Image of God

Linked Glossary of Terms
(references to De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, unless indicated. See concordance for correlation with pages in the New Critique. The concordance is in pdf format.)

Divine Image
Image of God I, 6

NC I, 4 (man created as the expression of God’s image), 55, 149, 174 (heart of man as the created image of the integral Origin of all things)
NC II, 149 (imago Dei), 248
NC III, 6, 69, 71

Van Peursen’s Critische Vragen bij “A New Critique of Theoretical Thought,” Philosophia Reformata 25 (1960, 97-150, at 132). But man’s selfhood can never be identified with his embodiment. The body is the “temple” of God’s Spirit, but not the center and the radix of our humanity, which is created according to God’s image.(p. 133).


See my article “Imagination, Image of God and Wisdom of God: Theosophical Themes in Dooyeweerd’s Philosophy,” (2006). The article discusses the Wisdom tradition within which Dooyeweerd’s philosophy is situated, and how our imagination is related to our being created in the image of God. In our imagination, we discover the figure, the anticipation of what an individuality structure in the temporal world may become, but which is presently only a potential reality. In finding the figure within the temporal world, and in realizing it and embodying it, we form history, and we fulfill the reality of temporal structures. God’s law or Wisdom gives the connection between this internal figure of our imagination and the modal aspects in which our body and other temporal structures of individuality function.

Our self-knowledge is dependent on our knowledge of God. This is shown in the Biblical Revelation of our creation concerning our creation in the image of God. This self-knowledge is a central knowledge. It is rooted in the heart, the religious center of our existence (NC I, 55).

For God created man after His own Image as ruler and lord of the earthly world (NC II, 248, italics Dooyeweerd’s).

We are the expression of God’s image, and we in turn express our selfhood in the coherence of our cosmic (temporal) functions (I, 6; NC I, 4). And just as we have no existence in ourselves, but only in God, so the temporal world has no existence except in humanity, its religious root (NC I, 100; II, 53).

The meaning of “image of God” is that we mirror God. Just our supratemporal selfhood finds its Origin in God, so does the temporal world find its root in our supratemporal selfhood. The mirroring is in the relation of center to periphery. There is an expression by the center and a referring by the temporal periphery. Dooyeweerd makes this clear in his article “What is Man?” International Reformed Bulletin 3 (1960), 4-16:

In an indissoluble connection with this self-revelation as Creator, God has revealed man to Himself. Man was created in the image of God. Just as God is the absolute origin of all that exists outside of Himself, so He created man as a being in whom the entire diversity of aspects and faculties of the temporal world is concentrated within the religious centre of his existence which we call our I, and which Holy Scripture calls our heart, in a pregnant, religious sense. As the central seat of the image of God, the human selfhood was endowed with the innate religious impulse to concentrate his whole temporal life and the whole temporal world upon the service of love to God. And since the love for God implies the love for His image in man, the whole diversity of God’s temporal ordinances is related to the central, religious commandment of love, namely: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, and mind, and thy neighbour as thyself.” This is the radical biblical sense of the creation of man in the image of God. (p. 13)

Because the temporal world is concentrated in humanity as the image of God, it fell with man. (WdW I, 65). The NC translates this passage in this way:

Our temporal world, in its temporal diversity and coherence of meaning, is in the order of God’s creation bound to the religious root of mankind. Apart from this root it has no meaning and so no reality. Hence the apostasy in the heart, in the religious root of the temporal world signified the apostasy of the entire temporal creation, which was concentrated in mankind (NC I, 100).

The whole meaning of the temporal world is integrally (i.e. completely) bound up and concentrated in this unity (Roots 30).

The image of God is our supratemporal selfhood. The supratemporal is not the same as God’s eternity. Thus, to say that the self is supratemporal does not equal pantheism. God transcends even our supratemporal heart. This is the reason for the discussion of “aevum” in medieval philosophy.

Dooyeweerd relates the Idea of image of God to the fact that our temporal religious existence is focused in a religious unity.

“He has expressed His image in man by concentrating its entire temporal existence in the radical religious unity of an ego in which the totality of meaning of the temporal cosmos was to be focused upon its Origin.” (NC I, 55).

The heart is related to our creation as image of God:

The integral Origin of all things according to God’s plan of creation has its created image in the heart of man participating in the religious community of mankind. The latter is the integral and radical unity of all the temporal functions and structures of reality, which ought to be directed in the human spirit toward the Absolute Origin, in the personal commitment of love and service of God and one’s neighbour. (NC I, 174)

So long as we retain the idea of our selfhood as a “substance,” we cannot understand the meaning of creation in the image of God. The Christian conception of the human selfhood is that it is “a spiritual centre, which is nothing in itself, but whose nature is a “stare extra se,” a self-surrender to its true or its fancied Origin.” (NC III, 6).

Our selfhood is the concentration point of temporal reality. In this concentration point, all meaning-aspects coincide in a radical unity or fullness of meaning. This concentration point in which all the different modalities coalesce is not an ontical sphere of substances. It is the concentration point of meaning in the image of God, which is nothing in itself, but rather the reflection of the Divine Being in the central human sphere of creaturely meaning. (NC III, 69).

Radical love is found only in this imago Dei, which has been radically obscured by the fall and is only revealed in Christ the Redeemer:

This commandment requires us to love God and our neighbour with our whole heart. It is the very nature of love in this central religious sense that it implies complete self-surrender. We cannot really love in this fulness of meaning of the word so long as we experience its requirement as a law which urges itself upon us externally, contrary to the inner inclination of our heart. This love must penetrate our inner selves, it must inflame the centre of our existence and permeate it so that it has become one with us, and reflects in our heart the Divine Love as the answer of the human I to the call of its Origin, the Divine thou.
This is the real meaning of the imago Dei. It explains why the human ego can be nothing in itself as an autonomous being. It explains why the fall into sin has radically obscured this imago Dei, so that it is only revealed in its original sense in the infinite love of Jesus Christ in His complete self-surrender to His heavenly Father and to lost mankind. Only from Him can this love flow into the human heart. (NC II, 149; See also NC III, 71).

The idea that our creation in the image of God is as His expression is also found in Kuyper (who acknowledges the influence of Baader for many of his ideas). In his book To be Near Unto God he says that divine reality is expressed in human form:

Moreover, you must understand that all this rests upon sober reality. It is not semblance, but actual fact, because God created you after His Image, so that with all the wide difference between God and man, divine reality is expressed in human form. And that, when the Word became Flesh, this Incarnation of the Son of God was immediately connected with your creation after God’s Image.

Kuyper also saw the selfhood as the root of the cosmos; this concentration of the temporal in our selfhood brings with it a responsibility for the temporal world. Kuyper says that humans were created in the image of God, as the root of the cosmos, and called to consecrate the cosmos to God’s glory. This was disturbed by sin, and a New Root  was required:

He [God] placed the spiritual center of this Cosmos on our planet, and caused all the divisions of the kingdoms of nature, on this earth, to culminate in man, upon whom, as the bearer of His image He called to consecrate the Cosmos to His glory. In God’s creation, therefore, man stands as the prophet, priest and king, and although sin has disturbed these high designs, yet God pushes them onward. He so loves His world that He has given Himself to it, in the person of His Son, and thus He has again brought our race, and through our race, His whole Cosmos, into a renewed contact with eternal life. To be sure, many branches and leaves fell off the tree of the human race, yet the tree itself shall be saved; on its new root in Christ, it shall once more blossom gloriously. For regeneration does not save a few isolated individuals, finally to be joined together mechanically as an aggregate heap. Regeneration saves the organism, itself, of our race. And therefore all regenerate human life forms one organic body, of which Christ is the Head, and whose members are bound together by their mystical union with Him. (Lectures on Calvinism: “Calvinism and Religion, p. 59)

Christ as the second root restores our mystical union with God. This union is of an organic nature:

Hence there can be no doubt that there exists a mystic union between Christ and believers which works by means of an organic connection, uniting the Head and the members in a for us invisible and incomprehensible manner. By means of this organic union the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost from Christ the Head into us, the members of His body.

Dooyeweerd may also have received some influence from his teacher Woltjer regarding the importance of the Idea of creation in the image of God. Klapwijk says [in “Calvin and neo-Calvinism on Non-Christian Philosophy”] that Vollenhoven initially saw Kuyper as dualistic, and Woltjer as more the monistic side of thinking. In contrast to Kuyper, Geesink and Woltjer’s basic assumption was that “man totally is and ought to be image of God.”

The Idea of our creation as the image of God is a key idea in Baader. He refers to this Idea as the deepest secret within us (Bild Gottes, tiefstes Geheimniss in uns Werke 11, 61). Elsewhere he says “We are not yet the image of God, but the seed is created in us,” Espr. (Werke 12, 347). Baader says that humans participate in the supratemporal because they have been “breathed out” by God, unlike the rest of temporal creation. But this does not make humans identical to God. Humans participate in the eternity of God, but there is always a distinction between God as Creator and humanity as creature. Thus, although Baader does not use the word aevum, he also distinguishes between God’s eternity and the supratemporality of humans

Baader identifies Man as the mirror of Totality (Schumacher 57). He says, “The command to have no other image or likeness is the same as You shall yourself be my image and likeness!” (Philosophische Schriften I, 105). He says that the pagans considered man as image of nature and nature as image of God; but only Man is image of god; nature is a work of his hands (Werke XI, 94).

Baader relates our acceptance or rejection of image of God to the Idea of autonomy. He says that we must either freely accept being subjected to God’s law, or else we will attempt to set up our own law in an autonomous way. Such a person seeks the Origin in his or her own image, and not in the image of God (Zeit, 31).

Baader says that God’s Word is the central action, producing rays (Strahlen) within temporal reality. Just as the outer organism unfolds itself in the aspect of the outer Sun, so should the outer nature be made capable of unfolding and effecting an inner higher organism in the aspect of God’s image (in its totality) in humans (Begründung 51).

The idea of religious root is related to the fact that we are the image of God (Weltalter 184). St. Paul says that Heaven and earth ‘live and move and have their being’ in God [Acts 17:28]. Because our central, supratemporal selfhood is the image of God, humans are truly the center of the material world (Werke V, 31; XI, 78; Begründung 48). The image of God in man in its totality is supposed to radiate outwards in the outer nature, to make the outer nature capable of unfolding and the effect of a higher Organism. Each form and shape occurs reciprocally. :In the outer temporal forms the inner, eternal, forming powers also build and form themselves; that is the fruit of the outer image. The outer nature is temporal and impermanent [nicht bleibende]. The inner eternal nature sees conflict and duality in outer nature and it moves out of the still, undifferentiated situation, and reacting in the outer as an active unfolding (Begründung 51).

Baader relates our being created in the image of God to our kenosis and love for temporal reality. He says that we are to be mediators for the nonintelligent world just as Christ was a mediator for us. In his kenosis, Christ suspended his own glory and self-sacrifice. Similarly, as helping beings we ourselves must enter into the other beings, and must ourselves become conceivable [Sichsatzlich-machen], to embody ourselves [einverleiben] or to seed ourselves [einsäen] into the beings that are still bound. Just as God descended into the temporal through Christ, so we descend into the temporal. To do this requires that we acknowledge our solidarity and sympathy with those beings that require our help (Elementarbegriffe 554-559). I know that which I love in a different way than that which I do not love (Philosophische Schriften II, 140). Theoretical knowledge demands a double subjection –a subjection [Subjicirung] to God above as His creature, and a subjection to that which stands below. This double subjection gives us the ability to go out of our Center as well as to sink into it–both a centrifugal as well as a centripetal direction. Only as I subject myself to a Higher, do I have the power to subject that which is under me. Only serving can I rule. And only ruling do I serve The Son of Man came into the world to give witness to the truth. That is the destined end for Man, too, as the image of God (Weltalter 221, 222, 361).

Baader says that only in the Image of God in man can this Divine image in its totality radiate into the outer nature, and enable the unfolding and working out of an inner, higher organism within this outer nature (Begründung 52).

Revised Jan 29/08; Dec 24/16