As we’ve previously argued, every human being bears the image of God. But what does that mean? What is the function of the image of God in the everyday lives of men and women? Let me suggest two:—dominion and dignity.
Dominion is easiest to see from Genesis 1 since the word is explicitly stated in the text.
26b And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth (emphasis added).
To have dominion means to rule over something or to exercise authority over something. Notice how broad is the scope of mankind’s dominion.
Mankind has dominion over the creatures in the water, over the creatures in the air, and over the creature on the land. That pretty much covers every type of creature.
Unfortunately, some have taken their God-given dominion and used it in nefarious ways, but dominion doesn’t imply that we can be careless with God’s creation. After all, we do need to remember that this is God’s creation—not ours! We are merely stewards of God’s creation.
In being given dominion, we’re acting with authority as God’s stewards over his creation. So, for example. is it ok to go and kill an animal to provide food to eat? Yes, of course, it is. One may choose to eat vegan, but that’s not a requirement of bearing the image of God.
On the other hand, is it ok to hunt a species to the point of extinction? No, in doing so, we wouldn’t be exercising a proper dominion over God’s creation.
Or consider this scenario. What if we have to make a choice between killing an animal or killing a human being? What if we’re facing a moral dilemma?
Some of you may remember the incident with Harambe—a western lowland gorilla in the Cincinnati zoo—that happened a couple of years ago.
A three-year-old boy had somehow gotten into the gorilla enclosure, and Harambe, the gorilla, grabbed the boy and started dragging him around the enclosure. The zookeeper had to make a quick and devastating decision. He chose to shoot and kill the gorilla so that the boy could be saved.
It was all a very tragic event, and we won’t even get into the discussion about whether animal enclosures like zoos are good or about the boy’s parents and their complicity in allowing the boy to get that close to the enclosure.
It was a sad thing to have to shoot the gorilla, but it was the right call. The boy, not the gorilla, is created in the image of God. That means that the boy has more worth than the gorilla.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’s OK to hunt gorillas for sport and put their heads on your mantles, but human beings have more inherent worth than other parts of God’s creation. Human beings are created in the image of God.
It always strikes me as strange when some “well-meaning” person has conflicting bumper stickers on their car—one championing the need to save the spotted owl, and the other championing a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.
Without a doubt, we ought to exercise a stewardship over God’s creation to save as many animals that are nearing extinction as we can, but the baby inside the woman’s belly is just that—a human baby—a human person. And as such, that baby has worth and dignity.
A couple of years ago, the singer Beyoncé posted on social media that she was having twins and that she had “three hearts inside her.” Her post instantly became one of the most “liked” posts in history. Millions of people “liked” her post.
Yet, many of those same millions—including Beyoncé herself—advocate for a woman’s right to kill the baby in the womb. We can’t have it both ways.
We can’t celebrate the baby simply because it’s wanted. What’s in the womb is either a human being with human personhood or it’s not. We can’t have it both ways.
Biblical and modern scientific evidence conclusively shows us that what is inside the womb is a human being. And because it’s a human being, it has worth, which brings us to the second “D” word—dignity.
Because we are created in the image of God, mankind alone has a dignity that no other creature has. Furthermore, EVERY human being has that dignity—from conception to natural death.
The United States of America has some of the most liberal and inhumane laws regulating abortion in the world. We share the company of nations like North Korea, Vietnam, and China. The least safe place to be for many babies in the US is in the womb.
Lawmakers in New York recently celebrated the passing of a law that allows for abortion up until the moment of birth. The embroiled governor of Virginia even made public comments that sounded like infanticide!
Only a few states place bans on “sex-selection” abortions (i.e., choosing to have an abortion because the parents don’t like the biological gender of the baby). This is draconian! But, apparently, to those who want completely unfettered access to abortion, it’s too much to ask for a ban on sex-selection abortions. According to one organization that is openly pro-abortion, they say,
“Bans on sex-selective abortions place a burden on [abortion] providers.”
How petty is that argument? What about the burden on that little baby boy and that little baby girl? He or she has been created with dignity and worth, and their dignity and worth trumps the burden on the provider.
Human beings have dignity and worth. Human beings have dominion. That’s the function of being created in the image of God.