|the image of God|
| God made us to reflect his personality. When we exercise our personalities, we reflect the one personality who made us. Our ability to function as persons reflects our value.
Our physical bodies reflect the image of a nonphysical God. I have a face and hands and feet so that I can physically reflect the image of a God who doesn’t need those things. I reflect him by walking and talking and driving a car and living in a house and writing this book. In all the things I do, I reflect God even though God does not need to walk or talk or drive a car or live in a house or write a book. My ability to function as a person reflects my status as a person.
Our physical abilities reflect our spiritual status, but they do not determine it. I believe that every human being bears the image of God, not just those who attain a physical level of personhood. Everyone with the biological make-up of a human being bears the image of God.
John Swomley disagrees. He says, “To focus on the biological realities of genes and chromosomes present at conception . . . neglects the spiritual nature and characteristics of humans, which the Bible describes as created ‘in the image of God.’ This does not refer to biological similarities but to the abilities to love and to reason, self awareness, transcendence, and freedom to choose, rather than to live by instinct. The brain is crucial to such human abilities.” In other words, Swomley believes that a human being must have more than a DNA code to bear the image of God. A human being must be able to develop an ability to act as a person.
Clifford Bajema agrees with my view. He argues that those who define “image of God” “exclusively in terms of a network of capacities in man . . . have made the mistake of assuming that if a certain capacity is not ever present (such as the capacity to think as in the case of an anencephalic – one born without a cerebral cortex), then such a one is not in the image of God and is therefore not entitled to the full privileges of the divine image bearer, such as the right to life under the protection of the sixth commandment (‘thou shalt not kill’).”
To that, Robert Wennberg points out that Bajema has defined the “image of God” exclusively in terms of status and that by that definition, “God could as easily have conferred his image on apes (who, by the way, have a rational capacity that far exceeds that of the anencephalic) and on other nonpersons as he did on man, . . . I do not find this view satisfactory. It is my contention that one’s status as a special object of God’s love and grace is in fact tied to one’s nature as a person (or potential person) who can respond to God, enter into spiritual relationship with him, and be morally and spiritually accountable to him.”
I agree with Bajema that the image of God status is given to every human being, but I must add that our physical features do reflect that image. My physical features and abilities differ from those of an ape, because I reflect the image of God. Nevertheless, I am still a person if I stop functioning physically or even if I never had the ability to function physically as a person. Therefore the anencephalic child who will never function in this life as a person still bears the image of God as much as a normal child who will grow up and interact as a person. Both will be resurrected on the last day with perfect imperishable bodies.
If we attributed the image of God only to those who function as persons we would fall back into the humanistic way of thinking. We would try to earn our value rather than accepting it by grace through faith.