Imago Dei is Latin for “image of God.” It is a theological doctrine common to Jews, Christians, and some Muslims.
The Book of Genesis is not a scientific book. It does not provide us with scientific data to prove or disprove the existence of God. Nobody can prove that God created the universe. Belief in a “Creator God” is, by definition, a matter of Christian faith.
Genesis 1:1-2:4a tells us that God created a good world of rhythm and harmony. It does not detail the physics, geology, or biology of creation. In fact, God created matter from nothing (Genesis 1:1). He created conscious life (Genesis 1:21). Then, at the peak of his creation, God created man in his own image (Genesis 1:27a).
God is the creator; humans are creatures of God. God is infinite and eternal, whereas humans are finite and temporal. Humans are dependent upon God. Philip E. Hughes wrote: “he has no independent existence apart from God, who is the sole source of his being” (Christian Ethics in Secular Society, 1983, p. 19). Hughes added: “Dignified by his creation in the divine image, man is intended to reflect the excellence of his Creator.” (Ibid., p. 47).
What does it mean to be created in God’s image? First of all, it is the whole of humanity, rather than some part or aspect, that is the image of God. Hughes pointed out that “The image in which man was created, moreover, is specifically that of the Second Person of the Trinity rather than that of the tripersonal Godhead; for the Son is Himself the image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15)” (Ibid., p. 151).
Humans were created to resemble God. We possess knowledge, feelings, and a will. We can reason and make moral choices. We can love and worship. We can commune with God. We can reflect God in thought and action. Here lies true worth: humans are created in God’s image and are therefore valuable to God and others.
God entrusted this world to our care (Genesis 2:15). We continue God’s work. God built rhythm, cycles, diversity, and harmony into God’s world. We are responsible for finding our place in God’s rhythm, for living our lives in harmony with God’s order. For more information, please read “Why Should Christians Care for Creation?” (Biologos, December 7, 2019).
After the fall (Genesis 3:1-6), God’s image in us is distorted. We have often failed to govern the earth in accordance with the will and purpose of its creator. Today, we still bear the image of God (James 3:9), but we also bear the scars of sin. When God redeems an individual, he begins to restore the original image of God. At the second coming, Christians shall be like Jesus (I John 3:2).