Imaged Through The Lens Darkly: Human Personhood And The Sciences -- By: V. Elving Anderson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 33:2 (Jun 1990)
Article: Imaged Through The Lens Darkly: Human Personhood And The Sciences
Author: V. Elving Anderson

Imaged Through The Lens Darkly:
Human Personhood And The Sciences

V. Elving Anderson

Bruce R. Reichenbach*

In very different senses there both is and is not an imago Dei. Scripture affirms that from our very beginning we were destined to bear the impress of the Creator. God made us in his image. Yet for us there is not one image of God but rather images of God, for in refracted ways humans grasp that image. Our understandings of the imago Dei result from our interpretations of the diversity of data confronting us. As we shall see, these data include more than the brief claims found in Genesis and the NT.

In what follows we will note the ambiguity of the Biblical concept of the imago Dei, reflect on the reasons for the diversity of interpretations, and then explore how recent developments in science and technology—especially the biological sciences and biotechnology—help us to further understand the human who is created in God’s image and to stretch and challenge traditional concepts of that very image.

I. The Imago Dei In Scripture

What can be said about the concept of the imago Dei in Scripture? Not only is the concept rarely used—in three passages in Genesis and in four in the NT1 —but its meaning is never fully explicated in the texts.

In Gen 1:26–27; 5:1–2 the image is introduced parallel to human maleness and femaleness. God created humans male and female, granting them sexual identity, differentiatedness, and relatedness. But it would seem that, employed in this manner, the image must extend beyond (though including2 ) the physical, for animals too are created male and female. Does it suggest the rooting of human sexuality in a way different from the rest of creation?

* V. Elving Anderson is professor of genetics and cell biology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Bruce Reichenbach is professor of philosophy at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In Gen 9:6 the term does not invoke human sexuality but assumes moral dimensions. Possession of the image means that human life is sacred. To kill a human is to forfeit one’s own life, for the denial of another’s image is a denial of one’s own. This value emphasis is reiterated in Jas 3:9, where to curse persons is to fail to properly recognize the image of God in them.


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