In His Image
Understanding Imago Dei
By Jared Segerstrom
If you’ve been around church for a while, you have probably heard that people are “made in God’s image.” We call that doctrine imago Dei or “image of God.” Understanding imago Dei helps us intepret many current issues including abortion, euthanasia, racism, and more.
WHAT DO WE MEAN WHEN WE SAY THAT HUMANS ARE CREATED IN GOD’S IMAGE?
One essential understanding of imago Dei is that humanity is different from the animal world. On the sixth day of creation, God filled the land He created on the third day with livestock, creeping animals, and “beasts of the earth.” He created kangaroos and geckos, lemurs and lions. God demonstrated His amazing creativity and intelligence in filling the earth with these animals. God then shifted His attention in creation to something else. God’s most amazing creation on day six wasn’t an animal; it was a human.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27).
God separated His creation of humans from His creation of animals. He said, “Let us make man in our image.” God wanted to create humans differently than He created animals. While that might seem like a little difference, God separating His creation of humans from animals has important worldview ramifications.
Evolution teaches that humans are just highly evolved animals. Over the span of billions of years filled with chance occurrences, humanity evolved. Evolutionists teach that humans are part of the animal world. The ramifications of that teaching are huge. If humans are merely animals, then they cannot be blamed for following their “animal instincts.” Such an understanding contradicts the Bible’s teaching. According to Genesis 1, God made humans differently than animals. Only humans are created in the image of God.
We have a summary statement about God creating humans in Genesis 1:26-27, but we get a few more details in Genesis 2:7.
“Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7).
In this verse, we see another difference between humans and the animals. When God created animals, He spoke them into existence – “let there be.” But with humans, God worked differently. God created man by forming him from the dust of the ground and breathing into him the breath of life. The result of God doing that is that “man became a living creature.” Notice again that humans didn’t become living creatures through evolutionary processes but as a result of a direct act of God.
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13-14).
God created humans fearfully and wonderfully. That means every person – regardless of skin color, family background, physical limitations or disabilities – bears the image of God.
When we walk the mall or sit in a restaurant, we can accurately describe every person we see as “image-bearer” and show them respect and care because we too are image-bearers. Understanding that God created humans differently than He created animals helps us see people as God sees them.