Image of God in Man and Bioethics

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Ethics, Theology, Image of God, Bioethics, Nature of Man


What is man? This question is often answered by claiming that the image of God in man is man’s essence. The histori­

cal survey suggests several interpretations of Imago Det • Thomas Aquinas identifies it as reason.

  • Reinhold Niebuhr argues in favor of self-transcen­ dence.

  • Karl Barth thinks the image is totally lost (Luther) and is restored through God’s activity in the Chris­tian life.

  • Contemporaryscholarsspeakinfavorofpersonhood as the image of God. This kind of thinking may have

    serious consequences for bioethics.

    l.Who will say what function of personhood is essentially human?

    2.Is every absence of personal functioning an indication of sub-humanness (sleep, seizures, coma, infancy?)

    I suggest that individuality, not personhood be considered as a definition for the image of God. (See Ed. p. 17). The uniqueness of each individual from conception to death. The unique messages and combination of chromosomes distinguish individuals from the start. This consideration has serious implications for abortion and the human status of a fetus.


A paper presented to the Hinsdale Hospital Board of Trustees, Hinsdale, Illinois, August 28-29, 1987.

First Department

Theology and Christian Philosophy

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