– engaging mind & culture

Imago Dei- Interaction w/ Grenz’s “The Social God and the Relational Self”

The Hebrew Term, selem, the first of two terms whose meanings must be understood in order to have a correct understanding of the imago dei, appears seventeen times in the OT and means “image.” Selem has a sense of concreteness (physical representations or natural objects) as well as abstractness (being likened to a shadow) and is argued that its basic meaning is that of “representation.” Werner Schmidt writes that “just as a shadow images an object, so also the image it forms reproduces the thing it depists; it facilitates the objects reappearance” (186).

The second of the two Hebrew terms connected with the imago dei is demut, and carries the meaning of “likeness” or “resemblance.” Recent scholars almost unanimously argue that demut and selem are basically synonymous terms with only slight distinction but they debate the reason for inclusion of both terms in the first creation narrative. THose who argue that the inclusion of both words has theological significance as opposed to being merely interchangable give several reasons for the inclusion of demut, such as “obviating the danger of surmising from selem too close a connection between created humankind and the divine Creator and to explain and add preceision to selem by indicating that the created image is to correspond to the original by resembling it” (187).

The most widely held view concerning the image of God is that entailing a similarity between God and humankind. The focus of the similarity is on the resemblance of God in humanity where a human includes “the person as a whole, encoompassing, not separating, the physical and spiritual aspects” (194). The similarity is like a son resembling his father, and includes the ability to relate as an ontological capacity.

The image of God as a counterpart makes the concept of relationship between God and man more that an ontological capacity. claus Westermann esplains that “the relationship to god is not something which is added to human existence; humans are created in such a way that their very existence is intended to be their relationship to God” (196). The focus of the image of God is not on a human ontological ability to relate but on “the nature of the act of creation which enables an event to take place between God and humans” (196).

The understanding of the image of God as dominion refers to the connection between the divine image and human dominion or rulership over creation. In this view the concept of the imago dei serves “to validate and explains the special status and role of adam among the creatures” (196). However, it is argued that the image does not in essence include dominion over creatures, but rather is a consequence of the divine image (197).

A similar understanding of the imago dei to that of the dominion is that of representation. This concept looks at humans as God representatives on earth. It also refers to the imago dei as the “instrument of the self-manifestation of the reality that it represents,” meaning that humans mediate within creation the immanence of their traanscendant Creator (199).

The imago dei is connected to the divine glory by Paul in 1 Cor 11:7. There are slight differences in meaning between kabod in the Hebrew which refers to the honor intended for God as sovereign ruler and doxa in the greek which referes to the divine radiance, the loftiness and majestty of God, and even the beign of God and His world. However, doxa can mean reflection and is similar in meaning to eikon, which means image, thus the concepts of the imago dei and glory are interconnected. (206)

Grenz’s view of the image of God is an attempt to understand this concept from a perspective that includes both OT and NT factors. He does not limit the image of God, in like manner with the NT writers, to that of universal presence in humankind, but rather sees the divine image as Jesus Chrsit. He does not negate the different aspects of the imatge in humans as discussed above but emphasizes that though all human have the imago dei, it is the believing community who shares in a new Christocentric anthropology, because he is the imago dei. He sees the thougth of the image of God in man being replaced be the thought of Chrsit as the divine image, the perfect man, the visible representation of God. Jesus is the glory of God and to understand the concept of imago dei we must look to Jesus Christ, thee imago dei.

Grenz’s view concerning the image of God is fascinating. It helps remionids me that any understanding of my self or what I “ought” to be like should be found in the person of Jesus Christ. He is a perfect man and He is the image that I should seek to imitate. Though all of humanity is an image and likeness of God in some way, whether ontological or functional, not all of humanity is in Christ. Therefore, as a believer, I must continually see the image of God from a Christocentric perspective and thus seek to conform my image to the of Christ’s image.



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