Re: Ape talk

George Murphy (
Wed, 04 Mar 1998 08:19:54 -0500

Charles Cairns wrote:
> Hi George,
> You wrote re: the image of God:
> > Let me suggest again that an understanding of the image of God
> >is not best gotten at by talking about Adam & Eve (even if they were
> >historical figures, we know virtually nothing about them) or the
> >restoration of the image through Christ (true as that is). Rather, we
> >should begin with belief that Christ IS the image of God - not only the
> >pre-incarnate 2d Person of the Trinity ("unfleshed logos") but the
> >_incarnate_ Word, Jesus of Nazareth. That is the one to whom we have to
> >look to see not only who restores genuine humanity but what genuine
> >humanity IS.
> Very well put, George. However, if Christ *is* the image of God, to what is
> Genesis referring? That man was imbued with Christ-likeness at creation? And
> if so, what was it in Adam's nature that displayed this quality?

An adequate answer to this requires (at least) 2 parts:
1) In _On the Incarnation_ Athansius argues that the image of
God in humanity was a special participation in the divine Logos,
which is both "word" and reason". Thus humanity was distinguished by
being rational ("logical", _logikos_,) and having the ability to
communicate - including being able to "hear" God. Sin (which for
A was a turning away from the path God intended for humanity rather than
an abrupt fall from perfection) means a gradual loss of these abilities,
so that humanity would fade out of existence. The Incarnation is - in
A's beautiful image - God sitting for his portrait to restore the image.
This idea has the advantage of connecting strongly with what we
understand scientifically to be the distinguishing feature of humanity,
& also makes it possible to see the ability to be God's representatives
in creation - which is what Gen.1:26-28 seems to mean by image - as a
consequence of human rationality. By itself it has the disadvantages
a. it's at best an inference from scripture, and
b. being created in the image of God refers to the
pre-incarnate Logos.
2) The distinguishing feature of Jesus' humanity is his
complete trust in and obedience to the Father. In fact, it can be
argued (e.g., Pannenberg) that it is this absolute trust & obedience
which mark him as the Son of the Father. Restoration of this image
would then be an undoing of original sin, which the Augsburg Confession
defines as being "without true fear of God and faith in God".
2) seems to me fundamental in defining the image as involving a
relationship with God, & 1) then tells us qualities humanity is to
possess because of that relationship.
I think this set of ideas can be made coherent with an
evolutionary understanding of humanity, but right now would be
speculating to get into that more deeply.

George L. Murphy