Thursday, May 01, 2008

What is the Imago Dei?

What is the Imago Dei? Perhaps one of my readers has done some good reading on the subject. Here are some candidates I can recall from past reading:

(1) Reason
(2) The ability to commune with God
(3) Relationality (the ability to form meaningful relationships with others)
(4) Creativity

Whatever the imago is, does it follow that the goal for a human life ought to be the realization of it? That is, if the imago is our rational capacity, should the (primary) goal of life be to maximize and exercise this capacity?

If the imago is (1), (2) or (4), then an odd consequence seems to follow. If a person were given the opportunity to study, pray or create on a desert island, with all of his physical needs met and yet in complete isolation from other humans, should he accept such an opportunity? (Also assume that his activities on the island will never benefit any other human.) The answer seems to be 'yes. ' But can a flourishing human life really be lived in isolation?

Jesus is clear that the two-fold directive of human life is to love God and love our neighbor. Can the second of these be taken to mean (A) "love your neighbors, IF you have any?" Or does it mean, (B) "seek out other human beings to love." If it could be construed as (A), then the desert island existence is a viable alternative for the Christian. However, if (B) is the meaning, then voluntary isolation is disobedience, assuming that what you do on the island will never benefit anyone else.

But if the imago is (3), then clearly we cannot flourish as human beings and actualize our design in isolation. Is this grounds for thinking that (3) is the correct conception of the imago?

3 Comments:

Anonymous Curtis said...

I can't say I've done much reading on the subject, but I think you can boil the Imago Dei to simply the character traits of God. And, yes, it does follow that we should devote our entire lives to the realization of the Imago Dei in our lives. But just as we can categorize God's traits into many areas (including 1-4 on your blog), so can we the aspects of this Imago Dei. This is why the life of a Christian is to be transformed into the likeness of Christ.

That's my input.

6:09 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Curtis,
I do remember this view from readings (that the imago is simply the character of God). Of course, I remember there being an important distinction between the "communicable" and "incommunicable" attributes of God. We can become more like God only with respect to the former. I.e., we can become like God in his goodness, his holiness, his love, his mercy, his justice, etc. But we cannot become like God with respect to his omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, sovereignty, etc. So, I suppose you are saying that the Imago is just the sum of God's communicable attributes? Is this limited to his moral qualities (goodness, love, justice) or others -- relationality, creativity? I would hope the imago would be more than merely moral.

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Curtis said...

Chris,
I agree with the communicable and incommunicable trait distinction. I thought of this when writing my post, but left it out to keep the post simple (an effort to not make a long winded post as I'm prone to do).

I would suggest that the Imago Dei is the collection of God's "communicable" traits worked in us. This includes all attributes, including moral, relational, creative, etc.

On another note, might I suggest that some of His so called "incommunicable" traits may be communicable to extent. For example, we have a dose of sovereignty in free will. We have a dose of omniscience in wisdom and knowledge. We have been given a dose of omnipotence through the Holy Spirit (e.g. ability for prayer to affect situations).

10:29 PM  

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