The Imago Dei, Latin for “image of God,” is crucial for our understanding of who we are as the direct creation of God. Here are ten things to guide our thinking.
1. Embodied Imago Dei
We read in Genesis 1:26 of God’s determination to create man “in our image (tselem), after our likeness (demut).” Theologians typically have tried to identify one particular element or characteristic feature in humanity that embodies or constitutes the imago dei.
2. Uniquely Made
If both humans and animals are created by God, yet the former bear his image and the latter do not, perhaps the image of God consists in some particular feature of a human not found in any animal. In other words, the image is something we possess, some property or properties uniquely characteristic of humans.
3. Capacity and Accountability
Some have distinguished between the “image” and “likeness” of God in man, the former consisting of our capacity for reason and choice, the latter of our moral and spiritual accountability to God. Irenaeus (135-205) is representative of this view (he argued that in the fall the likeness was lost, to be regained in redemption, but the image remained).
4. A Triune Nature
Thomas Aquinas focused on man’s reason, Calvin on the soul (i.e., the mind and heart), and Augustine on the mental capacities of memory, understanding, and will. Augustine argued that since man’s reason or mind is his preeminent or most important feature that we should likely find in it a reflection of God, hence his triadic model which he believed mirrored the triune nature of God.