Bruce Demarest and Gordon Lewis present the imago dei as the apex of the created order, the crescendo to God’s creative activity; and they state that “the most important matter in Christian anthropology concerns the meaning of the proposition that God created the human person in his own image and likeness.” Those belonging to the human race are different and separate from the rest of creation because in making human being, God endowed each with “special dignity and honor.” This distinct standing comes by “by virtue of [the] ontological status as [bearing] God’s image,” because “the person is divinely entrusted with the special function of dominion-having.” Therefore, a primary facet of the imago, according to Demarest and Lewis, is the authority given to human being in relation to creation. Demarest and Lewis suggest another key component of the imago dei is relationship; the premise for this is the fact that God created male and female because it was not good for man to be alone. Demarest and Lewis refer to the Triune nature of God, through the Father, Son, and Spirit in continual, perfect relationship with each other, as the basis for this presumption. However, the most significant characteristic which evidences the imago dei, Demarest and Lewis propose, is not only that a human being resembles God in a metaphysical, intellectual, moral, emotional, volitional, and relational sense, but that human being is the only creature created as having a soul. Demarest and Lewis find the creation narrative in Genesis 2 to be most telling on this point. Scripture speaks of God breathing life into Adam, which is assumed to represent the origin of the human soul.
This assumption, however, leads to what theologians call “traducianism,” which refers to a quasi-Augustinian theory that only Adam was given a soul by God, and therefore every soul after is an offspring of the original, implanted only in male. However, when examining the Hebrew text of Genesis 2, one finds that the adjective ḥay-yîm; [of life/living/alive] has 85 occurrences in the Old Testament. Most often it carries with it the meaning of being alive or living; however, it is also used to refer to running or flowing water [which is highlights why Jesus refers to himself as the “living water” in the exchange with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well – harkening all the way back to the creation narrative!]. These usages negate the possibility that this word speaks of the human soul, as in all other occurrences it refers to an existential state of being alive. Thus we look at the word niš-maṯ [breath/spirit] which is definitively more specialized, occurring only four times total in the Old Testament. Of the four times it is used specifically, once it refers to the breath of life in humans, once to the breath of God, once as the spirit of human, and once to the breath of life in every living thing. The extremely small number of times this particular word is used, with a different object each time, means that we cannot normalize it’s usage to reference the human soul, as each time it occurs, it refers to something different. Thus we cannot prove with the text that the breath that God breathed into Adam’s nostrils is the originating soul from which all others were derived. Which means that even in the creation narrative we cannot find reason to separate out male and female into hierarchical categories. Because
God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;This is why so many find the imago dei as one of the most redeeming qualities in scripture. It gives women equal standing with men because they each carry within themselves the very image of the God who created them. It is why Paul could assert to the Galatians that
male and female he created them.
male and female he created them.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
In the imago dei, and through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, all men and women, all races, all humans are ontological and existentially equal.With all the nuanced minutia of differences in the theologies of Lewis/Demarest and Dunning, the common theme is that the imago dei is the apex of creation, expressing itself in the human soul. That humans are created in the image of God is paramount to understanding what it means to be human. This theology, and one’s orientation thereto, directly influences many critical issues in the world today. Abortion, the willful destruction of human life, marketed as the elimination of a cluster of microscopic cells becomes bearable, if human being is not ontologically different from virus-causing microbes. Slavery, particularly sex slavery involving young children, is conceivable if human being is not separate from chattel. When the truth that every human being is made in the image of Almighty God becomes obscured or is forgotten, these issues are tolerable, even palatable in pursuit of a nihilist utopia. Thus the doctrine of imago dei is paramount for the care of people, the very created beings for whom God sent and sacrificed his only Son.
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Why Theology? | How do we do this? | What are attributes? | What's Omnipresence? | What's Transcendence? | What's Revelation? | Is Scripture Inerrant? | Jesus as the Revelation of God | How do God and humans relate?
 Dunning, H. Ray. Grace, Faith, and Holiness: A Wesleyan Systematic Theology. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1988. Page 154.
 Ibid., page 155.
 Demarest, Bruce and Gordon Lewis. Integrated Theology: Knowing the Ultimate Reality of the Living God. vols 1 & 2. Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1987. Volume 2, page 123.
 Ibid., page 124.
 Ibid., page 135.
 Ibid., page 134.