Imago Dei or The Modern Self


…modernity is the era where the determinant of what is good is no longer an authority or a doctrine, but the individual himself.1

 …then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.2

In my last post I discussed the latest term to win the moniker “word of the year”. When emotions and personal belief can displace objective fact as our cultural standard, we have reached the point where man has decided he knows best, but with an ignorance that belies his or her arrogance.

We live in era of great technological improvement, and overwhelming modern comfort. What we dream can, in many cases, be created or achieved. Great strides forward have taken place in every imaginable area of life. And yet, modern man rises in the morning, looks in his or her mirror, and says, “Who am I, and why am I here?”

There is a vacuousness to the modern life attempting to live in a world undefined by its creator. To acknowledge that God exists is to admit weakness and defeat of our own ability to create our life on our terms. Alfred Borgmann believes

Contemporary culture is extremely conscious of itself…And yet it seems to me that contemporary culture is essentially blind to itself. It is ignorant of its essential character.3

That essential character of which man is ignorant is the inherent Imago Dei. God creates, man runs and denies, and runs some more. Seeking to distance himself from the one objective truth that would deny him self-sufficiency and self-existence.

In The Modern Self, Charles Taylor adds to this thought,

To know who you are is to be oriented in moral space, a space in which questions arise about what is good or bad…what has meaning and importance for you and what is meaningful and secondary. But in fact our identity is deeper and more many-sided than any of our possible articulations of it.4(Emphasis mine)

Taylor is right, our identity is deeper. And it is deeper because the “orientation of our moral space” is God Himself, and we are Imago Dei, made in his image. What does it mean to be made in the image of God? In his Reformed Dogmatics, theologian Geerhardus Vos writes

It means above all that he is disposed for communion with God, that all the capacities of his soul can act in a way that corresponds to their destiny only if they rest in God.

We were created for communion with God. We were created to commune with Him, and to obediently follow his law. But sin entered and the Fall separated us from Him. And yet, those who are His children are still his image bearers, and in our heart we know it.

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.(Romans 2:14-15)

The emptiness I mentioned earlier demonstrates His Presence in our lives. There is a deep yearning that modern man seeks to replace with anything or anyone else other than his own Creator.

We were given a gift by the Creator of everything to commune for eternity with him. And yet, modern man reacts with nothing but ingratitude,

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.(Romans 1:21)

How did we get to this place today, in a post truth, post modern era where God is denied, and man knows what is best? In the next post we will look at modern philosophy and liberal theology as the foundation for much of the ills of modern man.

  1. Chantal Delsol, Icarus Fallen, p.69 ↩︎
  2. Genesis Chapter Two, (all quotes are from the ESV) ↩︎
  3. Alfred Borgmann, Power Failure, p.11 ↩︎
  4. Charles Taylor, Sources of The Self:The Making of the Modern Identity, (pp.28-29) ↩︎