The first strand of man in the image of God is the character of God.
I use the term ‘character’ rather loosely because I’m including aspects like rationality and volition (thinking and will). Actually, a full list of those characteristics which we image God in would surely be insufficient—lacking something unintentionally. We could try to summarize them in umbrella claims like ‘justice,’ ‘righteousness,’ and ‘love,’ but even then we are assuming thought and will, not including it in the list. The various systematic theologies like Grudem, Erickson, Berkhof, et al. as well as theological surveys like Packer’s Knowing God and Carson’s The God Who Is There still find it valuable to give explanatory lists, and so I point you to them for fuller explanations. I’m here to first rid us of an unnecessary distinction and second to appreciate broad-scale the character of God given us.
Ridding Us of an Unnecessary Distinction
It is common to talk about God’s attributes (characteristics) as “Transitive” and “Intransitive.” Sometimes different words are applied, but they intend to say that there are some characteristics of God that he shares with humanity and some that he does not. “The Intransitives,” they say, “are the three ‘omni-s’ [omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent] and his eternal-past nature.” But is that valid? Is not God also omnisapient (all wise)? And might it be better to say that God is extra-present: all things are present to him, the object of reference? And really, isn’t’ God outside of time, not simply extended on the timeline in both directions? Even at that point, do we really not share in these attributes? Can you and I not close our eyes and ‘travel’ in space and time? “Yes, but we aren’t actually there.” Fair, but I didn’t say we were the same as God just that we share in these things. And why does the prefix ‘omni-‘ or ‘all-‘ make the prefix ‘partial-‘ something different entirely? Isn’t that the way all characteristics go in the creator-creature distinction: we love, but God loves infinitely and eternally with wisdom and power. I understand there is a mass chasm between the creator and creature, but we should beware lest we make God not “holy, holy, holy,” but “unknown, unknowing, and unknowable.”
So perhaps some distinctions do need to be made between the degree (quantitative) of God’s attributes and ours, and maybe we do need to make typical (qualitative) distinctions… but we ought to ensure that those distinctions do indeed belong.
God is holy, holy, holy. We are holy from the rest of creation.
God is just—rightly interacting with all. We desire justice.
God is righteous—the genuine and perfectly coherent standard of goodness. We want good.
God is love—the perfect desire and pursuit of the other’s good even at his expense when necessary. We love.
God is glorious—having his being and actions recognized and enjoyed. We are gloried and glory others (a.k.a. reward), desiring significance.
God is rational—ordering his thoughts in perfect consistency. We are rational—arguing and considering that we might align with truth.
God is volitional—choosing and acting upon his will. We are volitional—having moral agency to choose and pursue what we want.
God is creator—creating out of nothing objects for a purpose. We are creative—creating with previous substances for a purpose.
God is impassioned—having perfect emotion, not as reaction but as premeditated response to those things he interacts with. We are emotional, responding to persons and events on more than a cognitive level.
God is beautiful—his existence being entirely and fully desirable and attractive. We are aesthetic—carrying in our bodies a form of beauty which draws us unto another and appreciating beauty on earth and in people.
God is communicative—revealing who he is through language, picture, action, experience, or the lack thereof. We are communicative—spinning sentences, stories, visual images, actions, and interactions, or the lack thereof to communicate.
By knowing God you come to know yourself. Know yourself to the point of your finitude and you will come to a knowledge of God—thus Socrates (Plato): Know thyself. And Augustine: Great art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Thy power, and of Thy wisdom there is no end. And man, being a part of Thy creation, desires to praise Thee,--man, who bears about with him his mortality, the witness of his sin, even the witness that Thou “resistest the proud,” –yet man, this part of Thy creation, desires to praise Thee. Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou has formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee. Lord, teach me to know and understand which of these should be first, to call on Thee, or to praise Thee; and likewise to know Thee, or to call upon Thee. (Confessions, I.1.1). And John Calvin: The First Book treats of the knowledge of God the Creator. But as it is in the creation of man that the divine perfections are best displayed, so man also is made the subject of discourse. (Institutes, I.1.1). The only way to truly know who you are is to come to grips with who God is because in his image were you made, and only in being like him will you be you.
This is the first strand of the rope that is the image of God: representing him to the world, the heavens, and their inhabitants. You are the ‘icon’ of God and your composition reveals what he is like.
Imago Dei: Strand Two
Imago Dei: Strand Three
Dignity and Depravity