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The Meaning and Implications of the Doctrine of imago Dei: Pt. 4 of 6—The Imitation of Christ
April 9, 2014 richardstevenpark

The Meaning and Implications of the Doctrine of imago Dei: Pt. 4 of 6—The Imitation of Christ

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Any Christian theological anthropology would be incomplete without a consideration of the person of Jesus who is the perfect image of God. That is, if we are made in the image of God, and this image has to some extent been disfigured, then for purposes of sanctification considering Christ as the perfect image of God makes perfect sense. In today’s (relatively briefer) post, I discuss a number of key biblical passages which connect up the idea of imago Dei with imitatio Christi, or the imitation of Christ.

In Colossians chapter one, we read that Christ is not only “the image of the invisible God,” but also “the firstborn [preeminent] of all creation” (v. 15), since “all things were created through him and for him” (v. 16). (To note, this passage tends to point to functional view of the imago Dei.) Similarly, in Hebrew chapter one, we see that Christ also perfectly reflects “the radiance of [the Father’s] glory and the exact representation of his nature” (v. 3). (This passage seems to suggest an ontological view of the imago Dei, making a combinatorial view, which I suggested in an earlier post—see here: Pt. 2 of 6—, quite plausible.)

Thus, as the perfect embodiment of the imago Dei, Christ shows us why we must “be conformed to the image of [Christ]” (Rom. 8:29); and as the perfect human person, he shows us that we can be “transformed into the same image” of “the glory of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). That is, Jesus Christ as the God-Man makes it both necessary and possible that we too are conformed to the image of God.

In short, our Christian theological anthropology—i.e., our doctrine of the human person—must be, well, Christian, and this in two senses: First, it must be Christological: that is, our doctrine must be informed by the person of Jesus Christ who is the perfect imago Dei. Secondly, it must be Christ-like: if it is true that the highest compliment or praise [doxa] that one could pay to anyone else is imitation, then our doctrine of humanity—like all doctrines of the Christian faith—must lead to doxology; that is, if we are to grasp the fullness of the doctrine of the image of God, we will inevitably be led to the discipline of the imitation of Christ. The ultimate goal of imago Dei is imitatio Christi.

In my next post—which I split into two parts—I will look at one specific implication of the imago Dei which has an important and urgent impact on a particular social justice issue of our day: what I call ‘inhuman trafficking’. In the first part of this two-part post, I will look at the doctrine of imago Dei and its implications of the horror of present-day inhuman trafficking; then, in the second part I will consider some lesson we could learn from relatively recent history as relates to our efforts to combat this tragedy.

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