Whakapono: Imago Dei

'The term imago dei refers most fundamentally to two things: first, God’s own self-actualization through humankind; and second, God’s care for humanity’

In order for us to comprehend the wonder of our humanity as imago dei we must firstly step back in time and consider the rich meaning of the divine and its image as reflected in all matter. Before it anthropomorphised as homo sapien we see the essence of matter as the imaging of the unseen reality of higher power and intelligent design. 

‘All matter images God, and it is fundamentally good' 

The divine is imaged in all matter, realised as illumination, animation and intimacy.

Illumination is the revealing of God, an appearing that throws light on our understanding and awareness. Some have described the BIG BANG as the original appearing or illumination of God, the unseen becoming seen.

Animation is the life flow of God, the procreative  potential of all non-matter as it incarnates as matter itself. The possibility for existence itself to expand and fill, evolve and advance the universe.

Intimacy is the union of God, the love that holds the idea of our trinitarian perception of God in perfect unison and oneness, overflowing into all of life as a primary stimulant for all relationship and interconnection. Love is the spirit of God as she pulses and hums in the soul of all creation.

If you would learn more, ask the cattle, Seek information from the birds of the air.

The creeping things of earth will give you lessons, And the fishes of the sea will tell you all.

There is not a single creature that does not know

That everything is of God’s making. 

God holds in power the soul of every living thing,

And the breath of every human body.

–Book of Job 12:7-10

Creation as we know it, the pre-cursor to the emergence of humans, is the place of meaning that we must keep going back to if we are to understand, learn, and grapple with what it means to be a living ‘soul’.

We were late-comers to the story and our imago dei has emerged from the soil of time, space and matter. Humans are not the pinnacle of creation but the result of the ground of matter evolving in a way that reflects the imaging of God. Humanity has its roots and beginnings in a very beautiful poem that suggest that all matter is ‘good’ and our imago dei is underpinned by that goodness.

“Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature”

-Genesis 1:27


For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother's womb.

1I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

1My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

1your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me

were written in your book

before one of them came to be.   -Psalm 139

'The divine image and dignity is inherent in every being. We have the freedom and honor of choosing to grow (or not) in our unique likeness of this image. Jesus is one clear example of this path, a visible incarnation of the union between human and divine, matter and spirit. He models inclusive, nondual, compassionate thinking and being’.   - R. Rohr

Unfortunately the 'problem of evil’ has taken primary place in our psyche, somehow deluding our minds into believing that we are fundamentally depraved, bad, evil, or whatever word you prefer to use. The bigger issuefacing our anthropological trajectory is the ‘problem of good’. How are we to account for so much gratuitous and sheer goodness in this world? Not to suggest that we are not capable of heinous acts of cruelty andunkindness towards each other and the planet, but to ask a bigger question about where the real challenge lies for humanity. No amount of moral police work, legal law adjustment or incarceration is going to stem the flow of evil, so why not spend more time, money, and energy figuring out how to promote ‘goodness’ all the while constantly reminding people that they are fundamentally good!

When we read the ancient script of our early beginnings our tendency is to begin with 'THE FALL’ (a very unfortunate reference) instead of whose image and likeness we are made in? It’s as if the incarnation of God in Jesus doesn’t make sense if we don't focus on our dysfunction and depravity? What if the primary idea of the incarnation was to refresh our memory about the uniqueness of our divine image and likeness?

In her book ‘Original Blessing’ Danielle Shroyer suggests the story should more aptly be named, ‘the inevitability’ (my words). The man and the woman were raised in the garden, but eventually they would have to leave home. And, like every other child who embarks toward adulthood, leaving home inevitably includes some form of individuation and rebellion. The man and the woman grew up, because that’s the natural thing to do. 

And when you grow up, you start to want  to assert your independence, and sometimes you question your parents regardless of how well meaning they are. You want to make your own choices. You want to choose your own path. You want to do something forbidden, even, just to see what happens. This is not the end of the world. This is the beginning of adulthood. It’s natural, and necessary, and maybe it’s why God put that tree (metaphor: the potential for evil) in the garden to begin with.  How ever you see it or wherever you find yourself on the journey of ‘goodness’ may it lead you into adulthood knowing that goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life and it will keep you firmly planted in the image of God (house of the Lord…Psalm 23)

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. - 2 Thess 1:11

I do not want to superimpose my meaning of goodness on to you, but want to simply suggest that the ‘desire’ for goodness is where we must all start if our lives are to reflect that in our ‘deeds’. Our hearts are full of untapped desire, awaiting their moment to be expressed in a way that reflects the fundamental goodness of our ‘imago dei'.