Describing the image of God is not an easy task. Wayne Grudem defines the image of God as such “The fact that man is in the image of God means that man is like God and represents God.” (Grudem 1994)
Many theologians have attempted to specify one characteristic of man or few that can be seen as the image of God. “Some have thought that the image of God consists in man’s intellectual ability, others in his power to make moral decisions and willing choices. Others have thought that the image of God referred to man’s original moral purity, or his creation as male and female (see Gen. 1:27), or his dominion over the earth.” (Grudem 1994)
The Hebrew word selem is translated “image” while demut is translated “likeness.” These two words can be seen as synonyms of each other. “When found together, as in Genesis 1:26; 5:1, 3, selem and demut make a theological statement about human nature, affirming that we bear a “likeness-image” to God. Like God we are persons, with an emotional, moral, and intellectual resemblance to our Creator.” (Richards and Richards 1987) John J. Davis says “It is this image and likeness that completely distinguishes man from the animal kingdom. He alone has the capacity for self-consciousness, speech, and moral discernment.” (Davis 1975)
The image of God cannot be pinpointed to one characteristic, but to several that reflect the God. It is that image that separates man from the animals. It is because of this image that we can love, think, and make good moral decisions. It is from God that man has creativity and a spiritual nature. The image of God is not a physical reflection of God, but it is a reflection of the characteristics that cannot be seen. It is the similarities between God and man that should be considered the image of God.
Davis, John J. Paradise to Prison. Salem: Sheffield Publishing Company, 1975.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.
Richards, Larry, and Lawrence O. Richards. The Teacher's Commentary. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1987.