Rawlings School of Divinity
Doctor of Philosophy
Order and Suitability, wisdom, the image of God, tampering with the image, handmaiden, master craftsman, suitability and compatibility, plastic identity, God created everything is beautiful, appropriate time, marriage is beautiful, male and female demonstrate God's order and design
Christianity | Religion
McKenzie, Mary D., "The Image of God: A Reflection of Order and Suitability in Design" (2022). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 3924.
In the history of biblical interpretation and dogmatic speculation, the “image of God” in humanity has proved remarkably prolific as a source of exegetical and theological discussion. In Genesis 1:26–27, the Bible expounds that God created man in His own image, and in His image, he created male and female. The literature on this topic continues to be overwhelming despite several exhaustive treatments spanning decades among biblical scholars. The act of posing several questions resulted in different answers from various sources. For example, what exactly is the image of God? Is the image of God spiritual or physical? Is the likeness of God the same as the image of God, or is it different? Does sin destroy the image of God? A tremendous amount of ink has been spilled to answer these questions, but the debate continues. Scholars and commentators have proactively tried to identify various dimensions of human capacity as the definitive elements of the image of God, such as the substantive interpretation, which most often associates the image of God with the abstract ideas of reason, conscience, and free will. Others have argued in favor of the royal or functional interpretation, wherein the image of God is perceived as being symbolic of our dominion over the earth. At the same time, others argued for the relational interpretation, which states that God’s image in humanity is found within the relationships we establish and maintain. All of these different interpretations of the image of God have tremendous validity; they include various aspects of human nature and more. However, this study explores another concept that has not been adequately understood and appreciated—the image of God as a reflection of divine order and intended suitability within the design of creation. The idea of male and female being a reflection of God is incredibly meaningful. In what follows, I will contend that male and female created in the image of God are a reflection of order and suitability in design. This is not only seen in the context of human beings, but also, when we look across the spectrum of species on earth, we perceive a reflection of God’s divine order and suitability embedded within the design of creation. The body of the research is divided into eight chapters. The first chapter discusses the creation account in Genesis 1–2, which provides the foundational biblical image of humanity. Genesis 1–2 tells the story of a God of order, not disorder. God’s order facilitates the appropriate paradigm for human order and suitability in design. A second area for examination is the degree of influence of other Ancient Near East creation accounts on the shaping of Genesis 1–2. The second chapter analyzes several interpretations of the image of God offered by prominent scholars, such as J. Richard Middleton and John Kilner. Middleton provides a worthy contribution to the discussion and exegesis of the image of God. He views the human creature as the one delegated by God to take over the task of mediating and representing the divine presence on earth. Kilner believes that being created in God’s image is not a matter of human attributes but specifically how people reflect God. In other words, humans made according to the image of God need to reflect godly attributes. Each of these interpretations has significant strengths; however, we see an emphasis on male and female that is explained by the recognition of suitability in design as a reflection of the image of God. This is ultimately an aspect of what it means to be created in the image of God. The third chapter provides an exegetical and biblical examination of Genesis 1:26–27, 5:1–3, and 9:6 to understand the meaning of “image” (tselem) and “likeness” (damut). In God’s divine prerogative, he chose to create humanity in His image and likeness to reflect His divine order and suitability in design. Chapter four presents a full range of relevant New Testament texts in explicating the links between the image of God in creation and the image of God in Christ. Chapter five comprises the heart of the dissertation—it considers the significance of “male and female created in the image of God” as a reflection of divine “order and suitability” in design, reflecting the identity of God as the Creator. God’s order and suitability can be seen in various passages in the Wisdom literature. Wisdom literature teaches us that there is a cosmic order. In the book of Proverbs, this cosmic order is personified as female; she is hokma, “Wisdom.” In the book of Ecclesiastes, the author states that “God makes everything suitable in its time” (Eccl 3:11). After a thorough analysis of the materials, it will become evident that “male and female created in the image of God” is a reflection of divine order and suitability in our responsibility of stewardship on the earth. This is a true reflection of God, as affirmed in the creation narrative. Chapter six focuses on the compatibility and suitability of God’s design of male and female. This will be accomplished by a close reading of the Song of Songs and its affiliation to Genesis 1–2 to present a framework for understanding male and female as being created in the image of God. Chapter seven explores the theological implications of a Christian worldview and the Christian response to societal confusion. Chapter eight briefly summarizes the most important findings and provides a conclusion.