God has no image or likeness according to the Bible, and this in fact forms the basis of the second commandment. Attempting to create man in the divine image ignores the fact that God has no body, parts or appetites like we do. It also creates the place for the divinization of man (gross idolatry), the doctrine of the Incarnation (an after-effect of the false doctrine in question), which also found its counterpart in the divinizing of ancient kings. Alexander of Macedon, for instance, taught that he himself was the son of Zeus, and many Egyptian pharaohs named themselves after several different deities (e.g. Tut-ankh-Amun = king “Tut”).
Man is symmetrical. Draw a line down his middle from top to bottom, and you get a mirror-like imagery, where each half mimmicks the other in reverse. This structural reflexivity shows up in divine behavior as “lex talionis,” the principle of mutual, reciprocal judgment in kind. We are judged by our own standards of relating to others. The light of nature shows that we receive what we sow. This does not mean that evil people do not inflict damage falsely — that is the very nature of crime. Reversing the terms of the equation, “what you sow, you reap” commits the fallacy of affirming the consequent. What you have reaped is not in every instance what you — and not some criminal — have sown. And the criminal will inherit his own evil later, with significant interest.
Trying to make mankind into an image that the invisible God does not have not only seeks to glorify him as divine, but it also lowers the status of the rest of creation to “fallen” by false comparison. This is why we contemptuously kill the poor animals that humans eat. And we in turn inherit high crime rates among people, armed conflicts, even world wars by the cumulative effects of the sin of slaughter. In fact, the word “holocaust” derives from the Septuagint Greek word for “animal sacrifice” as a “whole burnt offering” — “holokautama.”
This holocaust-sacrifice is taught in Leviticus pre-eminently, one of the most important books to expunge from the canon of Scripture, along with the Book of Revelation, which teaches “the beast’s retaliatory holocaust.” Revelation is the cosmic-slaughter book, a kind of rejoining complement to the book of Leviticus. It also shows the fulfillment of “man as God’s image,” in the generalized (and extremely evil) worship of man (as divine image) by mankind.
At Mt. Sinai, God is said to have adjured the Israelites “remember that when I spoke to you from Mount Sinai YOU SAW NO DIVINE FORM.” God does not have an image. He is inherently a most pure Spirit, and remains invisible. He has shown Himself by his attributes in the wisdom of creation — the diligence of the ant, the wisdom of the rock badger, the lowly humility of the brightly-colored starfishes. King David, who prayed to God saying, “You are my rock,” could have been a starfish. The Lord has the eternal stability and security with which we associate the immovability of large — seemingly invincible — boulders. But this does not mean that God appears as a monolith. The creation displays His glorious attributes — all of creation — including its very large monoliths. Man does not have an exclusive patent on showing forth the divine attributes. The revelation of God via ALL CREATION makes the light of nature a ubiquitous revelation. The phrase “general revelation” probably overstates the case a bit, but the Proverbs surely teach us the ubiquity of the revelation, as we encounter divine wisdom in the behaviors of many of God’s pets, as well in humanity.
The starfish show forth (by matter of lower degree to be sure) both the divine glory and humility. They also clearly reveal the fact of our Creator and His child-like creativity. What would you be “adapting to” in order to survive better in a dog-eat-dog darwinian world so that you would need to look like glorious heavenly bodies from the perspective of those who live on this planet? Starfish do not move fast, or show any signs of what one might plausibly think of as “adapting to one’s environment.”
Looking like a Christmas tree ornament hardly constitutes “adapting,” unless you are adapting to debt-driven holidays.
Much about nature’s light remains to be learned by the study of the human anatomy and habits — why we each are comprised of a unit of 30 (ten fingers, ten toes, five senses and five appendages) — but the same is true for the other creatures. Man is no way the image of God, which image does not exist.
One of the great follies that arose in the ancient world from this false doctrine was the idea that God has a local presence, and that He lives in our temples, made by our hands. This challenges directly the sovereignty of God and (allegedly) puts men in charge of his appearing — when He appears, where he may appear, etc. Stephen reproved this idea, instead affirming with Paul (see Acts 17), “God does not live in temples made with hands.”
That is correct. And He never has either. In Him we live and move and have our being. For God to adopt a local presence would in fact be redundant. By being universal, He is already local as well. It cannot be otherwise. Prayer is not a long-distance call. And this is just BECAUSE man is not created in God’s “local only” image. In other words, if God actually had an image, it would have been a universal image, not merely a local one. God is omnipresent, and we are not. This shows that we are not uniquely God’s image, but reflect only certain aspects of His character — both male and female — as do the other creatures.
Undoubtedly, humanity is the highest of God’s creatures in terms of our linguistic and intellectual capacities. We image certain of God’s attributes more clearly and comprehensively than do the lower creatures, but in our relating to them, this gives us a higher and more urgent “mercy mandate.” To whom much is given, much is required. Love your neighbor as yourself. Here, the simple word “as” implies the equality and symmetry shown in our very structure.
This is the nature both of divine mercy and of justice. With the measure you use ….
The doctrine of “man as uniuely in God’s image” has some very important corrollaries in the experience of mankind generally:
1. It leads us by false comparison to think of the creation as fallen — too low.
2. It attempts to make man divine, promoting rank idolatry, but also divinizes him AS A FALLEN BEING. This is the birthplace of “the Devil,” and 500 pounds of annually-renewable free candy in October.
3. Notions of an eternally fallen (but semi-divine) being give rise to the doctrines of angels and demons. These mythological entities are semi-divine beings, some fallen, some not.
4. It leads us to treat the creation with contempt, to abuse the (putatively fallen) environment, without sufficient concern for how this will affect our future and the future of the other creatures who live here with us.
5. This probably begat certain misconceptions of transcendence — that is, certain abusive doctrines about the divine right(s) of kings [Constantine was supposed to be the 13th apostle; Charlemagne unwisely allowed himself to be crowned by a pope], and certain theories of inspiration standing behind some concepts of the “sacred scriptures” [transcendence derived apart from the light of nature, accomplished by this or that muse or spirit].
6. With the mythological “man as divine image” concept in mind, it is not difficult to imagine how the writings of man (the most priestly of men) can become the writings of God, or that the decrees of man can become the decrees of God. “It seemed good to us AND TO THE HOLY SPIRIT” (Acts 15) seems to imply just this connection. The false doctrine of the infallibility of the Church sits just a few false-implicate steps away from “man as divine image.”
It is well to ponder the connections that seem natural enough to make — often with sociologically-dangerous conclusions (think Spanish Inquisition) — once we allow the false notion of man as divine image.