Some of you know that I have been working on a book for T&T Clark on theological anthropology. It will be part of their Guides for the Perplexed series, which seeks to take readers through some of the more challenging questions in different areas of philosophy and theology. So, the basic thrust of each book is to identify four or five really important issues in a given field and devote a chapter to each. For theological anthropology, I decided to focus on the image of God, gender and sexuality, the body/soul relationship, and free will. Needless to say, this has not been an easy project. I have completed first-drafts of all the chapters and have started working them into their second-drafts. As they reach this stage, I thought I would go ahead and post them here for mockery, ridicule, and otherwise helpful suggestions. The first of the chapters to reach this stage is the one on the image of God. Please feel free to read it through and pass along any comments or suggestions you might have.
The basic thrust of the chapter, in case you have other things to do than please your Th.M. director by reading his pre-publication material, is that the best way to understand the image of God is to find a way of synthesizing the insights of the functional and relational approaches to understanding the imago. (I argue that ‘structural’ approaches should not be used at all to define what it means to image God.) This must be done, however, without subsuming either in the process. So, I begin by exploring the concept of representation at the heart of the functional imago and contend that the key is to understand humanity’s function as manifesting God’s presence in creation as those who have been constituted by him to do so. That is, humanity images God in that they are the ones through whom God has chosen to manifest his presence in creation (i.e., they are his representatives).
Moving on from there, I consider the nature of God’s presence in creation and argue that his presence is always revealed to be a personal presence. Thus, God constitutes human beings as personal beings through the divine address and through the creation of humans as sexually differentiated beings so that humans can manifest his personal presence in creation.
Finally, I contend that the image of God is that by which God manifests his personal presence in creation can only be understood through the unfolding narrative of his covenantal relationships with his people, Israel and the Church. The image of God should not be viewed as an abstract statement about the ‘essence’ of humanity, but is instead a concrete relationship between God and humanity by which he expresses himself in and through the history of his covenantal faithfulness.
So, I conclude that the image of God should be understood as “God manifesting his personal presence in creation through his covenantal relationships with human persons, whom he has constituted as personal beings to serve as his representatives in creation and to whom he remains faithful despite their sinful rejection of him.” I then go on to identify some key implications of this way of understanding the imago that will impact how we address other anthropological issues.
So, feel free to unload on me in the comments. I have read through the manuscript a couple of times, but I have not gone into full ‘typo’ mode yet, so there may be some errors. If you want to let me know about any errors you find, great! Otherwise, just read and enjoy (or, not).