Made in the Image of God – Part 1: A Trinitarian View of the Human Experience
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…
So God created man in His own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
I want to write about what it means to be made in the image of God. I think that this is an important aspect of Christianity – knowing who we are and how God made us. At the very beginning of Scripture, we see that men and women are made in the image and likeness of God, but there are a variety of ways of understanding what that actually means. For instance, we can consider that God is good, and so humanity is made to be good. We can consider that God is love, and so humanity is made for love. We can consider that God is a community in His three-in-oneness, and so humanity is made for community.
In this series, I want to pose some thoughts on the nature of the human experience, and the idea of a person being made in the image of a Trinitarian God. Now I don’t claim that all of these thoughts are right, or that this is the only way to understand the idea that we are made in the image of God. But I do think that both scripture and tradition validate these thoughts, and at the very least I think they are insightful for our own spiritual formation.
God is Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Inherent in orthodox Christian belief is the trinity of God. There is a three-in-oneness to our understanding of God’s nature, His image, His likeness. So since we are made in God’s image and likeness, perhaps His three-in-one nature might hint toward our own being.
In Genesis 2:7, we read that Adam is made with both a physical nature (dust) and spiritual nature (the breathe of God). Throughout the history of the church, we see the Holy Spirit moving through communities of Christians, such as monastic orders, who give preference to the immaterial spiritual nature over the material physical nature. My point is not to stress one over the other, as they did, but rather to present the fact that we have historically believed that there are separate realities of the human experience – a material physical nature and an immaterial spiritual nature.
We see this still today. Take love for instance: we cannot empirically see, measure, or prove the loving connection between a man and his wife. We can observe behaviors, measure physiological effects, or even study the things that cause attraction and romance. But love itself is an intangible thing – something immaterial, relational, and transcendent.
There are several verses in Scripture that reflect this separation of the outer material nature of humanity from the inner spiritual nature. (Matt 10:28, 1 Cor 7:34, 2 Cor 4:16, 2 Cor 7:1, Rom 2:28-29, Rev 6:9-11) At the very least, Scripture attests to at least two parts of the human experience: a physical and material part we call the body, and a non-physical and immaterial part we call the soul or the spirit.
Yet there are also verses in Scripture that may support a difference between the soul and the spirit as well. For instance, Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul (psuche) and spirit (pneuma), of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” There is a clear distinction between soul and spirit. This verse also appears to acknowledge that the soul and the spirit are two separate and distinguishable divisions.
Another example is 1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit (pneuma) and soul (psuche) and body (soma) be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So if this separation of soul and spirit is acceptable, then we see at least three distinguishable divisions of a person: the body, the soul, and the spirit.
I may be going out on a theological limb here, but that’s okay; I’m willing to be corrected if there is biblical evidence to discredit this theory.
Perhaps the image of the triune God is reflected in our own three-in-oneness. Perhaps there are three parts of the human experience that are each equal in importance and united in the human experience. Just like the Godhead, these three parts of the human experience would relate to each other, communicate with each other, and must all exist in order for the human person to be. In this way the human experience is one experience in three parts, and three aspects of the human experience united as one human person: body (physical), soul (psychological/emotional), and spirit (spiritual).
What do you think?
About the Author
Kevin Cook is a 4th year student at Asbury Theological Seminary and an Aspirant for Ordination in the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). After graduating, Kevin hopes to plant a contemporary three-streams Anglican Church. He and his wife Nicole attend Wilmore Anglican Church in Kentucky.
Kevin holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Master of Business Administration from Florida State University. Kevin enjoys playing music and leading worship, reading fiction and spiritual classics, drinking coffee, and spending time with family and friends.
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