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On the image God placed in mankind


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#1 Donald Lee McDaniel

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Posted 30 September 2011 - 11:42 PM

Probably most of us use the words "image of God" without even thinking of what we are saying. I have recently been thinking about this in my own experience.
I asked myself "Just what IS this 'image of God' everyone speaks about"?

And I thought about the concept of an "ikon" as expressed in the Orthodox tradition. From what I've been able to understand to-date, an "ikon" is a "window" into Heavenly things.
Relating this to the "image of God" in mankind, I've come to a few conclusions. I ask for any comments on this, because I do not wish to be found in heresy in my thinking.

Here is the main conclusioin I've come to:
God is "Being" and "Personality"-- perfect, uncreated, infinite, and immortal.
We are created "beings" and "personalities" -- imperfect, finite, and mortal.

In my mind, there are two types of created beings:
1) Sentient beings
2) Non-Sentient beings.

A "sentient" being must have three basic aspects:
1) It must have self-awareness, and awareness of its surroundings [ie., "self-consciousness", "consciousness of others", "consciousness of Space-Time".
2) It must have the ability [ie., "Will"] to have creative thoughts, emotions, and the ability to express itself through image [ie., "Word", "Art"].
3) It must have the ability [ie', "Will"] to cause these creative thoughts, emotions, and words to be manifested in, to, and through its surroundings [ie., "Realized"].
In otherwords, it must have manipulative ability [ie., "hands", "tools", "writing", "art"].

I do not see non-sentient beings as having any of these aspects. Therefore, the image of God is not in them.

If God [Who is Sentience and Being Itself] placed His image in His creation, mankind, then God is Tripartate in nature.
From this conclusion, I assume that the three aspects of His Totality to be:
1) The Father -- The Godhead in His essential being -- His Totality, Personhood.
2) The Word -- The instrument of the expression of His essential being and personality into Space-Time.
3) The Spirit -- The instrument of realizing His Word in Space-Tiime, His Manipulative ability.

Since these three aspects of His Being are exactly the same as the three aspects of a sentient being, I come
to the conclusion that this is the image of God as He placed it in mankind, who are themselves sentient [but created] beings.

From this, I go on to the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity. How this relates to John 1:1, I see, but cannot quite grasp.
I would appreciate any help on this. I have been wrestling with Trinitarianism for some months, now, and have not quite
come to a firm conclusion as to the Personalities of the Word and the Spirit.

I accept that the Father is One, and united within Himself.
I accept the Father as the essence of personality and being.
I accept His generation as caused by the Spirit of God through the instrumentality of a virgin human woman, Mary
I accept Jesus the man as being the mediator between the Father and His creation.
I accept the reality of Jesus being a man in all aspects -- Body and soul -- "Jesus Christ has come in the flesh".
I accept the miraclous acts of Jesus -- accomplished not by any innate power or ability within Himself, but by the Father, through the instrumentality of His Spirit.
I accept the words Jesus spoke -- not from Himself, but from the Father, by the instrumentality of the Spirit of God.
I accept His generation as caused by the Spirit of God through the instrumentality of a virgin human woman, Mary.

For this reason, I accept that He is the Son of God, as the Angel Gabriel told Mary He would be called.

I accept that Paul equates the Spirit of God with the spirit of Jesus.
Since Paul taught that there is a single Spirit in God, I accept that Jesus does not have a human spirit, and that His spirit is the Spirit of God.
I accept that Jesus was raised bodily from death on the third day, and that we too will be raised bodily from death [or changed from mortal to immortal] when He returns.

I cannot at this time, however, accept that Jesus the man was eternally begotten from the Father, and God the Word, as explained in Trinitarianism.

I humbly ask for any help with this.

a servant and sinner,
Donald Lee McDaniel

#2 Rob Bergen

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 03:06 AM

St. Athanasius wrote a wonderful treatise called "On the Incarnation of the Word." St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote many different theological works, one on each of the Persons of the Trinity. Read what these men have to say, it really helps! All that I can tell you is that the language that we use is wholly imperfect. We cannot fully describe God, but we can pinpoint and differentiate three persons of the divine nature. These three things we recognize as different, but not separate. If we separate them, we have three gods, but if we unite them with no distinction, then we confuse them into one person and cannot participate in the salvation granted to us by God in the Incarnation of the Word of God. To understand salvation is to realize that God was indeed fully man and fully God, but to how, we cannot say. God is meant to be outside of comprehension by definition. To struggle with understanding these things has been going on since Christ ascended into heaven. The notion that the Son of God (the Word) was created is a problem, and would render our sense of salvation null and void if we did not address the problem. To this effect, we understand that Christ the man was both fully man and fully God. To this effect: He was God in order to redeem humankind and grant us eternal life. He was man because it was man that he was saving. To understand how Christ is God, we use the words "eternally begotten before all time." Where God was, so was Christ. Think of a stream, which would not exist without a source, which is different from the source, but gains its entire mode of existence from that source. God from God, Light from Light. Begotten, not made.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus wrote:

"For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved. If only half Adam fell, then that which Christ assumes and saves may be half also; but if the whole of his nature fell, it must be united to the whole nature of Him that was begotten, and so be saved as a whole. Let them not, then, begrudge us our complete salvation, or clothe the Saviour only with bones and nerves and the portraiture of humanity."

The Spirit of God, Jesus Christ, God the Father. These words are used to describe what we know as God. What we know of God, we put into these three persons, but we understand that they are but one nature. As you were describing sentient and non-sentient, what I understood as a distinction in creation, does not dispute the fact that God redeemed Creation when he took our very form in the person of Jesus Christ. All creation was redeemed in this act, and death was defeated. The nature of God is in one, but the expression of God is in three persons, or essences, or substances. One particular person, that we call the Son, or Word of God, is distinct from God the Father in the fact that it was through the Word of God that all creation of redeemed.

I don't know if this helps, but there is not a single church father that did not recognize the inadequacy of the human intellect to understand God and the mystery of the Holy Trinity. If you or I were to claim such knowledge, then we must be dead and united with Christ already. Paul claimed that now we see through a glass darkly, but then, face to face. I look forward to then.

#3 Forrest Slice

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 04:16 AM

Well, being created in the image in likeness of God just means he created each and everyone of us, the same exact way he wants us to appear and to be. He could have made us in an infinite number of ways but we are in this form that truly almost represented His own. Though people grow to be different individuals depending on what culture and ways they came about with.

#4 Donald Lee McDaniel

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:44 AM

When you use the word "Form", what are you saying? Are you referring to a physical form like the one we possess, wherein we have 2 arms, two eyes, two legs, a heart, skin, bones, blood?
If this is so, then you are actually saying that God is just a Man...an exalted, immortal, and infinite Man, but a man, nonetheless. This is called idolatry, at least according to every believing Christian I know.

I reject this concept, my friend. It has absolutely no relation to God, as Christianity knows Him. God has no "form", at all. He is unseeable, unrecognizable with the eye of a created being such as a man. He is infinite in nature, infinite in Being, infinite in essence. God, being infinite, is not contained by a form. The very word "form" means that it has limits, which can be defined. God is limitless in His Essence and Being, and cannot be contained by a form. Such a concept is heresy, which we, as Christians, are to avoid like the plague.

I hope you will lay aside this concept soon. I pray that God will show you that He is formless and infinite, and cannot be contained by His creation, even though He fills all things. A "form" is a created thing, not a spiritual concept.

Your servant for the sake of Christ and the Father, through the Holy Spirit,

Donald

#5 Donald Lee McDaniel

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:59 AM

Rob,

I read your reply very carefully. I love St. Athanasius very much. I haven't read Gregory of Nyssa, though the Church Fathers [and Saint Thomas Aquinas] referr to him often.
I am currently reading Summa Theologica, by St. Thomas Aquinas. His words have helped me very much in defining my concept of the Godhead. Since reading him, I've returned to the historical concept of the Divine Trinity,
and now receive Christ Jesus as the eternal and immortal Son of God, and the Eternally-begotten Word of the Father, God from God -- True Light from True Light.

When we stand before the Father, it will be in His Son, Christ Jesus, God-Man. When we see the Father, we will see Him in the Son, by the Spirit of God.

Christ Jesus is truly God, as the Father and the Spirit are both truly God.

To Them I give praise and thanks for opening my eyes and heart.
Without Their intervention, I would have remained in a heresy so evil, so consuming, I could never have gotten out on my own.

I do recognize my own inadequacy. I am just a created being, a man like all other men, and a sinner to boot. I will never see the Father with my eyes. But I will see His Son, and Word, Christ Jesus.
But I love God, and His eternal Word, as expressed in the Man, Christ Jesus.
He replaces my inadequacies with His Grace. He replaces all our inadequacies with His Eternal Grace.

Thanks again for your words, my friend. Words truly from the Spirit of God.
Please pray for me, that I would continue in the true knowledge of God in Christ Jesus, and that this knowledge would grow, so that I can help others in similar heresies.

Donald Lee McDaniel

#6 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 12:41 PM

At what level of impairment do those born with limits upon their "sentience" lack the Image (Ikon) of God and can be treated as mere beasts or, even more chillingly, as simple lumps of cells? At what point are they "lives unworthy of life", rightly to be disposed of?

#7 Donald Lee McDaniel

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 07:58 AM

At what level of impairment do those born with limits upon their "sentience" lack the Image (Ikon) of God and can be treated as mere beasts or, even more chillingly, as simple lumps of cells? At what point are they "lives unworthy of life", rightly to be disposed of?


Well, Brian, let's put it like this: No human being should be considered "limited in sentience". In my opinion, from the moment of conception, a human being is a "sentient being".
I would also add that any other sentient beings [other than human beings] would have the image of God placed in them.

This means that if we ever have communication with other "sentient beings" [as I have come to the conclusion about, such as "E.T.s", and probably porpoises and whales [though they do lack hands to manipulate their surroundings], we should consider them also "sentient beings, worthy of life, worthy of salvation from this present age, and worthy of being joined to the Father, through the Word of God in Christ Jesus. Christ came not only to reconcile the earth back to the Father, but also to reconcile the Heavens back to the Father, as Paul teaches quite clearly.

As to the moment in the womb when a child becomes a sentient being -- since I am not an M.D, or other professional health worker, I cannot place a moment of time for such a zygote becoming sentient. To me, when the ova and sperm unite, life is created. While I do not necessarily agree with unfettered access to abortion services, I do believe they should be there for those women who truly have a legitimate need for them, such as rape or incest, out of mercy and compassion. What if a woman dies in the first week of her pregnancy? Should we remove the zygote and raise it in a test tube? Are we even able to do this? These are hard questions, I am sure you would agree. Where does medicine end, and Love begin? I have no answer for this. Life itself is a mystery which God has not yet given mankind a full knowledge of. We are groping in the dark. As Paul says, "We look into a dark mirror, and we do not yet fully know as God knows us fully." [my paraphrase].

So, please, do not be disturbed by my words. It seems to me that the outward form of a sentient being in God's eyes is irrelevant. Since God Himself is far above His creation, infinite and immortal, we cannot know Him from any other vantage point than a human understanding. How do other sentient beings know and understand God?. Otherwise, we can only know Him by the faith of Christ, as the Holy Spirit reveals the Father to us through the creation around us, and through the faith of others, and through the written Scriptures, in the Love of the Father.

I finally finished Summa Theologica. While St. Thomas Aquinas is very deep and sometimes inscrutable, he did assure me of the ultimate truth and reality of the Divine Trinity, as taught historically by almost all professing Christians.
He has also convinced me to go to Mass this Sunday. I need the help of a priest now. I've gone about as far as I can using my own understanding. I believe that God has given me light, so that I can
finally confess Christ Jesus as God-Man. A huge step forward for me. Now I need to be confirmed [Chrismated], and make a firm committment to serve God with all my spirit, soul, and body, and with all my
might out of Love for God, rather than human obedience and fear.

In my opinion, it would not be possible to have the image of God in us without God Himself being a sentient Being [and Sentience and Being Themselves], and trinitarian in nature and essence. I will leave the finer points of the nature of Christ up to those who have a greater apprehension of Him. To me, Christ Jesus is God and Man, in a single hypostasis, with two natures, divine and human. That is enough for my small and limited mind. As Christ Jesus tells us, "He who [actively] believes on Me, will be saved." [my paraphrase].

With the Love of the Father, in Christ Jesus, by the Holy Spirit,

Donald Lee McDaniel
a servant of God most High

#8 Olga

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 08:18 AM

Well, Brian, let's put it like this: No human being should be considered "limited in sentience". In my opinion, from the moment of conception, a human being is a "sentient being".
I would also add that any other sentient beings [other than human beings] would have the image of God placed in them.


Human beings are made in God's image. Animals and other creatures, including sentient ones, are not.

#9 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 08:44 PM

God is not an 'eternal Man' in this limited sense. However (and as not been mentioned yet), the Son is eternally the one for whom the Incarnation as man is the true image of His being.

#10 Donald Lee McDaniel

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 03:38 AM

God is not an 'eternal Man' in this limited sense. However (and as not been mentioned yet), the Son is eternally the one for whom the Incarnation as man is the true image of His being.


Archmandrite Irenei:

I'm not quite sure I am understanding just what you are saying. Would you please expound on this subject a little more? I have much to learn, and would not want to be found in an heresy. I love Christ Jesus and His Father, and would never do anything intentionally to devalue Them, or to blaspheme against Them. I'm just an old man who is attempting to apprehend Christ Jesus as He is, and as He was while on the earth. I do not believe that He existed as a man while with the Father, before the Incarnation, and many folk tend to see Christ Jesus the Man as pre-existing other than in God's foreknowledge.

I also recognize that Christ Jesus, in His Godhead, is the express image of the Father, and that we are being remade into images of Christ Jesus the Man.
I am firmly convinced that the Word of God was, and always has been, with the Father, from eternity. Because of this, I do not agree that Christ Jesus as Man existed before being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of our Holy Mother, Mary. If this is wrong, please persuade me of this through Holy Scripture?

Your servant in Christ Jesus,

Donald Lee McDaniel

#11 Donald Lee McDaniel

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 04:00 AM

Olga,

Please forgive me for replying flippantly to your response to my post. I meant no harm in any way.
If I offended you, I am very sorry for having done so.

We are both in Christ Jesus, and we both should be respectful in our conversation. I was less than respectful to you, I admit.
I realize that my stand on the Image of God placed in Mankind can be taken out of context, or misunderstood easily.
I was replying to Bryan, because he seemed to have taken my remarks out of context.
I would never deny that men or women who are mentally or physically challenged are images of God, and as such, deserve the same respect as images of God as all other men and women.

I do not agree with those who would put such mentally or physically challenged to death. I also do not agree that certain in the genus "Animal" are not sentient, and as such, I would see them treated with the same respect as other sentient beings, such as Mankind. Whether such "animals" have the Image of God within them, and as such, are fully deserving of being redeemed through the Blood shed by Christ Jesus, is kind of up in the air right now.

The great Apes, for instance, are fully capable of speech, and of teaching this speech to their offspring. While they cannot do this as we do it, they can sign very well. They are also highly intelligent, and loving toward their offspring. While they are not as intelligent as men and women, they are no less loving than we.

Hopefully, these words will help you to have greater understanding of what I am saying.

Your servant in Christ Jesus,

Donald Lee McDaniel

#12 Olga

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 05:17 AM

Dear Donald

Rest assured that I'm old and ugly enough to not be offended by much these days.

I would never deny that men or women who are mentally or physically challenged are images of God, and as such, deserve the same respect as images of God as all other men and women. I do not agree with those who would put such mentally or physically challenged to death.


I doubt if anyone on this forum would disagree with this.

I also do not agree that certain in the genus "Animal" are not sentient, and as such, I would see them treated with the same respect as other sentient beings, such as Mankind. Whether such "animals" have the Image of God within them, and as such, are fully deserving of being redeemed through the Blood shed by Christ Jesus, is kind of up in the air right now.

The great Apes, for instance, are fully capable of speech, and of teaching this speech to their offspring. While they cannot do this as we do it, they can sign very well. They are also highly intelligent, and loving toward their offspring. While they are not as intelligent as men and women, they are no less loving than we.


Ah, but there's the rub. There are many critters which are definitely sentient: dogs, cats and horses (domestic or otherwise) immediately come to mind, and they're not the only types with this ability, either. I have had cats in my household for decades, and I've loved them all. One, in particular, was so bright and intelligent, that I would often say "she has more brains than many people I know". She was a loving soul, but was equally capable of putting the humans around her in their place when it was warranted. Yet, as much as we all loved her, she was always a cat, not a human being. So, as age caught up with her, and she was diagnosed with an incurable condition, we kept her going as comfortably as possible for as long as we could. But, eventually, we had to take her to the vet for the last time. Puss was just shy of seventeen.

On the other hand, I've known a good number of people, friends, relatives and acquaintances, who are/were terminally ill, or mentally impaired, the latter either born that way, or acquired later in life. The first funeral I ever attended was for a 26-year-old woman who had died of cancer. As heartbreaking as it is to see such folks in these conditions, it is not anyone's call to end their lives. Care for them, keep them comfortable and safe, do what we can, but it's God's call, not our own, as to when their earthly lives will end. For many, it is a relief when they go, young or old. Their struggle is over.

We humans have, according to Genesis, been given stewardship over the creatures of the earth, so we have some authority to humanely end their lives, whether for the purposes of providing food, or ending their suffering, be it a domestic pet, or a farmer's sheep or cattle irretrievably injured by fire or flood, or a critter straying onto a road and being hit by a car. Even fishermen (I am one) are expected to ensure the dispatch of their catch as quickly and painlessly as possible. We, as humans, and the only creatures made in the image of God, do not have the right to end another's life of our own volition.

And it is only human beings which can partake of holy Communion, and the other mysteries/sacraments of the Church. We liturgically commemorate our human dead, we do not hold requiems for deceased animals. Food for thought.

#13 Donald Lee McDaniel

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 07:58 AM

Olga:

Hopefully, you did read my definition of a "Sentient being". I would not classify a dog or a cat as such, nor a fish or crawling creature. Neither a dog or a cat or horse, or cow, can recognize itself in a mirror. Great apes can recognize themselves, as can porpoises, and a few other higher mammals. According to my definition of a sentient being, unless a creature can recognize itself in a mirror, it would not be a sentient being.

But, should we ever get to the stars, and find sentient beings, as I have described a sentient being, would we be justified in simply murdering them (or, God forbid!) eating them, since to some, they would not have the image of God within them?
This may not be something most folk think about. But it is definitely something I think about, among other things. If they are opposed to humanity, would we not be justified in attempting their reconciliation to the Godhead?

I realize that this sounds more a subject for a sci-fi novel than a discussion about the niceties of Theology. But I believe that if it ever does happen, we will be compelled to make a decision. If, for instance, they worship idols, would we not be
compelled to convert them to worship of God, as we know Him? If they don't worship idols, would we not be compelled to ascertain their own understanding of the Creator? What if they are friendly? Would we just murder them outright as savages
and dumb animals?

In Africa, they actually eat the higher apes as food. Is this proper? The ape populations are dwindling as we communicate. Should we allow them to just disappear off the face of the earth? Is this proper stewardship?
I do not believe so. I cannot believe so. Their DNA is only 2-4 percent different from ours.

Also, remember that around the Throne of God in His Throne-room there are 4 "living creatures", who worship God along with the Angels and the saints-triumphant, as well as Angels and the souls of human beings. Who [and what] are these living creatures? Have you ever asked yourself this question?

Anyway, thank you for your overlooking of my flippant language in my post to you.

Your servant in Christ Jesus,

Donald Lee McDaniel

#14 Olga

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 11:57 AM

You seem to be using a rather narrow definition of sentient. The word simply means conscious awareness, and being capable of cognitive function. An animal's ability to recognise itself in a mirror is not an obligatory characteristic of sentience. Certain types of animals can still be correctly classified as sentient, even if they do not pass the "mirror test". Dogs, cats and horses interact with people, are capable of communicating with them, and are capable of being trained to elicit certain behaviours. (well, cats are capable of this, but most choose not to ... ;-) )

I fail to see a correlation between sentience of creatures, whether by your definition, or the broader, accepted one, and such creatures "having the image of God in them".

Also, remember that around the Throne of God in His Throne-room there are 4 "living creatures", who worship God along with the Angels and the saints-triumphant, as well as Angels and the souls of human beings. Who [and what] are these living creatures? Have you ever asked yourself this question?


Yes, I have. And Orthodox Tradition tells us what they are: they are mystical representations and symbols of the Four Evangelists. Orthodox iconography frequently expresses this imagery in icons of Christ in Majesty: Christ, in white garments, is seated on a throne, surrounded by a mandorla (almond-shaped or circular motif) of uncreated light and glory, in which are many six-winged seraphim. At His feet are cherubim, ring-shaped winged creatures with several eyes within the ring, and at the four corners of the icon are the four mystical creatures.

However, I'm unsure what the existence of these heavenly creatures has with the matter of being in the image of God discussed here.

#15 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 12:26 PM

Sentience is a purely cognitive function. Therefore, if mere sentience is the Image of God, then any so-called "human" with cognitive deficiencies must, by simple logical extension of the identification "sentience" = Image of God, lack the Image (Ikon) of God. Otherwise, one is required to make nonsensical exceptions to permit the "humans" who have impaired sentience to still have an Image of God.

It reminds me of the Evangelicals who howl that infant baptism is wrong, because the infant cannot give "consent", and one MUST, in their view, give "consent" to be "saved". They then have to go through all kinds of mental gymnastics after it is pointed out that this makes abortionists more powerful than God, since abortionists can send uncounted people to Hell without any opportunity of them giving "consent". Then, the Evangelicals have to make up special exceptions, or, even worse, say that the babies "deserved" damnation, anyway, or that they were all just "collateral damage" in the spiritual war. I've heard both.




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