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 I studied Church Dogmatics over the summer and answered questions put by my teacher on different subjects important to theology. This is the eleventh of a series of post I will publish from these studies and writings.


Imago Dei

“Let us make mankind in our image, according to our likeness.” Gen 1:26

That humans are made in the image of God doesn’t mean that God is a human (Henriksen 1994:77). Reading the account of creation the book of Genesis puts before us, we can understand that humanity is created in the image of God in a sense that establishes its superiority to the rest of creation and puts it in charge of it as care-takers. Henriksen (partly in line with Athanasius (McGrath 2011:349)) interprets this as meaning that the image and likeness lie in relationships: humanity’s relationship to God, to each other and to the rest of creation. Thus man and creation are living symbiotically of sorts so that one cannot exist without the other and none can exist without God (Henriksen 1994:111ff).

There has been a debate whether the image of God remained in man after the fall, but according to the Bible it does, at least in some way (Henriksen 1994:111). Tertullian made a distinction between the image, which remained after the fall, and the likeness, which now needs to be re-established through Christ (McGrath 2011:349). Luther presents this a little differently by, as far as I can see, proposing that the imago Dei was there in man before the fall and after redemption through Christ, but not during the time in between (Althaus 1966:10). Luther holds that the only thing in man that corresponds to God’s nature is his faith (Althaus 1966:127).  Perhaps one can make a connection between Luther’s strong emphasis on the First and Second Commandment (Althaus 1966:130ff) and man as imago Dei since the importance of the Second, “love your neighbor as yourself”, is drawn from the First, “love your God”, i.e. love your neighbor who is made in the image of the God you shall love. Being made in the image of God thus also makes every human being inviolable (Henriksen 1994:117).

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Althaus, Paul. The Theology of Martin Luther, Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1966.
Henriksen, Jan-Olav. Guds virkelighet: Kristen dogmatikk (God’s Reality: Christian Dogmatics), Oslo: Luther Forlag 1994.
McGrath, Alister E. Christian Theology – An Introduction, Oxford: Blackwell 2011.

Please stay tuned for subsequent parts!