What is man? Man is a creature superior to all other creatures in this world—and therefore having rule over them—by virtue of his ability to know and love his Creator. This ability to know (mind) and love (will) is the imago Dei because in so knowing and loving God man knows and does in finite measure what God knows and does in infinite measure. Implicit in this knowledge of God is the knowledge and love of all other creatures (man supremely because man is the supreme creature) who are so many manifestations of God, directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, rationally or nonrationally. Man as he now exists, apart from re-creation or regeneration, no longer possesses the imago Dei in this sense but his present condition does not concern us here.

Exposition. 1. Creation. In Genesis 1:27 it is recorded, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him.” Thus, according to the Bible, God created man or made him out of nothing by the mere word of His power. We need not labor the point that the Bible does teach ex nihilo creation, it being almost universally granted (though Barth denies it as a “spekulative Konstruktion” and in characteristic fashion gives it a new and novel meaning (Kirchliche Dogmatik, III/2, p. 187).

2. Ideal Man. If God created man and was pleased with His work, as the Bible says, then man was originally a far nobler creature as he came into being “trailing clouds of glory” than he is now after centuries of wallowing in the sinful pit into which the fall from pristine excellence brought him. Luther may be justified in conjecturing that Adam’s “powers of vision exceeded those of the lynx” and his strength enabled him to manage lions and bears (H. T. Kerr, Compendium of Luther’s Theology, p. 79). Robert South, in his famous sermon on “Man Created in God’s Image,” was probably right in saying that an Aristotle was the “rubbish” of an Adam (because the natural ability of newly created man must have been greater than that of fallen man) but probably not right in saying that Athens was but the “rudiment” of Paradise (because the acquired culture of the first man could not have been so great as that of the experience of a race).

3. Male and Female.Genesis 1:27 teaches that man was created male and female: “Male and female created he them.” Woman was not a separate creation although the Bible presents her as differentiated from the male by being drawn from his side, made of him. It is so universally agreed today that woman, as well as man, was created in the divine image that it seems almost quaint to find Dr. Franz Pieper lining up four or five formidable biblical arguments to prove the point (Christliche Dogmatik, p. 261).

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4. Body and Soul. That man was made a composite creature—a body and a soul—is taught in the first chapter of Genesis. He is made as the other creatures before him were made though later and evidently more complex (1:26), but in addition and distinguishingly God breathes into him (not into the others) and he becomes a living soul (Gen, 2:7). So, though the body is good and divinely made and therefore never to be despised or downgraded, not to mention charged with being evil, it is still inferior to the soul which God breathed into man exclusively.

Of course, if man was created body and soul it goes without saying that Adam was a historical being. He was not merely “man”—he was a particular man. He was not everyman but one individual. It is fashionable in our time to take Genesis 1–3 as Urgeschichte or primal history and Adam as “Urmensch” or primal man. We will save ourselves the labor of a positive exposition of this difficult idea and make but one observation: whatever this does mean it denies that Adam was a person as we are persons and that his history is history as our history is history. But the Bible teaches that Adam was a person as we are persons and that his history is a history as ours is. First, on the surface of it, these three chapters, as the other chapters of Genesis, purport to be genuine history (Historie, not Geschichte). Second, the Church universal has so understood these chapters up to this very time with the exception of the dialectical theologians and their converts. Third, it is extraneous factors (geological and anthropological theories) and not biblical exegesis that have produced this deviation. Fourth, Genesis 1–3 is integrated with the rest of Genesis which is typical history (virtually everyone admits this of Genesis 12–50, at least). Fifth, Genesis 5:1–5 specifically mentions Adam, as does 1 Chronicles 1:1, in an indisputably historical sense. Sixth, the New Testament also mentions Adam in historical genealogy in Jude 14 and Luke 3:38. Seventh, Paul compares and contrasts Adam with Jesus Christ as the first and second Adam. There is a dualism here, as the demythologizers contend, but not a cosmic dualism—simply the dualism of two historical persons in representative roles. Eighth, if Adam can be “demythologized,” we see no reason to stop Bultmann from demythologizing the entire Bible as he seems intent on doing. Ninth, if we were to demythologize, then not only can Bultmann do it to the entire Bible, but he or anyone else can interpret the demythologized Bible as he pleases.

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5. The Image of God. But without question the most significant aspect of the nature of man is the imago Dei.Genesis 1:26 (“let us make man in our image, after our likeness”) reveals the nature of man. As created or made, he is a dependent being. As created in the image of God he is rational, for God deliberates and plans his creation; he is social for God made him in “our” image; he had dominion over the other creatures for of none of these was this superior image predicated. But does this text not imply materiality in God (as the Mormons teach) and eternality in man (as the pantheists say)? Should the “image” not be construed exhaustively rather than restrictively? No, because the creation context carries vast implications that are part of the teaching of the text. God being here presented as Creator but himself uncreated and independent is infinitely and eternally superior to the creature. Thus the spiritual qualities of the imago are those which are consistent with the Creator-creature relationship such as knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. The physical qualities of man are manifestly not part of the imago because an eternal, independent spirit could not possess a temporal, dependent body as an essential, necessary part of his being.

What is taught didactically in Genesis 1:26 is set forth by description in “they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (3:8)—an anthropomorphic representation of fellowship between creature and Creator. This illustrates the ability of man’s rational nature to understand, in a measure, the rational being of God as the latter chooses to reveal it. Likewise the assignment of “naming the animals” (2:20), that is, classifying the subordinate creatures presupposes rationality, scientific knowledge, or potentiality. Moral duty is implicit in such an assignment but the moral nature of man is more evident still in the command and the prohibition concerning eating of the forbidden fruit (2:16 f.). The intellectual nature of man is usually designated as the image of God in the broader sense; the moral, or holy, nature is the image of God proper in the narrower sense. The former is inalienable even in hell; the latter was losable even in the paradise.

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Apart from the creation narrative itself, little in the Bible is concerned with the description of man as such, but with man as sinner. Psalm 8 is a rare passage reflecting on ideal man. Most of the post-Genesis anthropological references are oblique—to the restoration of man as sinner toward his former state of man as man. Psalm 8 does not so much add to our knowledge of the basic nature of man as accentuate his exaltedness in comparison with the other creatures and his insignificance in comparison with his Creator. Though man is little lower than the angels (to whom he is inferior in nature though superior in destiny) it is a mark of extreme condescension that God visits him. First Corinthians 15:47, 48 shows that man as originally created was of the earth earthy in contrast to man as re-created and resurrected who possesses the Spirit in a manner not formerly characteristic. In Ephesians 4:24 Paul shows that the regenerated man is restored in principle to his former state of knowledge and holiness. When Paul indicates that the Thessalonian Christians should be sanctified in body, soul, and spirit (1 Thess. 5:23), I believe he is viewing the soul of man in the double aspect of animating principle (psuche) and imago (pneuma).

Application. 1. Causal Evolutionism. How do causal evolutionists account for the origin of man? Ultimately it is not by natural selection; that is merely a proximate cause. Ultimately it is by chance. G. G. Simpson in his The Meaning of Evolution (1951), seems to think that man was an unintentional accident. Bertrand Russell says: “… even if it is enormously improbable that the laws of chance … will produce an organism capable of intelligence out of a casual selection of atoms, it is nevertheless probable that there will be in the universe that very small number of such organisms that we do in fact find” (Why I Am Not a Christian, 1957, p. 24). A still more recent statement by William S. Beck in Modern Science and the Nature of Life (1961, p. 252) is to the same effect: “When the time scale is long enough, the improbable becomes the inevitable.” But this probability thinking and the dice analogy used by Russell do not fit the case before us. With dice, any number from two to twelve may occur and the law of averages says that all possibilities will occur in certain proportions. But what does the law of averages have to say about getting blood from a turnip? or a silk purse from a sow’s ear? or, to stay with the original analogy, about getting a “one” or a “thirteen” out of a pair of dice? Emergent evolution, epiphenomenalism, and creative evolution are merely quasi-scientific, question-begging terms no more acceptable than “spontaneous generation,” of which they are indeed merely sophisticated modern variations.

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2. “Psychologism.” Much psychology has become very deterministic in our time and philosophy, at least in its existentialist varieties, extremely voluntaristic. M. B. Arnold (“Psychology and the Image of Man,” Religious Education, 1959), regards Jung and Adler, as well as Freud, as necessitarian; Reinhold Niebuhr notes that Sartre is voluntaristic to the point of denying human nature (article on “The Self” in A Handbook of Christian Theology, 1960). The truth lies between them, as we shall see. Against the view that man is as he eats, or as he secretes, or as he is stimulated, is the biblical view that man’s choices are influenced by these but not “determined” in the sense of constrained or coerced by these factors. God commanded the ideal man, the “first” and the “second” Adam. The Bible does not accept the doctrine that man’s choices belong not to him but to his glands. Nor does the God of the Bible become angry with man’s nerves when sin is committed. Nor are the organs of a man—in distinction from the man-sentenced to judgment.

3. Existentialism. Existentialism moves to the other pole—from cause without voluntary action, to voluntary action without cause. Reasons, motives, causes do not determine the actions of men, but the actions of men determine the reasons, motives, causes. Existentially speaking, man is absolutely free, his actions altogether contingent; his decision are in the moment of crisis. Man does not act because of such and such reasons. But the “reasons” are given substance by the decisions. Free actions involve a crucifixion of the intellect. Existentialist theologians sometimes think that they have the Bible to father inasmuch as it says that out of the heart are the issues of life (Prov. 4:23) and every man does what is right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). This is the type of thing which has led some Roman Catholic theologians to think themselves and even Thomas Aquinas existential. The notion is effectively scotched by F. H. Heinemann in his “Existentialism, Religion and Theology” (Hibbert Journal, July, 1960) not to mention Pius XII in Humani Generis (1950). Protestant scholars have been even more susceptible.

While existentialism has hold of an important truth (it seems to me that 90 per cent of existential writing could come under the title, “On the Importance of Being Earnest”), it is badly out of focus. Genesis represents the creature, man, as being given reasons for following virtue, avoiding sin. If man eats of a certain tree he dies; if not, he lives. His decision is called for (which puts the Bible against the determinist) but the decision is motivated by reasons (which puts the Bible against the paradoxical existentialist).

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4. Neo-orthodoxy. There are at least three fundamental neo-orthodox deviations from the biblical doctrine of man. First, Adam is presented not as one historical individual but as the eternal non-historical symbol of every historical individual. “Adam is Everyman” (Theological Word Book, ed. by Alan Richardson, 1950, p. 14). Second, there is no original righteousness or created goodness but mere potentiality. Third, the natural and moral image tend to be confused and both eradicated by the Fall. “Barth goes far beyond Calvin” (who sets forth the biblical view) “in holding that Imago Dei is effaced, not defaced, so that our human nature is not only incapable of spiritual good, but can neither retain nor pass on a divine gift” (A. M. Fairweather, The Word of Truth, 1944, p. 1).

Bibliography: J. Edwards, Freedom of the Will, P. Ramsey, ed.; H. Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics; J. G. Machen, The Christian View of Man; R. Mixter (ed.), Evolution and Christian Thought Today; J. Orr, God’s Image in Man (2nd ed.).

Professor of Church History

Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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