Research from across the developing world shows that investing in the safety, education, and equality of girls is the most effective way to improve the quality of life for everyone in a community. Learn how you can organize a kite flying event in your community to come together in an act of solidarity with girls in Haiti to help transform our world. Read More
The American landscape is crowded with examples of women’s entrepreneurial spirit in building a strong civil society through philanthropy. DREAM. DARE. DO. brings together a wide range of speakers from across the nonprofit sector for a national conversation about private action for the common good. Read More
Lent is a weighty time of year when we are invited to enter into our brokenness and need for Christ. It is a time to pray for healing for ourselves, our families,
our communities, and our world. It is a time when we become acutely aware of our grief, our regrets, our limitations, our lament. It is also a time when we learn most deeply that we are not alone. Read More
This is the first post in an ongoing forum on the topic “What Practical Relevance Does the ‘Imago Dei’ Have for the Advance of Human Rights, Peace, and Global Development in the 21st century?” We are honored to have Dr. J. Richard Middleton, Professor of Biblical Worldview and Exegesis at Northeastern Seminary and author of The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1 to open this series in an academic voice that we hope deepens your understanding of what this ancient Hebrew concept meant in its own historical and cultural context and how it can inspire us today to work to unleash the liberating essence of our faith traditions in the service of a more kind, just, and interdependent world.
The idea that human beings are made in the image of God (Latin imago Dei) grounds Christian ethics. And it is one of the most important sources of our thinking about human rights, and how to care for and work toward a better world where all people can thrive.
The Imago Dei as the Human Vocation
The idea first occurs in the Bible in Genesis 1, a beautiful poetic, cosmological treatise where God is shown creating a magnificent world with humanity, both male and female, made in God’s own “image” and “likeness” (parallel terms) vested with a place of honor and responsibility in creation to rule over the animals and care for the earth. The imago Dei crystallizes the Bible’s consistent vocational or missional view of humanity—that humans are called to lovingly represent God’s presence and purposes on earth.
We see humans representing God’s image though vocation again in Genesis 2, where God plants a garden in Eden and places the first humans there with the task of tilling and keeping the garden (2:15). Agriculture is portrayed as the first communal, cultural project of humanity. Since it is the Creator who first planted the garden, we could say that God initiated the first cultural project, thus setting a pattern for humans—created in the divine image—to follow. Whereas Genesis 2 focuses on agriculture, Psalm 8 highlights animal husbandry as a basic human vocation and describes humans as crowned with honor and granted rule over the works of God’s hands, including various realms of animal life (Ps 8:5-8). The domestication of animals is here regarded as a task of such dignity and privilege that through it humans manifest their position of being “little lower than God” (Ps 8:5), an expression that begins to move in the direction of God’s image/likeness.
Genesis 1:26-28 combines these two vocations: Humans are created to “subdue” the earth (similar to tending the garden in Genesis 2) and to rule over the animal kingdom (as in Psalm 8). And they are to accomplish these tasks as God’s representatives or delegates on earth, entrusted with a share in his rule, which is the upshot of being made in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27). In ancient ears, the imagery of bearing God’s image/likeness connoted a royal stature, which Genesis 1 claims is vested in all human beings, not just the ruling elites of the day.
The human task of exercising communal power in the world, initially applied to agriculture and the domestication of animals, results in the transformation of the earthly environment into a complex socio-cultural world. Thus Genesis 4 reports the building of the first city (4:17) and mentions the invention of certain cultural practices, such as nomadic livestock herding, musical instruments, and metal tools (4:20-22). All later human cultural developments thus flow from the imago Dei.
There are certainly implications here for environmental stewardship, but we cannot stop with environmental stewardship, narrowly conceived, since the Bible intends something much broader by its association of the imago Dei with the exercise of cultural, developmental power. In the biblical worldview, all cultural activities and social institutions arise from interaction with the earth. Taking the imago Dei seriously requires us to attend to the social structures we develop, including governments, economic systems, technological innovations, forms of communication, and the urban and suburban landscapes in which we live and work.
The Ancient Near Eastern Background to the Imago Dei
This view of the importance of cultural development and its link to the imago Dei was not unique to Israel. In the ancient Near East, the king was thought to be the living image of the gods on earth, representing the gods’ will and purpose through his administration of society and culture. The difference for Israel is that in Genesis 1 the entire human race is appointed to this privileged role. This democratization of ancient Near Eastern royal ideology implies that all people are equally in the image of God—male and female are explicitly noted (Gen 1:27). Further, no person is granted rule over another at creation. This radical equality does not mean that humans cannot organize society with functional hierarchies of leadership. Rather, such hierarchies are not innate; no human being is intrinsically superior to another. Thus, the imago Dei calls into question the inequities of patriarchy and all forms of apartheid-like social structures that arise in history which all too often have been sanctioned with appeals to the Bible.
The other source of the idea of humans as God’s image is the picture of the cosmos (heaven and earth) as a temple, a concept that Israel shared with the ancient Near East. In this cosmological picture, God’s throne is in heaven above (a cosmic Holy of Holies) but God’s desire is to infuse all of creation with the divine presence. It is thus the human task as the “image of God” in the temple of creation, to make God’s presence and power Read More
A gorgeous, full-color oversized book about educating girls across the world inspired by the documentary that Entertainment Weekly says “every mother, sister, daughter, should see, as well as the men who love and support them.” This is the right book for the present moment and perfect for fans of inspirational nonfiction such as I Am Malala and anyone who believes that one girl can change the world.
Worldwide, over 62 million girls are not in school.
But one girl with courage is a revolution.
Girl Rising, a global campaign for girls’ education, created a film that chronicled the stories of nine girls in the developing world, allowing viewers the opportunity to witness how education can break the cycle of poverty.
Now, award-winning author Tanya Lee Stone deftly uses new research to illuminate the dramatic facts behind the film, focusing both on the girls captured on camera and many others. She examines barriers to education in depth—early child marriage and childbearing, slavery, sexual trafficking, gender discrimination, and poverty—and shows how removing these barriers means not only a better life for girls, but safer, healthier, and more prosperous communities.
With full-color photos from the film, infographics, and a compelling narrative, Girl Rising will inspire readers of all ages to join together in a growing movement to help change the world.
“A moving account of hardships and triumphs that is bound to inspire future activists, this is a devastating but crucial read.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred
Additional Praise for the Film:
“Delivers . . . tangible hope that the world can be healed in a better future.” —Meryl Streep
“Girl Rising stands as a testament to the power of information.” —The Los Angeles Times
World Relief Announces the Layoff of 140+ Staff and Closure of Five Local Offices Due to the Trump Administration’s Reduction in Refugee Resettlements in the U.S.Read MoreRead More
BALTIMORE, MD — As a direct result of the recent decision by the Trump Administration to dramatically reduce the number of refugees resettled in the U.S. throughout fiscal year 2017, World Relief has been forced to make the difficult decision to layoff 140+ staff members across its U.S. Ministry and close local offices in Boise, Idaho; Columbus, Ohio; Miami, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; and Glen Burnie, Maryland. Collectively, these five offices have resettled more than 25,000 refugees over the past four decades.
“It has been our great privilege to serve both local churches and resilient refugee and immigrant families in each of these communities,” says World Relief President Scott Arbeiter. “Our staff at each of these locations have served diligently and sacrificially—some of them for many years—and we are deeply saddened to have to make this difficult decision. These staff members are also experts whose vast experience has brought an effectiveness and professionalism to their work. This represents a loss of more than 140 jobs—which by itself is deeply troubling—but also decades of organizational expertise and invaluable capacity to serve the world’s most vulnerable people.” Read More