Made In Likeness, Image Of God: Imago Dei Doctrine

Those familiar with their Catholic school upbringing are familiar with the concept of ‘divine image’ that is found in Genesis.  Most teachers can’t sufficiently explicate how one is to recognize such an image, for most instructors have not studied patristics ‘The Church Fathers’, bishops in antiquity.

Cyril of Alexandria (last names are cities until the modern age, that is 1500 A.D.) has provided insight into the content of this ‘image of God.’  For those without a Catholic upbringing, let me give a brief synopsis:  every human being is made in the likeness and image of God, this is explicitly given in Genesis.  The Incarnation is required for such a reality to become recognizable.  For Cyril of Alexandria, being made in the ‘Image and Likeness of God’ is identifiable with the following content:  Reason, Freedom, Dominion (ancient term for authority), Holiness, Incorruptibility and Sonship (adopted into Christ by baptism so we are acceptable to the Father.)

What does all this mean?

The act of choosing is not the final lasting category whereby an individual demonstrates his/her ‘image/likeness of God’.  It is the ability to recognize and choose ‘the good’, this is the philosophical category of properly managing relations; the Church Fathers did not talk about objects so much a proper relations.  ‘The Good’ is articulated/demonstrated loving prudence in action.

Despite sin, the human person remains good, but we have not preserved the original unreserved response to grace, this is original sin.  The Incarnation and Good Friday, restored the unshackled power to do what is good.  This is Christian liberty!  This was the reality that brought down the Roman Empire; a new better competing vision of humanness.  The continued presence of the Holy Spirit provides us with the means to maintain our connection, our relation to God:  what was lost in the Garden of Eden is now restored!

About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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32 Responses to Made In Likeness, Image Of God: Imago Dei Doctrine

  1. Ya might want to read (or perhaps re-read?) Tertullian, Augustine and even Aquinas, as to the nature of man and Original Sin?

  2. Yes, given there is no monolithic approach to catholicity within the Church Fathers themselves, especially the Greek Fathers who truly dominated the theology scene for so long. I’m always surprised to how difficult Augustine is in citing anybody Greek lol. But yes, for such a short post and I gave, the plurality is there.

  3. The mystery of man’s evil, and also his required responsibility before God is profound! But in theology, GOD is always first!

  4. Yes, God is always first! This is a profound reality that can only be experienced sacramentally! Oh, by the way, welcome back to the true Church, I think Ratzinger’s success with Anglicans, especially in Africa is astonishing.

  5. Willam,

    Peace! But I am a Low Church Anglican, and certain Evangelical priest/presbyter. And both Catholic & Reformed. I was however born and raised Roman Catholic in Dublin Ireland. I am not negative toward Catholicism, but I cannot follow the papal doctrines. And I have read many of Ratzinger’s books, etc. For me as a Low Church Anglican, and within the Thirty-Nine Articles, the “sacramental” is both ‘Word & Sacrament’.

    Fr. Robert
    D. Phil., Th.D.

  6. Steve says:

    As someone once said:

    The East was not influenced by Augustine: its anthropology is different from that of the West.

    The East was not influenced by Anselm: its soteriology is different from that of the West.

    The East was not incluenced by Aquinas: its methodology is different from that of the West.

  7. @Steve,

    Sadly, that is one of the problems with Eastern biblical/theological authority… Someone once said? Note, even Barth’s criticism theocentricly of the East.

  8. I couldn’t have said it better myself lol. Yes, you’re right in your stated contrast. I’ve always been indebted to John Zizoulas and friends from the East. How could I ever have matured theologically without crediting the Greek Fathers.
    As always, I am deeply appreciative of other scholars who take the time to read this blog and comment. Thanks for your time.

  9. I will soon (sometime this summer) make a post on the theological differences between the East and West. Funny thing how such differences didn’t hinder the greatness of the Greek Church Fathers lol. It’s always a blast to see how synoptic the Greeks and Russians are. As for Barth, lol, please don’t get me started lol. His tome on Romans is still hot off the shelf! Peace.

  10. Yes, personally, I always turn back to Tertullian, and his paradox and antitesis in God… ‘the two attributes of goodness and justice together make up the proper fullness of the divine being as omnipotent’ (Marc. 2.29.1)

  11. As the Irish say (sorry, Celts I mean lol) ’tis a shame’; referring to Tertullian who never quite made the list for the Western Church, but yes, ‘the flesh is the hinge of salvation’ I’m sure with your credentials you remember who said that lol.
    I never really go to Tertullian for much theological reflection, his stoic influences are philosophically formidable but like Origen, somethings a miss. . .

  12. @William
    You might want to check out Eric Osborn’s book: Tertullian, first theologian of the West. It is out in paperback now (Cambridge). This is a profound reappraisal of both Tertullian, and the Western tradition! Great work!

  13. Thanks, I will read it if its short lol. Got plenty to read now. But yes if you say its good I will tackle it. Thanks.

  14. @W’m,
    It’s only 285 pages. Last time I checked Osborn was Professor Emeritus at Queens College, University of Mebourne, and also at La Trobe. But this book, is classic in my opinion. Just for his work on the Trinity of God, Tertullian should be read more!

  15. Well its about time the Australians had something to say theologically lol. I will read it immediately if its only 285 pages. By the way, for a stoic steeped in Latin to wrestle with dynamic trinitarian theology has got to be worth the read. I was always fascinated with latin limitations regarding their ability to grasp dynamic part of orthodox theology that came so easily to the Greek, Slavic Fathers. Modern and contemporary theologians don’t have nearly the steep uphill climb the Latin Fathers had with such limited act/potency terminology. Certainly the Greek Fathers are really the ones gifted to unlock Trinitarian theology. But yes, I’ll give it a shot this summer.

  16. @William,

    I too love the East for their Trinitarian gifts to the Church… So profound! Then there is Gregory of Nazianzus, so great also, the “Trinitarian Theologian”! But first in the West there is Tertullian’s famous formulation: “tres personae, una substantia” (three persons, one substance). And note his polemic: Against Praxeas…grand for its time!

  17. I actually forgot that he was the first to make that comment regarding three persons and substance! But then again doctorates are known for being formidable like yourself. Thanks for reading the blog, I put much time into writing. Peace.

  18. I am just an old Anglican priest also! lol I am 60 mate. I enjoy the depth and beauty of God’s historic Church, both East & West! Keep writing and thinking….! I was raised RC myself, and value my Irish heritage. I have seen my High Church days too. I still value many in that place, like John Henry Newman for sure! He was one of a kind, certainly.

    Fr. Robert Kelly..

  19. Steve says:

    Concerning theological differences between East and West I have put together some relevant blog posts here, if you are interested.

    In one of them, by me, is a review of a book by a Roman Catholic missiologist who analyses mission theology throughout the ages according to three models: Tertullian, Origen, and Irenaeus. He tet’s it totally wrong about the Orthodox, however, alighing the Orthodox missiology to Origen, whereas in fact it is much loser to what they describe as the model of Irenaeus. That is not surprising, since for the Orthodox Irenaeus was a saint and a father of the church, whereas Tertullian and Origen were not.

  20. I am most eager to sit down and review both the contents of this webpage and your review. I am working on a post for both you and Dr.Irishanglican. The differences between east/west are serious but necessary pluralisms. I’ve always been interested in Slavic and Greek Orthodox theology, most especially the Greek Fathers. As I’ve said in the past, w/o them we in the west were theologically naked (so to speak). Where would we be w/o Ireaneaus, or the Cappadocians Fathers!
    Look for my post soon, I”m working on an especially formidable essay for two formidable readers of this blog. Again, I deeply appreciate your willingness to read my blog. Peace,

  21. @William,
    Just call me Fr. Robert mate. I am always seeking my call as a “pastor-teacher”.

    It is funny however, that Irenaeus believed in a Historical Premillennialism (Chiliasm), which the East considers heresy. I am my self something odd too (now days at least, but not in the mid and late 19th century..and on into the 20th century), “Historic” or Covenant Premillennial (but classic Post-Trib.).So I am more of the classic, historical “Biblicist”. And I am also a historic or “Biblical” Zionist – in support of Modern Israel. I lived and taught there in the later 90’s. And I was a Royal Marine officer in Gulf War 1. BTW today, or was it yesterday? Calvin is 501!

    Peace of Christ,
    Fr. R.

  22. Ok Dr. Steve, I just finished reading the webpage that you sent me, it is extremely well written, very witty. I throughly enjoyed your tone and informed presence. Your comment on ‘horse-swapping’ regarding the Sacred Heart was hilarious. I personally think you covered widely accepted points of theological contention with great personal charm. I do think you will be very surprised at my post on these matters for they don’t quite tack to the historical points of reference that are so often peddled. Well, I don’t want to spoil my surprise when it comes. I understand that you and Dr. Irishanglican are indeed formidable theologians, so I will be mindful of my audience as I compose this post on Ecumenism regarding the East. Again, much thanks for your patience and time given to reading this blog.

  23. Wow, looks like you ought to be writing a book or something concerning your experiences. I do appreciate your sincerity regarding Israel, its uncommon today to find anyone who is so strikingly honest. I myself have always been a supporter of Israel (at least nominally), I don’t think the Zionist (can we call it an ideology) camp has any hold anymore; just look at the demography of Israel where the wall was built to sustain gerrymandering the voting districts (lol, everyone does it). Nevertheless, sexual ethics and the social baggage of modernity is tearing about contemporary Judaism. It no longer held after the death of WWII generation. But yes, your sentiments match mine.

  24. @William,

    I mostly speak about the/a “Biblical” (theological) Zionism. Yes, Israel has its liberals within also, sadly. I am not sure myself how long Israel’s democracy will survive? The American Obama is a certain socialist, and a disgrace to the office, in my opinion. But I am not an American, though I fought shoulder to shoulder with them (American Marines – Force Recon, and your Special Forces). Lord have mercy on the Free-world! Both American & British. God send us renewal in this postmodern, deconstructional age!

  25. Steve says:

    William: I look forward to reading your post.

    Concerning Zionism: I think Zionism is to Judaism as Hellenism is to Orthodoxy — 19th-century central European secular romantic nationalism piggy-backing on religion.

  26. Yes, I have not forgotten on my promise to you and other formidable theologian who has reminded me of my promise. I already started working on it, I don’t think its something you’ve read before. I am looking forward to your sincere criticism. It will not be done for at least three weeks. I’ve got some books that I”m trying to finish up on now lol, very busy indeed. I appreciate your time reading my blog.

  27. Supersessional Theology does not measure the salvation history of God, nor the full covenantal history, itself. That the Jewish people still have covenant blessing in the Holy Scripture is most true, (Gen. 12:1-3 / Rom. 9: 4-5 ; 11:1-2 ; 25-29 / Eph. 2: 12, etc.) At present, and this includes the High Church groups, we are in the “times of the Gentiles”. (Luke 21: 20-24)

  28. yes, tis true, and any ‘measurement’ is always suspicious anyway, but even still, we must not become unhistorical in our theology. But yes, the tension between historical and unhistorical need not be permanently resolved. Sort of like Tertullian right, can’t have Athens over Jerusalem.

  29. William,

    Not sure you got this? I hope it is of interest.

  30. Yes, and I’m still working on that post for a critique on the East, I think its almost a dissertation lol.

  31. The New Israel will come when the Jewish people rejoin the Gentiles in the church (R0m. 11:25-29). Vatican II declares: “Israel according to the flesh, which wandered as an excile in the desert, was already called the Church [or People] of God. (Num. 20:4) – Shalom!

    “The view of Jerusalem is the history of the world; it is more, it is the history of earth and of heaven.” – Benjamen Disraeli

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