Christian knows the earliest verses in the Bible. The Book of Genesis proclaims powerfully, that man was created in the image of God. We are also told that Man was created so that he could hold "dominion" over all of other God's creation. Yet, soon after, there was the Fall. And God cast Man out of the Garden of Eden to suffer on earth burdened by the pains of the Original Sin. Through Christ's advent and resurrection, we are informed that Christ was also the image of God and also in the image of Man; and, that we have a way out from our sinful ways. The doctrine of the Image of God emerges as a powerful mandate for good Christian Living. The rewards are eternal salvation and the restoration to how we were originally created. As the book of Revelations relates, the consequences of not doing so would consign one to hell. The consequences of eternal damnation are indeed difficult to imagine.
Two instances in the evolution of Christian theological thought arise when the idea of the image of God is raised. The first chapter in the Book of Genesis portrays the beginnings of the Universe. After the heavens and the earth were created with its myriad flora and fauna, God created Man to enjoy ascendancy over all other living things. The twenty-seventh verse talks about how God created man in his own image. Most children, when asked about what they think about God, imagine God to be a towering old father figure that wears long robes and is surrounded by a dazzling glow. But beneath the divine accoutrements, the portrayal is of a man. This means that to see the face of God, we need to see the face of Man. The creationist vs. The evolutionist bone (one of many) contention is that to have arrived at our present state from apes and other lesser animals is anathema. The creationists believe that we are created in the image of God: that in every man is a slice of God that is not to be sullied with lesser creatures.
At Christmastime, the gospel reading evokes the saying (to paraphrase): God created man (by this the presumption is the birth and advent of Christ), so that, one day Man might become God. Several years ago, Martin Scorsese made a movie based on Nikos Kazantzakis' novel "The last temptation of Christ." (Kazantzakis, 1960) The movie opened to critical acclaim. But in a sense, this movie also challenged the basic foundation of Christianity. The movie was banned in several countries. This is because it portrayed Christ as -- a mere mortal -- with all of man's itinerant doubts and temptations. A different perspective could be offered as to this image of God in Christ. When God sent Christ into this world he also sends Christ in his own image. God however, gave Christ not only the outward appearances but also the mental and emotional characteristics of man. This meant that Christ could be tempted -- even sexually -- and even (perhaps) fall for this temptation. The biggest temptation of course, and this might not have been obvious, was giving up the idea that he was truly the Messiah. In this, he had a lot of help from Satan. Jesus, while on the cross, was told that all his sacrifices were in vain. Kazantzakis does not show that Christ was not the Son of God. Quite the contrary. But he does show Christ possessing all the fallacies of man. This thesis, effectively portrayed by Scorsese, flew in the face of all the teachings of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and even the Acts of the Apostles. All these books had hitherto portrayed Christ as the having the form of man, but in all other respects triumphing over every human failing. This aspect of a different image of God in and through Man challenged Christian eschatology.
This essay will skirt through the differences between men and women. It will refer to Man as being human. The question that arises is, if Man were created in the image of God, then is God tainted? This is where one needs to separate the instance of God's creation of Man and Man's subsequent Fall from Grace. Clearly, two passages in Genesis (5:2 and 9:6) support the fact that men and women continued in the image and likeness of God even the Fall had occurred. Several millennia later Christ's apostles confirmed this basic biblical teaching: To be a human being is to have been created in the image and likeness of God. In writing to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11:7) Paul confirmed this. He scolded that we ought not to cover our heads in shame since we are a true representative of the image and Glory of God.
James (3:9) echoes Paul when he unequivocally states, "with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God." Even while castigating man, James does not allow us to forget whom we represent. In not separating men and women, in the same chapter Paul clarifies this divide (1 Cor. 11:12) by averring that even though man was created by God and women came from man, the image was passed on equitably. The Fall is not a reflection of God. It is more in keeping with the freedom of choice engendered to Man. Man of his own volition has been falling into temptation and adds further taint to the pristine image of God.
The idea of the image of God with respect to the Fall and the character of Man took a back seat in the face of Puritan thought and Protestantism during the Great Awakening. (Wigglesworth & Bosco, 1989) Times have evolved since then and there is a resurgence of the idea that Man is indeed created in the image of God.
Consider the cyclical nature of the idea of the man being created in the Image of God. (Baker, 1991) God created man in a position of a super creature in his own image. Man sinned and has been tainted ever since. In sinning, Man was also cast out from the heavens and the Garden of Eden destined to live and die on a despoiled earth, which was also God's creation. When Christ came on Earth, he was a representative of God on Earth but he also carried certain failings. Even if the Gospels' teachings our cemented into the Christian psyche, we still know that Christ's noble failing in the Garden of Gethsemane where the apprehension of what was to befall him overwhelmed him temporarily and he asked that "the cup be taken from him" even while he reconciled that this was what God wanted. Christ recognized his role in the cyclical nature of the relationship between the image of God and Man and he asked that his suffering cease only if it were the Will of God. The reason for Christ's advent and then subsequent death and resurrection is an important spoke in this cycle.
The redemptive nature of Christianity is that it is designed to remove the taint of original sin and restore Man to the image in which he (she) was created. Consider Paul preaching this idea to the Colossians in Chapter 1 v. 15-23. He identifies Christ's place in restoring Man back to the original image of God. Paul reminds the Colossians that Christ was the image of the invisible God sent as a reminder to Man as to what he had to look forward.
Paul also tells the Romans that God created Christ in his own image in order to reestablish fellowship of Christianity, and in so doing, create a conduit that would allow Man to one day "truly become God." The apostles and the evangelists took great pains to steer the Early Christians in the path that Christ has established during his ministry. They taught, cajoled and even threatened to get their message across. Reminding people that they were truly created in the image of God was one of the ways in which they could conduct their ministries. Indeed, one might surmise that Christian eschatology is about Man attempting to become God through the example of Jesus Christ. In the second set of missives to the Corinthians, Paul wrote that for people to see that we were indeed in the image of God their minds had to be free of misgivings and other impediments to faith. Paul told the Corinthians that the Glory of God and the Image of God was there for all to see (if they only opened their eyes) through the image of Christ. These teachings of the evangelists also tell people that they should look into themselves and see the goodness that could only come from the Glory of God.
The doctrine of the image of God is there for a reason. It is for Man to reconcile with the concept that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. The Revelations…