Though certainly marred by humanity’s fall into sin, all people—believers and nonbelievers—reflect the image of God. Therefore, this foundational biblical teaching grounds and projects the Christian view that each individual person possesses inherent dignity, moral worth, and eternal value. Evangelical theologian John Jefferson Davis reflects upon a human person’s value as an image bearer within the context of the universe’s own significance, “God’s creation is immense, but man, as the crown of creation, has a dignity and grandeur that surpasses that of the cosmos.”1Therefore, scripturally speaking, humanity’s unique worth is directly tied to being made in God’s special image.
According to the Christian world-and-life view, the imago Dei lays the groundwork for the sacredness of human life. This image makes human life unrepeatable and worthy of reverence. All people—regardless of race, gender, class, age, or other distinctions—deserve respect and dignified treatment as the crown of creation. Even people with limited mental capacities and various other physical handicaps are made in God’s image and therefore possess immeasurable worth. Though physical conditions may keep them from reflecting all of God’s endowments in the usual way, this by no means diminishes their inherent dignity and value as human beings.
Reflecting upon humankind being made in the image of God and yet subsequently falling into sin, Christian thinker Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) described human beings as being an enigmatic mixture of greatness and wretchedness.2 This view of human beings as noble but deeply morally flawed seems to correspond well with what we observe of humanity. One good reason for embracing the truth of historic Christianity is that the faith seems to have a realistic understanding of the nature of human beings.
All lives have value, from the unborn baby to the aged person suffering with advanced dementia, because human beings uniquely bear the image of their Creator and even sin cannot erode that sacred likeness.
Reflections: Your Turn
How does an understanding of humans being made in the image of God change your thinking and behavior toward people? How have we done as a society, as a church, and on a personal level to afford respect and dignified treatment to all people regardless of race, gender, and class? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.
For more on the image of God, see chapters 11 and 12 of my book 7 Truths That Changed the World.