4 Modes of Imago Dei

Though all of humanity bears the image of God (James 3:9), it is not full and perfect due to sin (Rom 3:23). The image of God in man consists of similarity to God and is a representation of Him (Dan 3; Luke 20). We represent God in basically four different modes.

First, we represent God functionally through activities such as ruling over creation (Gen 1:28) and acting out similar capacities.

Second, we represent God relationally through community interaction. According to Christos Yannaras “What constitutes man as an hypostasis (person), what gives him an ego and identity is his relationship with God…[The One] who calls into existence what does not exist (Rom. 4:17), establishing and founding the personal otherness of man. The potential of man, then, is to be opposed to the “other” in relationship and thus know himself as a distinct entity. A man can only know that he exists because he can turn his face toward the other. Indeed the word “prosopon” which is the greek word for face or person communicates this truth. It derives from the prefix “pros” (to, toward) and “opos” (look, eye, or face). Man is therefore a personal created nature in relationship to God and to other created things. The personal existence in relationship to the “other”, rather, the fact of being (in the active sense) a human person is one aspect of what is often referred to as the image of God.

Third, humans can represent God in purpose by being conformed into the full and perfect Image of God- Jesus Christ (Col 3:10; 2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15; Rom 8:29; 1 Cor 15:49; 2 Cor 3:18).

Finally, humans are similar to God having capacities such as talking, choosing, and thinking. The image of God in man is thus understood primarily in substantive terms. According to theologian Millard Erickson, “the image is something in the very nature of humans, in the way in which they were made. It refers to something a human “is” rather than something a human “has” or “does.” By virtue of being human, one is in the image of God.” If man was created as a personal existence in God’s image, then he has the capacity for personality, e.g. relationship, thinking and reflecting, and willing freely.

More on humanity to come in future posts- Lord willing!

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