The imago Dei has become for Western theology primarily a symbol
of either melancholy or disdain. For the Hebrew it was a symbol of the most
intimate God -man relationship which we have called co- inherence. For most
of the church Paradise lies behind, and our thoughts of it are tinged with
memories of shame; for Israel Paradise was ahead, and she looked forward in
Our brief analysis has supported the proposition, stated as simply
as possible, that man is destined by God for a good end. Hope itself appears
to be a universal symbol of this very attitude. The imago Dei, in our opinion,
is that symbol's theological counterpart. But the imago theme, in order to
clarify and enlarge upon so- called secular hope, needs to be reinterpreted; it needs to be freed from opinions which remain from the theological season
when creation and fall were treated as literal history.
Our theme is: "The Imago Dei: An Historical and Critical Examination ". The major characteristics of our own interpretation of the imago Dei theme
have been articulated above; our final chapter will be an attempt to construct
and present what we believe to be a dogmatically sound and systematically
justifiable re- interpretation of the theme. This will not be done de
novo; rather it will evolve from a critical evaluation of the historical
interpretations of the image motif.
The word "Historical" is chosen to indicate that our method will be
to select and evaluate theological systems of various historical epochs, i.e.,
Patristic, Scholastic, Reformation and Contemporary. The word "Critical"
requires explanation. We do not wish to imply that our explication will be
negative in the main, or that we have presupposed the conclusion. Rather,
we will endeavor to allow each theologian to speak for himself, reserving, as
much as is possible, our own presuppositions, i.e., those noted above. Our
intention, therefore, is primarily to pose the question: what does, e.g.,
Augustine teach in respect to the imago Dei? Necessarily, the question itself
will require an explication of various related themes and doctrines, e.g.,
creation, fall, sin, etc., which seem to impinge rather directly on the imago
Dei theme. Therefore, although we will include doctrines other than the
imago Dei specifically, it should be noted that we will not presume to study
any such peripherally related themes exhaustively.
Further, it should be realized that our method will not require a comparison and contrast of the systems under consideration. Whatever comparative
conclusions mentioned are for the purpose of clarification and understanding;
they are not for the purpose of ascertaining relative value. Quite
obviously, and admittedly, our own tentative presuppositions will "control"
and circumscribe first the body of material selected for study, and finally
even the conclusions derived. Whether the questions themselves are the "real"
questions, i.e., the authentic questions of theology; whether they are formulated
properly; whether they sufficiently lead us into the respective systems;
- these are the primary considerations upon which the reader is invited to
make his assessment. The secondary consideration - yet, nearer to the writer's
personal objective - is ultimately to lay a foundation for hope in terms of the
imago Dei. This requires: a. that we should carefully study and consider our
own doctrinal substructure; b. that we remain judiciously, yet courageously
susceptible to the possibility of either major or minor revision; and c. that
we learn that all theological formulation is penultimate. "No definitions
made by the Church in via are in themselves final or irreformable, however
faithfully they serve to mediate to mankind the final authority of God for