The concept of God’s image in humanity is a deep and provocative concept. God’s image does not occur in sub-human life even though God’s creative power is evident in all life. God’s creative power is also manifest in the coherent orderliness of the cosmos, especially in our unique Solar System with our Planet Earth. There is no body in our Solar System approaching Earth’s uniqueness, not only because Earth has been created life-abundant, but especially because the highest form of life, humanity, has been created in the Image of God. A few unusual animals have been created with a quality defined by Reasons to Believe author Hugh Ross as soulishness. Ross is careful to distinguish the fascinating quality of soulishness in animals from the much more elevated concept of human beings created in the Image of God:
The website Rationalwiki published an essay in 2008 entitled “Greatest Achievements in Human History.” Its unnamed authors cited numerous achievements powered by human knowledge and creativity in multiple categories. Included were 16 topics: Architecture, art, engineering, exploration, inventions, law/government/politics/economics, literature, mathematics, medicine, military, music, philosophy, political/social movements, religion, science, and speech/orations. The authors listed multiple examples of human knowledge and achievement in each of sixteen categories. The essay was reminiscent of several categories discussed in Focus on the Family’s worldview workshop offered over a decade ago. The Truth Project categories were veritology (truth), philosophy and ethics, anthropology, theology, science, history, sociology, the “mystical union,” the State, the American experiment, labor, and community involvement.
Both of the above sources offer a virtual catalog of outworking of the Image of God evident in humanity, and only in humanity, as contrasted with millions of other living species. Humans are gifted with the ability to perceive, understand, organize, and create in many spheres of achievement. Appropriation of these gifts is a special honor to humankind—a legacy from our Creator.
As we examine the accomplishments of the human race in the most recent 50,000-75,000 years we detect a sudden infusion of traits clearly seen by most historians as a “sea change” in human knowledge and achievement. The gap in knowledge and achievement between modern humans and the next lower hominid clearly sets man apart from all other forms of life.
The writers of the essay “Greatest Achievements in Human History” listed an average of 22 major human accomplishments in each listing for a total of 358. This is not to say there were only 358 major accomplishments. The authors subjectively chose their illustrations.
We find many essays and plentiful commentary on the meaning of the Image of God with which humanity was created. Scripture contains several expressions such as Genesis 1:27 where we are explicitly told, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” The concept of man’s creation “in His image” is exceedingly powerful. New Testament passages tell us we identify with Christ who is the image of the invisible God. Human existence “in the image of God” is one of the most awesome concepts of theological reality. It implies we have the knowledge and responsibility to create and manage our environment not only for our own benefit but also for the glory of God who initially created all things.
God created humans to exercise creativity and self-reliance. Man controls and enriches his own life in a volitional manner. A study of major human accomplishments affirms humanity’s gifts resulting from infusion of the creative Image of God. Animal and plant life possesses extraordinary intrinsic abilities. However, they are not manifestations of the Image of God.