How Human Families and Human Individuals are “Made in the Image and Likeness of God”

Go To the Beginning of this Book Love Unbounded: Tracing Salvation History from the Eternal Trinity to the New Covenant Church – Using Family Theology to Answer the Question How and Why Does Jesus’ Death Save Us?

Humanity (Hebrew adam): the Image and Likeness of God’s Trinitarian Family

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…So God created man (Hebrew, adam) in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). God created humanity in His own image, meaning He created humanity in the image of the Trinity. Thus, He created a family. Some aspects of this have already been considered. It might be also suggested that in the temporal human family image of the Eternal Trinitarian Family, Adam is the first person, paralleling the Father, First Person of the Trinity, from which comes the second person, Eve, generated from the side of Adam, paralleling the Son, Second Person of the Trinity, who is generated from the Father, and from the mutual self-giving love of the first two persons, Adam and Eve, proceeds a third person, a child, paralleling the Holy Spirit, Third Person of the Trinity, who proceeds from the mutual self-giving love of the Father and the Son. Of course this parallel is not perfect because the Trinity is eternal and spiritual, while humanity is temporal and physical. But it certainly demonstrates how human beings more forcefully display the image of God the Trinity as families. It might also be suggested that the command to “multiply and fill the Earth” is so that the human family image of the Trinity will come closer to approximating the infinite Trinity of which they are the image: a family of three finite human persons does not as well image the three infinite Persons of the Trinitarian Family, one finite child produced from the love of the first two persons of the human family does not as well image the infinite Holy Spirit produced from the love of the first two persons of the Trinity, as does 6 billion and counting.

The Individual Image and Likeness of God: The Spiritual Soul and The Indwelling Holy Spirit

Although it is as human families that humanity most fully displays the image and likeness of God the Trinitarian Family, as individual human beings we also bear a special gift of the image and likeness of God which distinguishes us from the animal creatures whom we otherwise resemble as material beings with biological life. These gifts of image and likeness are what make us “like God” enough to enable us (and not animals or plants, who also have biological life) to relate to God and participate in His family life forever.

So what is the image and likeness of God uniquely given to human beings? Certainly it includes our rationality, our God-given human reason which sets us completely apart from even the most advanced animals. And it must include that eternal part of us, that continues after our death to be with God (and awaits the resurrection of the body, glorified, as was Jesus’ body). People often call this part “the soul,” which is not incorrect but is imprecise. The word “soul” in Latin is anima – from where we get the word “animal.” The soul is the “animating principle” or life principle in living things. Thus some philosophers will distinguish the “vegetative soul” (the life principle proper to plants), the “animal soul” proper to animals that animates them – which even includes a certain limited degree of intelligence, emotion, and will6 – and the “spiritual soul” unique to humanity, which demonstrates an intelligence, emotion and will not only far beyond that of the animals but of an entirely different character, with infinite possibilities7, because it reflects the infinite God. This is humanity’s unique gift of the image of God – the eternal, rational, “spiritual” soul.

Why do I identify the uniquely human kind of soul as the image of God in individual human beings but not the likeness? Because the Early Church Fathers distinguished the image of God from the likeness of God, the image being the gift unique to humanity which remained after the Fall of Man, and the likeness being that unique gift to humanity which was lost through Adam’s Original Sin. The Bible confirms this quite simply: adam (humanity) in Genesis 1 is created in the image and likeness of God, but after the Fall of Man, when murder is prohibited in the Noahic Covenant, it is on the basis of man being made in the image of God only. So Adam was created with something specific, referred to as “the likeness of God,” which he lost through sin. And fallen humanity descended from Adam after the Fall likewise lacks this “likeness of God.”

Clearly, our fallen human nature which is so easily prone to sin must be due to this lack. Humanity (adam) was created with something called “the likeness of God” which since the Fall we lack, meaning that we are not whole as human beings, we are missing something which God intended us to have which would complete us as human beings and make us not so very prone to sin (though still capable of it, as Adam proved). The Western Christian terminology of “Original Sin” developed by Saint Augustine is not incorrect but can be misleading then: I do not “inherit” Original Sin from Adam – “Original Sin” is not something that exists that is passed on in the human race descended from fallen Adam; rather it is a lack of something which was supposed to be passed on in generation from Adam which Adam lost as a consequence or result of his Original Sin. The only “Original Sin” which exists in time and space is that committed by Adam: but this Original Sin has consequences for every human being generated from fallen Adam who now lack what he lacked due to his personal Original Sin. We are incomplete, wounded human beings, because of loss of “the likeness of God” with which Adam was created.

So exactly what is the “likeness of God” which we are born lacking because of Adam’s Original Sin? The answer lies in a close reading of the Genesis 2 creation account and in what the New Testament tells us Jesus the New Adam restored to us. And the answer fits neatly into Trinitarian and Covenant theology (“Family” Theology). 1 Thessalonians 5:23 tells us what a complete human being looks like: “May the God of peace make you perfect in holiness. May he preserve you whole and entire, spirit, soul, and body, irreproachable at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So a human being who is “whole and entire” is composed of not only a body, and of not only a soul (even a special eternal, rational, spiritual soul made in the image of God), but also a spirit. We are ideally tri-partisan or three-part beings, made of a body, soul and spirit. What is the nature of this previously missing spirit which Jesus has returned to us? The only one which the Scriptures speak about, repeatedly, is The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of sonship who enables us to cry to God “Abba (literally Daddy), Father!” (Galatians 4:6). The Spirit of sonship who “testifies with our spirit [that is, our spiritual soul] that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16). Thus it is that Luke 3:38 says that Adam was made as “the son of God.” Adam was created with the Holy Spirit, the indwelling Spirit of sonship, which made Adam supernaturally related to God, in a state of supernatural Grace, part of the Trinitarian Family of God, living with the Holy Spirit of God Himself (who cannot be separated from the other Persons of the One God), walking with God in the Spirit as through Christ we are now re-enabled to do. This makes perfect sense, because the Trinity created Adam/adam/humanity specifically for the purpose of sharing in His Trinitarian Family Life – so of course the Trinity created Adam within that Family fellowship of supernatural sonship, and of course the Trinity created humanity to not be complete without the indwelling Holy Spirit. We are literally made for God and will not be whole as human beings unless we are indwelt by God! Hence Saint Augustine says to God, “we are made for you, and we are restless until we rest in you.”

Genesis 2 confirms that Adam was created with the indwelling Holy Spirit. “the LORD God formed the manfrom the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). On initial reading this would seem to suggest that God fashioned Adam’s body, like a corpse without a soul/anima, and after God’s breathing into Adam’s body it was animated, started moving, breathing, living biologically. However, this “breath of life” God breathed into Adam which made him “a living being” cannot be referring to biological life. Genesis 2:19 says God also “formed out of the ground” all of the animals – but God did not “breathe into” them “the breath of life” – yet they moved around, they had biological life. You see, there are two different kinds of “living” referred to in Genesis – biological life and supernatural, spiritual life – the life of the indwelling Holy Spirit. So both animals and Adam are formed out of the ground, their formation including the principle of biological life (man after all, physically is an animal, though much more as well). But God does something unique with adam/Adam – He breathes into him the Ruach, the Spirit of supernatural Life. This is clear because the Hebrew word for breath used is Ruach – the same word used for Spirit. It is the very same Ruach of God, the Spirit of God who hovered over the waters in Genesis 1:2 who God breathes into Adam as the Ruach of Life which makes Adam distinct from the other animals also “formed out of the ground” with merely biological life. Adam is proclaimed as “a living being” and the animals likewise fashioned out of the ground are not because Adam has uniquely been given the supernatural life of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which makes him “the son of God” (Luke 3:38), sharing in God’s Trinitarian Family Life, uniquely created in both the image and the likeness of God through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

That this is so is also clear because as there are two different kinds of life described in Genesis – biological and spiritual, there are two different kinds of death, biological and spiritual. In addition to the normal Hebrew verb “die,” Genesis uses an emphatic form, literally “die die,” which is usually translated as “surely die” or “die the death” or similar. God tells Adam that he must not disobey His one command to not eat the fruit because “when you eat of it you will surely die [die die]” (Genesis 2:17). The serpent tells Eve (and Adam, who is with her – 3:6) that “you will not surely die [die die]” when they eat the fruit. We must understand “die die” to be referring to spiritual death, or else it means God lied and the serpent told the truth. Adam and Eve did not die biologically when they ate the fruit, like the serpent said, and against what God had said – but in their disobedient sin they died spiritually, they lost the indwelling Holy Spirit, they lost the principle of supernatural life and sonship which they had, exactly as God had said they would. So the serpent did lie. They did die spiritually. Thus in Genesis 3:19 God tells Adam, “dust you are, and to dust you will return.” Contrasting this with Adam’s original creation in Genesis 2:7, we see that even though Adam is still alive biologically – as he was before God breathed the Spirit into him, alive like the animals into whom God did not breathe – we see that now Adam is just dust. Before, he was biologically living dust that had been made into a supernaturally “living being” through the breathing of the Ruach, the Holy Spirit, into him. Now he is once again just dust, merely living biologically, no longer having the indwelling Spirit which made him a (supernaturally) living being.8

How the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Adam Differs from the Indwelling in Christians

The “likeness of God,” the supernatural sonship of the indwelling Holy Spirit with which Adam was created is both greater and lesser than the manner in which the Holy Spirit indwells Christians in the New Covenant. It is greater in the sense that unlike us, Adam possessed the Holy Spirit in an uncorrupted body in an uncorrupted creation – therefore Adam was not prone to the great daily struggle with sin to which we are prone, even having had the Holy Spirit of adoption restored to us. Adam not only lost the Holy Spirit which communicated with his spiritual soul (cf. Romans 8:16), the entirety of the Creation was marred by sin in humanity, the pinnacle of Creation. Christians in the New Covenant have received back the Holy Spirit of sonship which Adam lost – but we have received it back into corrupted bodies which still await their bodily resurrections.

Thus the Apostle Paul laments in Romans 7:14-25 his great weakness and the great struggle with sin that he has, a struggle he often loses. He affirms the spiritual renewal of his “inner being,” which indeed “delights in God’s law” (Romans 7:22), “but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (7:23-24). Paul says that “it is no longer I myself who do it [sin], but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh.” (7:17-18). Using different terminology at different times (e.g. new man versus old man), Paul consistently opposes his soul and Spirit which have been renewed in Christ (by the indwelling Holy Spirit) specifically to his unregenerate body, to his flesh, which he disciplines (“I beat my body and make it my slave”) so it will not lead him into sin.

This great struggle happens in Christians, restored to Divine sonship through the Holy Spirit, because human beings are not primarily a soul which happens to be attached to a body, as if we were angels trapped in matter. Angels belong to different order of Creation. Human beings are a body, soul, and spirit (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23) – we are tripartite beings, yet another way in which we image the Eternal Trinity. We are ultimately inseparable from our bodies. A body separated from a soul is the condition known as death – declared in the Bible as a specific result of sin, and one over which Christ has won the victory, “the last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). The resurrection of our bodies (after the pattern of Christ’s resurrected and glorified body – altered, superior, but with which He even ate food) is so plainly taught in Scripture that few Christians deny it although many, apparently suffering from a kind of leftover dualism from the long string of heresies throughout Christian history (starting with the Gnostic heretics) which taught that matter is evil and the spirit is good, seem to imagine that Heaven is a spiritual, angelic existence. The Bible instead testifies that God made Creation for adam, a cosmic Temple, a house for the Father’s children to grow up in, making a covenant with the whole Creation, not just mankind, and that this entire Creation will be renewed in Christ. The physical body of Jesus Christ was the first part of Creation to be renewed and glorified – different, superior, yet recognizable. The glorification of that matter is our guarantee that our own sinful bodies, and indeed all Creation, will also be glorified when Christ returns, a “new heavens and a new Earth.” We will live the Family Life of the Holy Trinity, forever in an intimate communion of persons with Him and with each other, but it will not be as disembodied souls.

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23)

This passage not only indicates that Creation will be renewed, but that our own adoption as sons, testified to by the Holy Spirit of adoption, is incomplete until the redemption of our bodies in the final resurrection. Thus, human beings in the New Covenant, with our souls reborn through the “water and the Spirit” (John 3:5) of Baptism (the New Covenant oath), will struggle with sin as long as we are still in our corrupted bodies. We must be careful not to separate our bodies and our souls too completely in our minds, for they are bound together in one being and exert tremendous influence on each other. Hence physical chemical imbalances in the brain affect personality (as in bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia, and so on) and these mental/emotional disorders – functions of the soul – can be treated with physical, chemical drugs.9 But the locus and the source of the sin we struggle with is in our unregenerate bodies, and the locus and the source of our goodness is in the indwelling Holy Spirit (the likeness of God) which completes us as human beings, renewing our spiritual souls (the image of God) with Grace, the life of God shared with us.10 The grace of Christ gives us the strength to overcome sin, we can master the sin which still reigns in our bodies in the strength of Christ, but it will not be easy as long as we are in these bodies. Death will free us from sin, to a temporary existence as a disembodied soul, until we receive our glorified bodies. Yet though we will commit no new sins after death separates us from our bodies, our disembodied souls will still require the purification of 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, burning off the “wood, hay and straw” (verse 12), the effects of sin still on our souls from our time intimately united to our corrupted bodies.

In the meantime there is this struggle, traditionally known as concupiscence. Concupiscence is the link between Adam’s personal Original Sin and our own personal sins. Although we are still personally responsible for our own sins, the fact remains that the fallen human nature which makes it so easy for us to sin personally is not our fault but the result of Adam’s personal sin. All the sin in the world is thus linked to Adam’s Sin, which will be important for our redemption. Jesus the New Adam very specifically personally atones for the damage done by Adam’s personal sin, thus taking out sin at its very source.

Created in communion with God, it was not easy for Adam to sin (see below). But because of the Holy Spirit of sonship within the Trinitarian family which Adam lost, which we thus failed to receive from Him, fallen wounded humanity is concupiscent, our bodily passions are disordered and not reigned in by our reason, which is darkened by sin, and thus fallen humanity finds it very easy to sin against love. So easy in fact, that for many sinners there is no struggle at all. But the New covenant Church is truly the new Israel. Israel literally means “he struggles with God.” The new Israel (similar to the old Israel which went back and forth between the LORD and idols) is characterized by the fact that our renewed souls, empowered by the restored Holy Spirit, struggle with sin (which still reigns in our corrupted bodies) out of our love for God. We struggle, and by grace we overcome.

The effects of Adam’s Fall was not only the loss of the indwelling Holy Spirit, “the likeness of God,” but the mar of the “image of God” in our eternal, rational, spiritual souls, as well as the corruption of all material creation, including our bodies. The three particular effects of sin in fallen humanity are the darkened intellect, which no longer knows what good is (hence Israel’s need for a very detailed and specific moral law to interpret the 10 Commandments in very specific cases), the weakened will, which finds it difficult to choose the good even when it is known, and concupiscence, the disordering of the passions, which make us desire too much of a good thing or good things out of their proper order (such as gluttony or fornication). I would suggest that the darkened reason is essentially (if not perfectly) healed in our receiving back the Holy Spirit; Christians now know the good or at least recognize it much more easily (hence Paul in Romans 7:25 distinguishes his mind as being of the side of good, against his body: “I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the flesh a slave to the law of sin” (also see Romans 8:5-9). Concupiscence is particularly associated with the bodily passions, so it against this primarily (if not wholly) that Christians still struggle. Our will, weakened by the Fall so that it cannot choose good except if empowered by Grace, is restored to the freedom to choose the good by our spiritual regeneration in Christ. Our will is essentially us, our power of choice. But we are composed of body, soul, and spirit. So our will is pulled on the one hand by the concupiscent flesh; it is pulled on the other hand by the soul renewed in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives empowering grace and freedom to choose the good, but being also pulled by the corrupted flesh, we will struggle to choose the good, though free and empowered to do so by Grace.

It is important to note also that the Holy Spirit indwelt Adam in a manner that is inferior to the way Christians are indwelt in the New Covenant. The difference between the indwelling supernatural life of grace of the Holy Spirit in Adam and us is that in Adam, humanity was given the gift of supernatural sonship to start with, but Adam, Head of adam/humanity, had to pass the test of self-sacrificing love to keep it (see below), and when he failed the test he lost it. The new adam, the new humanity redeemed in Christ the New Adam, Head of redeemed humanity, has already passed the test on the Cross, and because the New Adam is also God the Eternal Son Incarnate, His nature guarantees He will never lose it – He will always love like God and never sin against love. Thus Jesus, as Head of redeemed humanity, will never force the grace of Divine sonship given to humanity in Him out of His human life, as Adam did by sinning against love. Individual human beings only have to “remain in Him” to not lose it. Thus, united to Christ the New Adam, the supernatural sonship we have is much more secure than Adam’s ever was.

Created World a Preparation for Sharing in the Divine Family Life Eternally

So God created Adam as a new “son of God” (Luke 3:38), the Head of a newly created humanity (adam) named after him which would issue from his loins as he and the bride already generated from his side obeyed the command to “be fruitful and multiply.” The human family, image of the infinite Trinitarian Family would expand to fill the earth in a finite approximation of God’s infinite fruitfulness of love. This would result in a vast number of new persons to share in the Eternal family communion of love of the three Divine Persons. Since, although rational, made in the image of God, and in communion with the Holy Spirit, made in the likeness of God, Adam was still a creature, not God, God made a covenant with Adam1 and all Creation in order to bind Himself to His creature Adam in true family bonds despite his otherness. The Covenant made the Creator into a Father, and Creation into a family home.

However, to be able to truly share eternally in the life-giving communion of love that is the Trinity, a created person would have to be able to love like God. So humanity was not created merely to wander the garden; they were created to prepare themselves to enter fully the life of passionate self-giving love of the Trinity. So while Adam was created as an entire human being, body, spiritual soul, and indwelling Holy Spirit, therefore indwelt by the entire Trinity of Love as we Christians are, walking with God in the Garden as we walk with God today, but without the struggle against the concupiscent flesh, making him, though free, not at all inclined to sin as we are since his bodily appetites were under the control of his reason, Adam had yet to prove that he could love like God loves and was ready to enter the fullness of the Life of the Trinity.
Adam was a “son of God” to be sure, by covenant bond and by supernatural bond with the Holy Spirit, but not a mature son. Humanity/adam was very young. He needed to grow up into the mature likeness of his Covenant Father, the mature image of God, in order to share fully the life that God intended for him in creating him. God is constituted as a Triune communion by the outpour of self-giving love. Since humanity/adam is called to the Trinity, the same sort of love is required from him. Being finite, humanity cannot love like God on its own, but it can through Grace, which is the life of God shared with us, ministered through the indwelling Holy Spirit with which Adam was created.

God’s fatherly plan for His Covenant Family is to raise His children to be self-giving lovers like Himself. The love with which God loves is complete self-giving, holding nothing back. Jesus identified (and later modeled) the maximum expression of love for a finite created being: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). So for finite created beings, the closest equivalent to God’s total self-giving love is martyrdom. This is why the Early Church venerated the martyrs as model Christians. They proved that, empowered by God’s Grace, they could love like God, pouring out their very lives, all they had and all they were, as an offering of love to God, as God gives Himself completely in love within the Godhead.

Go To the Next Section Adam and Jesus Versus the Dragon

Go To the Beginning of this Book Love Unbounded: Tracing Salvation History from the Eternal Trinity to the New Covenant Church – Using Family Theology to Answer the Question How and Why Does Jesus’ Death Save Us?


6My cat demonstrates intelligence in problem-solving, how to get to the hidden food; my cat demonstrates emotion in fear or affection; my cat demonstrates will in choosing which lap to sleep on.
7 Note that ant colonies and meerkat or prairie dog communities or even communities of our “fellow” primates (like apes and chimps) do not vary from one another anywhere near as much as human communities do! Animal behavior is far more predictable than is human behavior, and animal communities of the same species exhibit no significant variations in organization or decoration or architecture (which is non-existent). While animals can communicate warnings and other rudimentary messages through chirps and calls, the famous linguist Noam Chomsky confirms that even the highest animals, the apes like gorillas and chimpanzees, a few of whom have been taught many symbols of Sign Language, “do not have the barest rudiments of real language.” The symbols they have been taught allow them to communicate with humans instead of just with apes, but their use of the symbols does not even approach human language. A gorilla who has been taught a 1000 word vocabulary in Sign Language still only “speaks” in one or two word sentences, with a “Mean Length of Utterance” of about 1.6 words per “sentence.” A small human child with less than half that size vocabulary can form complex grammatical sentences. God’s gift to human beings is utterly unique.

8But humanity still bears the image of God, adam is still much more than an animal. Thus Eve will later be called “the Mother of all the living” – of the no longer supernaturally living, but still living as the highest and most loved creature upon the face of the earth.

9J. Eccles, the nobel-prize-winning neurophysiologist, the scientist and medical specialist who knows more about the human brain than anyone on the planet, confirms that the physical structures of the brain do not near account for the range of human personality, intelligence, emotion, will – all traditionally identified by philosophy as functions of the soul – and he has written books describing the brain as the instrument of the mind, the body as the instrument of the soul. But still the instrument is part of who we are as integrated beings of soul and body, thus my personality and intelligence can be altered and damaged by damage to the instrument, brain damage.

10Note that God does not have a body, so our bodies are not part of the image and likeness of God, except in their physical representation of the Trinity in human families made of father, mother, children, or in the Trinitarian representation that our bodies together with our soul and spirit make us tripartite beings, as God is a three in one being.

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