Negating God’s Image?
2024-02-18 | Romans 4:13-25

Prof. Naomi Thurston
  • Professor of Divinity School of Chung Chi College

In a course on literature and theology last term, DSCCC students and I delved into theological anthropologies found in “non-theological” spaces --- if there are such spaces. We discussed renderings, variations, and dismissals of the biblical notion of the 𝘪𝘮𝘢𝘨𝘰 𝘋𝘦𝘪 in classic works of literature. Most of the authors we examined, piecing together how their understandings of the human related to “God’s image in humanity,” were Western, although we did consider one Chinese Republican author’s humorous rewriting of the Genesis account in his hilariously absurd and slightly bitter short story, “God’s Dream,” and our astute students delved into works and writers from Arundhati Roy to an up-and-coming Hong Kong literary light, as well as Shi Tiesheng, Qian Zhongshu, and the Book of Job.

I am still thinking about what this image actually means. A tune rings in my head “…fearfully and wonderfully made”; a snippet of text appears before my mind’s eye, the horrid realization of the 20th-century existentialist writer Camus: “life is no longer loved.”

Then I reread the Noahic Covenant (Genesis 9): “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.”

Our patristics colleague notes that for some in the early church, this verse settled the debate on whether the imago had been lost with Adam’s fall. Clearly it had not, since, here it was, being reaffirmed with the only family to survive the devastation of the flood, now tasked with repopulating the earth and warned that human life, sanctioned by divinity, was inviolable --- not to be tampered with, not to be hurt, not to be taken, but: sacred.

But if the image of God in you and me can be affirmed, it can also be negated; if it can be loved and embraced, it can also be discarded, loathed, or ignored. History continues to show us this brutal truth, just as God’s covenant with Noah continues to warn us: revere 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 life.