God's Existence, Science and Faith, Suffering and Evil, Jesus' Resurrection, and Book Reviews

In the Image of God: The Battle for Human Identity


Human origins is a fascinating area of research today. With all the different models for the origins of humanity being proposed, I see an increase in the discussions, both scientific and theological. For everyone reading this post, this area of research should be of utmost interest for you as well. Two critical ideas about humanity are at stake depending on which model (or family of models) is true: intrinsic and equal human dignity and value, and the sinfulness of humanity. 

The age-old debate about God's existence has great implications on this area of the debate about human origins. The Judeo-Christian claim that all humans are created in God's Image and that humans possess a sin nature that will cause them to tend toward the immoral. These paradoxical doctrines together explain both the greatness and wretchedness of humanity that we see everyday, throughout history, and expect in the future.

The Image of God

If we are created in the image of God that means that all humans possess intrinsic and equal human dignity and value. If this is false, then humans are not valuable in virtue of their being human but in virtue of a myriad of other characteristics and stati that change in fashionability with the culture. One moment a human can be valuable and the next moment they are not. If humans do not have value at any point, that gives justification for their expendability (murder) at the hands of those who have power over them at that point. If humans are not created in the image of God, then there is nothing wrong with humans abusing their power against other humans. Any model of human origins that does not allow for the Image of God in humans places the very lives of every human at risk.  

Human Sinfulness

Genesis also records that Adam and Eve sinned against God and with that action brought the sin nature into all future humans. Humans are not born good or even neutral. This means that the abuse of power described above is not just possible but inevitable. Any model of human origins that does not allow for the Fall or for the transfer of the sin nature (whether through the biological, spiritual, or some combination) denies this element of human psychology, sociology, and history. 

Denying Both?

Any model that does not allow for one or the other already makes human lives less worthy of protection because either it is not worth protecting or there is nothing to necessarily protect against. But if a model denies both, then that is a recipe for disaster. This means that the debate about human origins is not just a scientific question but also a philosophical one, even for the atheist or naturalist. An interesting analysis of the implications of these two characteristics is provided in Os Guinness' book "The Magna Carta of Humanity" which I highly recommend, particularly for those involved in human origins discussions and debates. It provides a renewed urgency for the importance of the debate about human origins. 

Should Theology Judge Science? 

I often hear the claim that many Christians allow their theology to determine their interpretation (and maybe even rejection) of the scientific data. The implication is that we should not allow any knowledge discipline (or at least, theology) other than science in developing our model or that we should at least give precedence to science. 

It is important to recognize at this point the distinction between "science" and "data of nature." The data that is discovered is the raw information that must be accommodated in any model, whereas "science" is the interpretation (which is fallible, but not necessarily false) of that data. Because multiple sources of truth (philosophical and historical as described above, and not just the natural data) exist about humans, the data of each must be recognized and accommodated in any model of human origins that claims to accurately reflect the natural history of human origins (what really happened). Just as the data of nature can judge our interpretation of the data of history and Scripture, the data of history and the data of Scripture can judge our interpretation of the data of nature in virtue of their being true

We cannot allow an epistemic (knowledge) posture of strong or even weak scientism to prevent our discovery of the correct model of human origins. To do so, would be dangerous. 


With the work in the field of human origins being done at numerous Christian organizations, the number of possible models and level of detail may seem confusing to many yet exciting to others. But they are important for all of us. I encourage these organizations to continue (or begin) working together to gather all the data that each emphasize in their respective models and adjust those models to reflect the data provided by others. We need to be careful and respectful of any accusations of heresy- ensure that our accusations are demonstrably reflective of the model not the Christian, and that we address such accusations with or adjust our models based on the biblical data and logic. It is important that even though we may disagree on details that we present a united front that is based on the data and sound reasoning from that data, not only for the future of humanity, but as a demonstration of the unity and love that Christ prayed for and told us that unbelievers will see. We need to not only demonstrate the truth of these important Christian doctrines (ones that are often under attack and used as excuses to reject Christ) but we need to emphasize our love, respect, cooperation, and dedication to truth that unbelievers often overlook.

For more, I recommend these additional articles: 

  • Are Nature and Scripture Compatible?
  • Consistency Among Disciplines
  • Deconstructionism, The Constitution, and Biblical Interpretation
  • The Dangers of Scientism to the Truth-Seeker
  • Why Is the Image of God So Important?
  • The Moral Freedom of Atheism