In an earlier post I struggled to come to grips with what the “Image of God” might be. In that post I wanted to error on calling it an ontological category rather than a functional category. But, upon further reflection I realized it’s both by necessity. It’s not unlike a wave that can collapse into and function as a particle (to use a physics analogy).
As a Christology: the image of God is to be organized as if he were us. (See Ephesians 4)
As a Pneumatology: the image of God is an active and transformative relationship of association with the Spirit that effects our reputation as if Jesus were us. (See 2 Corinthians 3)
As a Paterology: the organization and association of God means we have a status obligated to represent him in such a way that we “speak for God.” (See Romans 8)
“In the Biblical sense the Image of God is the embodiment of his organization, reputation, and representation.”
Simply put, the image of God in its smallest unit is a species: people. But God is where reality stops and proceeds so the smallest unit of what is doesn’t mean that’s all there is to it. Like God, the reality of his image is also a range of his will in this species, which can also mean as this species is. Where God gets what he wants done through his people’s organization, association, and status is the image of God in the Biblical sense. After Christ this Biblical sense has been redefined into a trinitarian sense.
As a concrete thing the image of God is people, whether they like it or not. But, as these people are, their effective range (being as if God were them) means they ground and sustain the value of that image into the world and universe. Protect and provide for a monkey, help a dolphin flourish, feed the poor, or make good government decisions, these examples can have the fingerprint of the image of God too. As Jesus said, “freely you have received, freely give.”
The image of God is shared but there are limits.
As I reflected on my inclination to call the image of God an ontological thing I was reminded of the progress technology has made and where it is headed. In the near future people will try to call robots equals because of how robots are programmed to act but hopefully you see the image of God can not be just how one acts. If robots were to be included into the image of God, it would be as people act towards them. To use the physics/wave analogy again: human conception (the smallest unit of people) has the unique power to collapse the wave of God’s signature (that’s in the fabric of the universe’s structure) so as to ride that wave into functions that are uniquely embodied by human conception and beyond. Now, if we could figure out how to conceive of robots as we are, then they would have the image of God in the same way too, but I find that unlikely. Sorry for the science fiction twist. Hope you enjoyed my nerdisms on the subject.