In this paper, I seek to prove that Man is made in the image of God philosophically, given that God is the creator of the universe and that there are no other created beings in the universe other than those found on earth. I shall do this by proving that God displays and has certain noble and noteworthy features, and show how Man is unique in all creation in that we exemplify and reflect those features. These features that I will explore are that God and Man are intelligent, have free will, love, are relational beings, create out of love and understanding, and have dominion over other beings. In proving these features, I will be satisfied to conclude that in this limited sense Man is Imago Dei.
II.That God and Man are Intelligent
In order to prove that God is intelligent, I appeal to Saint Aquinas’ argument that all intelligent causes are caused by something intelligent, and God is the first cause of all things. Since there are many intelligent created beings found on earth, namely Man, God who created all these beings has to be intelligent. Also, the measure of how perfect a thing is by how far away it is from non-perfection. Since God has being in its totality, all non-being is removed from Him. All things imperfect must be caused by something perfect, therefore the first cause (God) must be most perfect. Since intelligence is a form of perfection, God is perfectly intelligent or perfect in understanding.
It is hardly contestable that Man is more intelligent than other created beings on earth, seeing how Man is the only animal that is able to create complex tools like machines and erect buildings made from complex materials. Therefore in this aspect, Man is far more the image of God than any other created being.
III.That God and Man Have Free Will
It will be fitting to use Plato’s discussion on the three parts of the soul to illustrate that Man has free will. Using the thought experiment of a thirsty man to illustrate this, a thirsty man naturally desires to drink water such that he may preserve himself. Yet if something holds the thirsty man back from drinking the water, such as the knowledge that the water is poisonous for example, the desire not to drink the water has to be caused by some other part of the man other than that which causes his thirst because the same part of the man cannot in the same relation do opposite things. This part of the man that holds the thirsty man back from drinking has to be the reasoning part within the man. The first part of the man with which he “loves and hungers and thirsts and flutters round the other desires, and is the companion of various indulgences and pleasures”, Plato calls the irrational and desiring part. The second reasoning part, Plato calls the rational part. A third part that Plato calls the spirit is that by which humans feel indignant.
One may contest that this third part is one and the same as the first. To illustrate the difference, the example of a man looking at dead bodies lying near the executioner was used. In this case, the man may feel a desire to look at the bodies, but at the same time feel disgust at the thought of them having been executed. Since the same part of the man cannot in the same relation do opposite things, the part of the man which feels disgust and that which feels a desire to look at the bodies differs. Instinctively, one would also know that the part which feels indignant must differ from the second rational part which is not responsible for emotion.
It can be derived form this discussion that the second part of the man refers to the rational will of Man, which is arises from his superior intelligence, otherwise called the free will of Man by this author. Since free will arises out of intelligence, God must also have free will since He is infinitely intelligent. Therefore in this way, Man is made in the image of God.
IV.That God and Man Love
I borrow the definition of love from Aquinas – that whoever loves wishes the good of the object loved. Also, it is requisite of true love that one is able to choose to love the good of another, inasmuch as it is his good. This implies that as love is essentially a choice. Accordingly, in order for a being to be able to love, it must have free will which in turn requires it to be highly intelligent.
To prove that there is love in God, I will rely once again on Aquinas. Aquinas wrote that the essential idea of love seems to be that the affection of one has with another being which is in some way in union with oneself. The greater the bond of union, the more intense is the love. The more intimate the bond of union is, the stronger the love is. That bond whereby all things are united with God, which all things are created by Him, is the greatest and most intimate of bonds. Therefore, that there is love in God is not only true, but also the love in God is most perfect and strong.
Another approach I take to prove that God loves begins with Aquinas’ argument that God is perfectly happy in that He is sufficient in himself and desires nothing, and that He has no need of other things, as His perfection depends on nothing external to Himself. Aquinas argues that happiness is the proper good of every intellectual nature. Since God is infinitely intelligent, He must be infinitely happy. However, God created the universe and creation is a great good because it brings about being. Yet creation cannot possibly be for that purpose and thus it must be for another. Since God creating the universe would not have in any way increased His level of happiness, His purpose must have been for the good of the creation. Such a selfless act to do something purely for the benefit of another must point to a creator who has perfect love.
Man undoubtedly exhibits loves by wishing the good of the various objects, animals and persons he feels affection for. Examples of people who knowingly put their lives in danger to save those they love is a clear example of this. The distinction between a man who does so, and an animal which does so to protect its young, is that the man has the ability to rationalize his action and decide whether or not to act upon his instinct whereas the animal does not. As such, in the aspect of having love, Man is Imago Dei.
V.That God and Man are Relational Beings
I define a relational being to be one which exhibits responsive love, trust and understanding in its interaction with other beings. Trust is defined to be a “confident expectation of something”. Responsive love is defined as an interactive situation whereby one’s actions are made in reaction to the actions of the object of love, out of the wish for the good of the object loved.
It is easy to see how Man exhibits responsive love. In the example of a husband and wife who wish the good of each other, a loving action of the husband towards the wife such as the giving of a gift tends to result in a responsive action of a gift in return from the wife to the husband. This display is a representation of responsive love. Trust exhibited between humans can be seen in the wife’s confident expectation of her husband to return home after work. Also, that she cooks food that she knows her husband favours shows a level of rationality and understanding that other creatures are incapable of. Therefore in Man showing love, trust and understanding in relationships, Man is a relational being.
God on the other hand does not interact directly with Man as humans do with each other, but rather, God interacts with Man through the events that happen in the universe, or at least in the events that happen in the universe that affects Man. This is because all that happens in the universe happens by God’s will, and thus all that happens by God’s will that affects Man is a form of interaction with Man. One form of interaction can be seen in God’s continual sustenance of life on earth through rainfall and sunlight. Anything done to preserve life and thus being, is good. Anything good that is done is an act of love. Therefore in God’s continual providence towards creation, He displays responsive love.
By the fact that God created Man, He must display understanding in his interaction with Man for a creator must understand his creation. God’s continual providence of rain and sunlight shows that God understands that Man requires these to live, thus displaying understanding in his interaction with Man. For trust to exist, there requires for there to be some level of uncertainty. In God’s omniscience however, he is uncertain of nothing and therefore does not expect anything. Thus it can be said that God does not trust, or that God trusts completely. Therefore as God exhibits responsive love, trust and understanding in His interaction with Man, He is a relational being.
Also, a meaningful relationship requires for there to be a similar level of cognitive ability. On earth, Man’s intelligence far surpasses that of all other creatures, and out of his intelligence Man has free will. Since God is of infinite intelligence and has free will, Man is the only creature that God may possibly have a meaningful relationship with. Therefore in this aspect of being relational, Man is Imago Dei.
VI.That God and Man Create out of Love and Understanding
I have earlier shown that both God and Man have love and understanding in sections IV and II respectively, so being loving and having understanding is part of God’s and Man’s nature. All that a being does cannot be against his nature, and since both God and Man create, albeit Man within his limitations, God and Man necessarily create out of love and understanding.
It is fitting to use creation to show that God creates out of love and understanding. That God creates out of love, or for the good of another, is shown in God creating beauty in the universe and creating Man to be able to appreciate the beauty. This must surely be good as the appreciation of beauty leads to joy, which is undeniably beneficial to the created being. Also, God created Man with the ability to love, and when that ability is exercised by many, happiness amongst Man results. This happiness is undeniably beneficial to the created being. Therefore, it is shown that God creates out of love.
In itself, the design of the universe displays considerable amount of understanding on the part of the creator, from how the food chain is so intricately designed from plant to predator, to how freshwater naturally replenishes itself through rain, and even to how gravity serves its function. Therefore, it is shown that God creates out of understanding.
This author argues that Man always creates out of love, which can be directed to someone else, something else, or himself. This may be illustrated in the following three scenarios: a husband building a house to benefit his wife, a pet owner building a kennel to benefit his dog, or an architect building a complex in return for a fee (benefiting himself in the process). Man always creates out of love, whereas animals are not capable of love as shown in Part IV and thus cannot possibly create out of love.
It may be argued that as Man may create out of love for self, God may have created the universe out of love for Himself. However, this cannot be so as God is perfectly happy and therefore has no need to create in order to make Himself happier. Man on the other hand can never be perfectly happy, and thus creates in the search for perfect happiness.
Out of Man’s superior understanding, he necessarily creates out of understanding, regardless of how simple or complex his creation is. Anecdotes of creation out of understanding may be seen in buildings all around, the aeroplanes that fly in sky, or the cars that drive on the roads. It may be said that Man does not necessarily create out of understanding. However, this author points out that the level of complexity of his creation is divorced from the fact that he creates out of understanding. Instead, the complexity of his creation is largely dependent on the intended use for the creation. Although it may be argued that the more intelligent animals like monkeys create things such as stripped-down twigs used for fishing termites out of termite mounts, these hardly count as creations made out of understanding as compared to the level of understanding Man shows in his creations.
This very quality of Man that he creates out of love and understanding just as God does sets him far above all other creation and in this aspect is fittingly called Imago Dei.
VII.That God and Man Have Dominion
This author defines dominance to be the power to govern over other beings.
In the creation of the universe, God exhibits supreme power and it would thus be beyond doubt as to whether God has such power as control over the stars, sunlight and the rain, and accordingly, control over whether creatures live or die. In this supreme power, one can say that God has a nobility of position, one in which He has the responsibility to sustain the life of his created beings as it is in His power to. This nobility of position is synonymous with the dominance that God has over the universe.
Man also exhibits dominance over the earth. Out of Man’s intelligence, he has power over the other creatures of the earth. He is the only creature that is able to use self-created tools such as guns and bombs and fishing nets to determine whether all other creatures live or die. Yet out of this power, Man has the responsibility to be a good steward of the earth, to sustain the life of the other creatures as he is the only one with the intelligence to. This is similar to the kind of nobility of position that God has, albeit of a much smaller scale. In this way, Man is Imago Dei.
In proving that both God and Man and no other creature are intelligent, have free will, love, are relational beings, create out of love and understanding, and have dominion, I conclude that in this limited sense, Man is Imago Dei. However, all these evidence added up is still highly significant in the furtherance of the claim that Man is made in the image of God, just as it is claimed in the Catholic and Protestant faiths: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26 In addition to furthering this claim made by the Catholics and Protestants, this argument may possibly be used to further the argument as to whether the universe is anthropocentric or not.