Humanity In God’s Image: Is The Image Really Damaged? -- By: John F. Kilner

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 53:3 (Sep 2010)
Article: Humanity In God’s Image: Is The Image Really Damaged?
Author: John F. Kilner


Humanity In God’s Image: Is The Image Really Damaged?

John F. Kilner

John F. Kilner holds the Forman Chair of Ethics and Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and serves as Senior Scholar for The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, both at 2065 Half Day Road, Deerfield, IL 60015. This paper was originally presented as a plenary address at the national ETS meeting in New Orleans on November 19, 2009.

When God created humanity, according to the biblical authors, humanity was given the special status of being “in the image of God” (Gen 1:26-27).1 Those who are a part of this humanity were not to be killed or abused precisely because of this image.2

Not surprisingly, the implications of this concept in human history have been enormous. It has had great influence on Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike.3 According to one analysis, it “has been the primary influence in the world to maintain the value and dignity of human beings.”4 The image of God is today being heralded as “the necessary bridging concept” for understanding

biblical theology and ethics.5 Clarifying how that works is “crucial”6 in light of the huge importance and ongoing influence of this concept.7

Against this backdrop, a vital and controversial question warrants careful consideration. Does the image still exist, work, or manifest itself in humanity today—or has it been lost or at least been significantly damaged? Nothing less than the foundation and motivation for the church’s protection of human life and dignity is at stake.

Many biblical and theological scholars, clergy, and others maintain that the image has indeed been lost or damaged.8 Some argue that the image is completely lost.9 Others suggest that the image is virtually lost.10 A third

group contends that the image is partly lost.11 And still others insist that at least the appearance of the image (unavoidably an ...

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