Imago Dei ("image of God")
("image of God"): A theological term, applied uniquely to humans,
which denotes the symbolical relation between God and humanity. The term has its
roots in Genesis 1:27, wherein "God created man in his own image. . ."
This scriptural passage does not mean that God is in human form, but rather,
that humans are in the image of God in their moral, spiritual, and intellectual
nature. Thus, humans mirror God's divinity in their ability to actualize the
unique qualities with which they have been endowed, and which make them
different than all other creatures: rational structure (see logos), complete
centeredness, creative freedom, a possibility for self-actualization, and the
ability for self-transcendence.
Imago Dei - Longer definition:
The term imago Dei refers most fundamentally to two things: first, God's own
self-actualization through humankind; and second, God's care for humankind. To
say that humans are in the image of God is to recognize the special qualities of
human nature which allow God to be made manifest in humans. In other words, for
humans to have the conscious recognition of their being in the image of God
means that they are the creature throught whom God's plans and purposes can be
made known and actualized; humans, in this way, can be seen as co-creators with
God. The moral implications of the doctrine of imago Dei are apparent in the
fact that if humans are to love God, then humans must love other humans, as each
is an expression of God. The human's likeness to God can also be understood by
contrasting it with that which does not image God, i.e., beings who, as far as
we know, are without self-consciousness and the capacity for spiritual/ moral
reflection and growth. Humans differ from all other creatures because of their
rational structure - their capacity for deliberation and free decision-making.
This freedom gives the human a centeredness and completeness which allows the
possibility for self-actualization and participation in a sacred reality.
However, the freedom which makes the human in God's image is the same freedom
which manifests itself in estrangement from God, as the myth of the Fall (Adam
and Eve) exemplifies. According to this myth, humans can, in their freedom,
choose to deny or repress their spiritual and moral likeness to God. The ability
and desire to love one's self and others, and therefore, God, can become
neglected and even opposed. Striving to bring about the imago Dei in one's life
can be seen as the quest for wholeness, or one's "essential" self, as
pointed to in Christ's life and teachings.
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