The Creation of Adam, Michelangelo, 1512
By journalist and author Lee Strobel
That humans are made in the image of God is one of the most important Biblical revelations for Christians — and it is also one that has been viciously attacked by those outside the faith. It’s true that the endless murders, rapes, assaults, genocides and other forms of violence and cruelty in our world seem to taunt us: How could humans be created in the image of God when we commit such evil acts? How do we explain wars and abuse if we share the same characteristics as God himself? Some people even claim that while we may be more sophisticated and advanced than the rest of the animal kingdom, our ultimate value is no greater than that of any creature, since we’ve all evolved naturalistically and without any divine imprint.
Imago Dei means “the image of God.” Ultimately, this phrase refers to two things: the characteristics of the human spirit and our ability to know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.
Our human spirit provides evidence that God’s traits — his love, justice and freedom — are alive in us. Human nature is utterly without peer on earth. As Dr. Ian Tattersall says, “Homo sapiens is not simply an improved version of its ancestors — it’s a new concept.” At the most basic level of this nature is our self-realization, grounded in our self-consciousness, our ability to reason, and our emotions, such as anger and love. Our consciousness enables us to see that we have inherent value apart from our utility or function.
Another quality we share with God is the moral ability to recognize good and evil, which God exemplified through Adam and Eve. We can therefore act freely in a morally good or evil way. We can choose either to reflect the moral image of God or to reject it, but either way, the ability to make the choice reveals our underlying similarity to our Creator.
It cannot be overstated just how different humans are from the rest of creation. The vast chasms separating consciousness from unconsciousness and morality from amorality speak to the strong evidence that we are indeed made in the image of God.
Genesis 1:26a…27 — Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness… So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
1 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!