert that the image of God is an activity of man (“imaging God”) rather than something man is. The full significance of all this will be elaborated on later. However, the conclusion from what has been presented is clear: Dominion in righteousness is not the image of God. Dominion is given to man as a result of his being the image of God, just like language, but it is not what constitutes that image. This does not alter the significance of dominion under God but this just means that this will not be discussed at this point. Dominion in righteousness is an application of the image of God in man, but is not the image. Next we shall come to the fourth view.

(1) See www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v4/i1/man.asp for an example of this view.

(2) See Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, page 449. The logical implication of Rushdoony’s position is that after the fall man ceases to be the image of God. The reformed view is that the image of God in man has been marred, not eradicated.

(3) See Stewart, The image of God in man: A Reformed Reassessment: http://www.cprf.co.uk/articles/imageofgod.htm

(4) Clark, The Biblical doctrine of man, pg. 9

(5) Ibid. pg. 8


Is Free-will the Image of God? (Part 2)

The blue M&M or the red M&M?

The introduction gave us the biblical foundation for the discussion of the image of God. Before going into the view that sees free-will as the image of God, I would like to stress one thing. When we speak on the “image of God”, we are not going to be emphasizing the creature-Creator distinction. This is not to say that this is disregarded, for it is, in truth, an essential doctrine. But the very nature of the discussion is drawing our attention to the creature-Creator connection. We are wanting to know in what sense man is created in the “likeness of God”.

Can free-will be the image of God? It is a common conception, especially of those in

Pelagians are adherrents to the basic view of Pelagius, a British monk who lived in the 4th century. He is infamously known for his denial of the doctrine of original sin and his assertions of the basic goodness of man.

the semi-Palagian and Palagian (1) camps, that the creature-Creator connection is the free-will of man. As God has free-will, so God has given to man this characteristic. It it free-will that makes man superior to the beast. It is free-will that is the key to man’s destiny; whether he will choose good and blessedness, or choose evil and the consequent judgments. This notion of free-will being the image of God in man, however, has a few internal difficulties as well as a lack of Biblical support. Those who are of a Pelagian bent tend to see the image of God as constituting free-will to support their already assumed theodicy. The argument seems to be more an assumption than something arrived at through investigation of Biblical texts. It is posed in this manner, “God has free-will and man has free-will. Therefore, free-will is the image of God”. But this simply begs the question.

Besides begging the question, this view has some internal inconsistencies. The most obvious internal inconsistency is if God has free-will, man cannot also have free-will given the meaning of “freedom” to begin with. Those who hold that God, in His freedom, made a being who in turn thwarts the free-will of God, is, to say the least, problematic. Does God give up His freedom to give man free-will? To suppose He does, for the sake of argument, only demonstrates this cannot possibly be the image of God since God Himself ends up losing the attribute of free-will. And how, then, could man be said to be created in the likeness of God? As theologian and philosopher Gordon Clark says in relation to this, “[I]f man were free, God could not confront him imperiously, from which Feuerbach had already deduced atheism, and modernism had deified man.” (2)

The point is simple: If man has free-will to frustrate God in His purposes, man’s will- not God’s will –  is established. Man’s will, then, is ultimate, not God’s. And from this proposition atheism has flourished, and from it likewise man has been seen as his own god determining for himself good and evil.

The second problem is the ambiguity of the word “free-will”. If it means the ability to choose between two incompatible courses of action then the above refutation stands. If it means freedom to act outside of one’s nature then not even God has that freedom. God cannot lie, cannot become weak, and cannot speak in contradictory propositions. Man, by his constitution after the fall cannot will to do something that is outside if his natural bent. Man before and after the fall was determined by his nature. The difference now is that since the fall, man has become corrupted in all his faculties so he is free only to do that which is evil. Man is said to be “born in sin” (Ps. 51:5) and speaking lies as soon as he is born (Ps. 58:3)

The above establishes this conclusion: Free-will is not the image of God in man. It must be sought elsewhere. The next one that shall be examined is “Language and Creativity”: Is it the image of God?

(1) The works of Gordon Clark, vol. IV, page 309

The Biblical doctrine of the Image of God (part 1.)

Introduction: Scriptural legwork for the doctrine

The doctrine of the imago dei, or the image of God in man, has many Scripture texts to give a sound foundation as a

It is tempting to compare the doctrine of the image of God to a mirror. That is, that we mirror God, as it were. But we must be careful to be sure that we understand the doctrine according to Scriptural usage, not preconceived notions

matter doctrine  and application. We first hear of God creating man in His image in Genesis 1:27,

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them”.

And in chapter 2 and v.7,

“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Another passage in the book of Job touches upon this subject when it says,

“But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. (Job 32:8).

From the New Testament we have Colossians 3:10, 1 Corinthians 11a and James 3:9:

“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:”

“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God.”

“Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.”

That man was created in the image of God is not much disputed, at least not among Christians. The question we must ask is what is the image of God? And was the image of God in man lost? It might be prudent to start with a few different views that have been espoused by various theologians to narrow down what the image of God in man is. The five views we will consider are:

1. Free-will is the image of God in man

2. Language and creativity are the image of God in man

3. Dominion in righteousness are the image of God in man

4. The persons in the Godhead and the three part nature of man constitute the image of God.

5. Knowledge and rationality are the image of God.

Not all of these views put a hard fast rule as to what the image of God in man is. Some extend their list to many different things. There is also a view holding man in body and in soul is the image of God (Monalism). Nevertheless, that even some of these can be the part of the image of God in man, I think quite untenable. It is the purpose of this author to delineate what the image of God is and what the implications of that image are. In the next post, I will seek to answer the first view, namely, is free-will the image of God in man?