Here we see that the image of God is composed of both the man and the woman as a relational unit with the ability to procreate a growing community of third-party relational circles. This makes total sense because, as we have previously discovered, God is a relational circle rather than a solitary self. In other words, “God is love” (1 John 4:16), which means that God is self-giving and other-centered. So when the Bible says that human beings are creatures of the divine image, it means that we possess the capacity to love like God loves.
Think this through: as God ventured forth with creation, only three conceivable possibilities lay before Him. He could create (1) machines, (2) slaves, or (3) free moral agents. Only the third option would be consistent with the aspirations of love. And so, here we are, beings of huge and magnificent significance, beings who possess the power to create real effects by our choices, effects that ripple into eternity with never-ending impact. We are beings endowed with the astounding uniqueness of individual personhood.
Compare Psalm 139:1-13, Psalm 56:8, Jeremiah 31:3, Matthew 10:29-31, and Acts 17:26-28 to discover how truly significant each of us is to God. Discuss what it means for God to be paying attention to our every thought and actions with interest, for God to notice all our tears, for God to have every hair on our heads numbered, and for God to providentially orchestrate key events of our lives with the hope that we would seek Him and find Him.
Each human being’s life carries what Paul calls “an eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17)—a weight of moral and relational significance that only eternity itself can measure. The influence exerted by each of our lives will never reach final calculation, but rather will ripple forever with effect. It lies within our power as human beings made in God’s image to actualize events and relationships of everlasting beauty that cannot come to pass apart from our individual choices. Every act of love you perform constitutes an infinite moral good that makes a difference to the course of history and, therefore, to the eternal scheme of reality itself. If you speak a word of encouragement to a heavy heart, it matters on a grand and infinite scale. If you visit a sick person and envelop their heart in compassion, that deed means something of staggering eternal worth. If you feed a hungry child, doing so constitutes a crucial experience of generosity in that child’s existence, as well as in God’s existence as the One who loves that child as Himself. It is a marvelous and weighty thing to be a human being created in the image of God.
But Aren’t We Mere Animals?
Atheism is becoming increasingly popular in some circles due to the story of evolution being told by secular science. But is it rationally sound to deny the existence of God? And what are the implications of doing so?
If God does not exist, then human beings are nothing more than biological animals, mere material creatures governed by the instinct of self-preservation, here today and gone tomorrow. To accept this view of human identity would be to accept that life has no ultimate meaning, that the moral categories of good and evil do not actually exist, that all our notions of compassion, justice, and goodwill are false constructs we’ve made up, and that love is merely a powerful illusion. But we sense in our inmost hearts that this is not the case.
Consider this challenging insight from the Bible regarding atheism:
“The _______ has said in his heart, there is no ______” (Psalm 14:1).
This text isn’t meant to be a demeaning jab at the atheist, but rather a rational observation regarding the logical incoherence of atheism. Of course, many intelligent people refuse to believe in God because religion has often made God appear ugly and only worthy of unbelief. But here in Psalm 14:1 the Bible is offering an analytical observation regarding the general foolishness of denying God’s existence. It is foolish to say, “there is no God,” for the simple reason that if God did not exist it would never occur to us to wonder if He does. The fact is, only that which exists in some form occurs to human awareness and things that do not exist can never occur to our awareness. It is impossible for the human mind to conceive of anything that has absolutely no basis in reality. No negation statement is ever absolutely true. We cannot complete the sentence, “There is no ______________________,” without reference to existing realities. Even when we construct our wildest fictions, we have simply reassembled pieces of things that do exist. The fact that we conceive of God at all is evidence that a God of some sort does exist.
It is also intellectually incoherent to deny the existence of God for the simple reason that we all know life does have meaning, that good and evil do exist, and that we long for a totally trustworthy quality of love that finds no perfectly satisfying match in the current moral order of our broken world. Atheism is, therefore, counterintuitive and requires an intellectual and emotional leap away from what we know we are meant to be.
We all have a nagging suspicion, a divinely implanted intuition, that we are meant to be creatures of astounding nobility and that evil, suffering, and death are unnatural intruders. We can’t help but wonder if the reason we so persistently long for something more is because there is something more. God “has planted eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NLT). There resides within us a sense of eternal realities that we find very difficult to shake off. Because we were made in the image of God, we can never be truly satisfied unless and until we return to God.