Is the imago dei synonymous with the definition of person?

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by BayouHuguenot, Sep 7, 2018.

  1. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Do we, and I mean the broader Christian tradition, equate the image of God with what it means to be a person? For example, Boethius defines a person as a specific instance of a rational nature. Is that what we are going to define image of God as?

    I lean towards the functional view of the image of God (Klaas Schilder, some elements of Bavinck, etc). Yet I don't want to define person as a certain function or set of functions.

    There is something about this that I can't put my finger on.
  2. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    If the imago dei is essential to personhood, and angels aren't made in the image of God, then angels are not personal. Clearly, angels are personal, so I don't think that holds up.

    In my opinion, the best definition of person is a rational animal.
  3. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Senior

    Not equated but implied?
  4. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I am not saying that the image of God is or isn't essential (which I take to mean, necessary condition) but whether that it is synonymous.

    You raise a good point. Angels are personal but many do not take them to be image of God.
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Perhaps I can make my concern clearer this way. Calvin defined the image of God as the soul. Yet if the image of God = the person (and I don't believe Calvin said that), then we are confusing person with nature. If we apply that to Christology, we either have Nestorianism or Apollinarianism.
  6. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Senior

    Point of order; Calvin has been accused of heavy flirtation with nestorianism.
  7. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Freshman

    But angels are also not animals, right?
  8. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I was using animal in the sense of that which is animated. If you want to limit the term to material beings that are animated, then you could define person as a rational creature.

    Before the objection is raised that this would exclude the Persons of the Trinity, note that the Persons of the Trinity are essentially different from created persons, insofar as they share one mind, one will, etc. I don't think that we could come up with a definition of person that fits both created persons and the Persons of the Godhead.
  9. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I understand. I don't think he was a Nestorian (his definition of hypostasis was never precise enough for him to be accused of it). Nor am I saying he used his Platonic definition of image of God as an overall definition of the person.

    But some could be tempted to that route. The bible teaches substance dualism, and many post-Cartesians equate the soul with the person.
  10. jwithnell

    jwithnell Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The difficulty of the functional view of the Imago Dei is it leaves no room for those who, under the fall, have lost that functional capability. Indeed, Martin Luther questioned whether those with mental difficulties could be considered image bearers.

    Karl Barth defined the image in terms of relationship, but again, that would spin off as an "exception" those who have little ability to relate to another. Is the person in a coma no longer in God's image?

    This article explains it better than I can. The author has a recent book out on the subject.
  11. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    We also cannot say that the body has nothing to do with the image of God. The person is a whole person in biblical thought.

    Knowledge, righteousness, dominion, and holiness are the confessional categories. Another way to put it is moral agency and moral excellence (the former of which is retained in the Fall, but the latter is not). The definition of image has to be such that it is retained after the Fall (see Genesis 9, in particular), yet still distorted.

    I agree that image cannot be equated with person. The angel argument is compelling in this regard, since they are not said to be made in God's image.
  12. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable Staff Member

    Per Vos:
    Person is an independent entity, indivisible, rational, incommunicable, not sustained by another nature but possessing in itself the principle of its operation.

    Person is an independent entity, indivisible, rational, incommunicable, not sustained by another nature and not a part of something else.
  13. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Freshman

    Gotcha. Totally my mistake! Thank you for the clarification.
  14. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Very key is the idea of person as an independent/not subsisting from another entity.
  15. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Image does not equal person, although only a person can be image.
  16. Charles Johnson

    Charles Johnson Puritan Board Freshman

    Brakel gives a helpful description of the doctrine of the imago dei in book 1 of "A Christian's Reasonable Service". In keeping with the teaching of the WSC and the Pauline epistles, he teaches that the substance of the image of God in man consists of Spiritual knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. He further identifies the seat of the image as the person, explaining that knowledge, righteousness, and holiness cannot abide without a person, and he identifies the end of the image, which is dominion and authority over creation. Other writers, such as Anthony Burgess, are less careful in separating the telos of the image from its substance.
    In my view, the most problematic part of identifying the imago dei with personhood is that the imago was lost with the fall, or in the words of the confession, "utterly defaced", as no unregenerate person can be said to have righteousness or holiness in any sense, yet personhood has remained entirely intact.
  17. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Freshman

    In G. K. Beale's New Testament Biblical Theology, he equates imago dei as a status or function. I also lean towards the functional view. It is interesting that the usage of the word rādâ in the Creation Mandate is typically used in the context of a "King's rule." He further notes that it could double as an Ontological and Functional aspect.
  18. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

  19. Wayne

    Wayne Tempus faciendi, Domine.

Share This Page