In order to understand the importance of our call to represent God in the world since we are made in his image, we need to recognize the fact that we’re not the only imagers God has created. This is communicated in the opening pages of the Bible where God makes the statement, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen 1:26).
Who is God talking to here? Who is the us and the our? What else is in the likeness of God? The standard Christian answer is that this “us” is referring to the Trinity—that God is talking to Himself. He looks to Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the three of them decide to go create man in their image.
While this makes sense from a Christian viewpoint, our Trinitarian perspective was centuries away from the writing of Genesis 1 and is therefore not in mind. However, the Bible writers of the time did believe that other spiritual beings existed before humanity existed, so those beings could fit the bill. Job, for example, waxed poetic about how the sons of God (that is, upper level spiritual beings) “shouted for joy” as God created the foundations of the world (Job 38:4-7). They were already present before humanity existed. So it makes sense that these spiritual beings are the “us” that Genesis is referring to.
But the reason most of us don’t consider this “us” to be these spiritual beings is because God seems to be inviting them to create with Him—and that, of course, is heresy. There is only one Creator and He is the one true God. Other spiritual beings can’t create like He does. But the idea that God is inviting these beings to do the actual creating with Him is a misunderstanding of the grammar here. As Dr. Michael Heiser clarifies,
It’s like me going into a room of friends and saying, “Hey, let’s go get some pizza!” I’m the one speaking. A group is hearing what I say. Similarly, God comes to the divine council with an exciting announcement: “Let’s create humankind!”
But if God is speaking to his divine council here, does that suggest that humankind was created by more than one elohim [god]? Was the creation of humankind a group project? Not at all. Back to my pizza illustration: If I am the one paying for the pizza—making the plan happen after announcing it—then I retain both the inspiration and the initiative for the entire project. That’s how Genesis 1:26 works.Michael S. Heiser (Heiser, Michael S. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible. Bellingham, Lexham Press, 2015, pp. 39-40.)
The fact that only God does the creating is further seen in the very next verse where only God goes on create man in His image. The idea was shared, but the creation was God’s alone.
But what does any of this have to do with our conversation on the image of God? It’s that we now know that humanity is not the only image of God in existence. Yes, we are the only imagers on Earth, but the Heavens have their own imagers, as made clear when God refers to these spiritual beings as being made in His likeness (Gen 1:26). They, too, are made in His image.
The Bible shows us that God has raised up both spiritual and physical imagers, each representing God in their particular spheres of impact and lines of work.
And for that reason, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that if God has created life on other planets, the same vision and mission of earth could be found among them as well. They might have their own imager(s) created to represent God across their planet. For why would God only want the Earth and Heavens to be filled with His representation? Why not fill the whole universe with His representation and in doing so, bring all creation more deeply into echoing His love? Though, of course, whether this is the case or not, we can only speculate.
You have given me something to think about here. Very good post.
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