Imago Dei

An Earth Day reflection, originally posted on April 22, 2015, and, here, revised.


God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, and all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth” (Genesis 1.26)

We, humankind, with our inherent self-will to power, long have confused dominion with domination. The effects of our handiwork in despoiling the environment are evident and worsening.

Dominion and domination both bear overtones of rulership, ownership. Nevertheless, according to Genesis, human dominion is an aspect of being made in God’s image.

This begs the question: What does the image of God (imago Dei) mean? Of various interpretations:

Traditionally, that humans, in some sense, are of the substance or nature of God…

Relationally, that humans, gifted with reason and freewill, are unique among all creatures in being able to conceive of God and to choose to be in relationship with God…

Functionally, that humans, by virtue of substantive relationality with God, have the duty to act as God’s representative in the created order.

Concerning our child-to-parent violence in abusing Mother Earth, of these views of imago Dei, the third poses the greatest problem. For easy it has been and is for us to overstep the responsibility of God’s representatives in creation and, misusing our reason and freewill, usurping the role of “creators,” becoming destroyers.

I believe in God, who is love.[1] I also believe that God’s act of creating was not once at the dawn of time, but is an ongoing, endless labor of love. Therefore, I, made in God’s image, strive daily to live in loving relation with God, with creation, and with all creatures.

© 2023 PRA

Illustration: The Creation of Adam (c. 1508-1512), Michelangelo (1475-1564)

[1] 1 John 4.8

2 thoughts on “Imago Dei

  1. I love this Paul!! Thank you! I also have a question though. Is there a name for those in between creators & destroyers?? Those who sit in the middle not intentionally destroying BUT not doing enough to be a creator / preserver either!! I’ll speak only for myself as you like to say. Back in the day in the highlight of my career, I wasn’t as faithful as recycling as I should have been. I was busy and didn’t feel like separating cans and plastic all the time. YET I was dumping trash or furniture into our parks or waters either becoming a destroyer. Are those of us who didn’t or still don’t give preserving what God created our ALL 100% of the time simply enablers of the destroyers??



  2. Yours, my dearest Loretta, is a sensitive and sensible query.

    I do think and believe that when I do not actively seek to create (or, more truly, preserve; for I do not and cannot create anything — meaning that I cannot bring into being/existence something that, before I acted, did not exist, but, rather, all I can do is take substances [even ideas] that already exist and bring them together “to create” something new), which is to say that I passively don’t destroy, I lean more toward the “destroyer” camp of folk than the “creators” (or, more accurately, I think, the “co-creators” with God).



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