Table of Contents
Vol.3: Man in Adam and in Christ
THE TERMS "IMAGE" AND
AS USED IN GENESIS 1:26
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. The Creation of the
Chapter 2. The Image Lost
Chapter 3. The Likeness Achieved
1964: Doorway paper No. 49, published privately by Arthur C. Custance
1977: Part III in Man in Adam and in Christ vol.3 in The Doorway
Papers Series, Zondervan Publishing Company.
1997: Arthur Custance Online Library (HTML)
2001 2nd Online Edition (corrections, design revisions)
1 of 3
SOME YEARS AGO,
I had the privilege of speaking on several occasions to a number
of foreign students attending universities in this country. One
of these was a professor of Buddhism at the University of Tokyo.
For a little while after the meetings, we corresponded. His "English"
was quite fascinating. He was fully persuaded that all men are
God's children, and could not accept the Christian view that
there is any alienation on account of sin. He concluded one of
his letters in which he had been expounding this view with a
note of triumph by saying, "For after all, they are all
little sons of God, don't they?" His faith in this respect
is one very widely held. Indeed, a major source of offense to
people in the presence of Christians is our insistence upon the
fact that God is not the Father of all men.
Not infrequently, however, even
Christian people themselves become confused when they meet those
who, while they do not share their faith, yet have enjoyed specific
answers to prayer. So frequently, in fact, do men recount such
experiences -- who otherwise have no Christian faith whatever
-- that one is forced to conclude with Peter that God is indeed
"no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34, 35). But does
this mean that such men have really achieved a relationship with
God which is analogous to that claimed by Christian people, but
by an entirely different route? Are there, in fact, several avenues
of salvation? And if so, what exactly are we to do with the Lord's
categorical statement, "No man cometh unto the Father but
by Me" (John 14:6)? Could it be that a man may find his
way to God through Jesus Christ -- unknowingly?
I believe that the answer to these
questions is to be found by a careful study of what is stated
in Scripture with respect to the "image" and "likeness"
which God appointed for man at the time of his creation. Moreover,
I think it important to distinguish carefully between these two
words "image" and "likeness," although there
great scholars (James
Orr  was one
of them) who believe that the words were merely synonyms used
repetitively for effect.
Now we may well
be accused of a too pronounced literalism in this study. But
I find myself becoming impatient with those who, though undoubtedly
sincere Christian men, nevertheless treat Scripture as though
it were a kind of semi-poetic prose, a form of literature the
words of which convey meaning but not with precision. Yet I believe
this attitude towards Scripture robs the Word of God of much
of its power of communication, for in an extraordinary way it
has an inner consistency which becomes more and more apparent
as one pays greater and greater attention to its exact wording.
There are instances, of course,
where although the text is part of Scripture, yet it is not part
of the Word of God. For example, the words of Satan are quoted
in Genesis and in Job; upon occasion, a historical record is
to be found perhaps extracted from some pagan source (such as
a King's decree); and here and there some spoke unwisely, as
when Job's wife told him to curse God and die (Job 2:9), or Peter
said, "Be it far from thee, Lord" (Matthew 16:22).
These are all part of Scripture and included by divine appointment,
but they are not strictly the word of God spoken by inspiration.
It is not these portions of Scripture which I am thinking of
in the matter of precision but rather those in which men were
clearly speaking for God. Here at least one must surely assume
that exactly what was said is exactly what was meant. The point
is relevant to the study of the phrase, "in our image and
after our likeness" (Genesis 1:26), for if such phrases
are merely redundant for effect, Scripture is to my mind robbed
of its precision and the reader discouraged from paying any more
than casual attention to its terms. It is the experience of a
very great host of men among whom have been numbered some of
the world's most profound thinkers (Augustine, for instance)
that the more carefully one studies not merely the Word of God
but the words of God, the more they will be found to bear minute
examination. It is like all else of God's created things, as
it is examined more closely, the more manifestly perfect does
it prove to be.
What follows, then, is a critical
examination of the words "image" and "likeness."
Upon the precise meaning of these hinges much that makes Christianity
a system of beliefs differing from all other religious faiths.
In the first place, it demonstrates the unique way in which redemption
is achieved. In the second place, it demonstrates the unique
way in which Christian character is achieved. With all due respect,
I think my Buddhist friend was mistaken.
1. Orr, James, God's Image in Man,
Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1948, p.54.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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