Young-Earth Creationists vs. the Image of God

The Bible describes human beings as made in the image of God. Although young-earth creationists may claim to be defending that view of human beings, they in fact deny it.

I say this because the statement about human beings being made in the image and likeness of God is a statement about human beings in general, and not only about the first two human beings. Genesis 9:6 makes this clearer than any other passage, when it emphasizes the seriousness of murder in terms of human beings having been made in the image of God. If the later descendants of Adam did not bear the divine image, the passage would cease to make sense.

But if, as young-earth creationists claim, it is necessary to deny evolution via natural processes in order to affirm the image and likeness of God, then what happens to human beings now? We are produced through a number of natural processes which are well understood, including sexual reproduction, genetic replication, cell division, and so on, processes which account for and explain the development of human beings from conception through to our existence as adults.

If being produced through natural processes is incompatible with being in the image and likeness of God, then that is bad news for us – but it is particularly bad news for young-earth creationists. Because if their reasoning about the incompatibility of divine creation and natural processes is correct, then despite their claim to be defending human dignity and the Bible, young-earth creationists are doing the very opposite. They are making an argument which has as its implication that today's human beings are not bearers of the image of God.

Most Christians reject such a stance. They recognize that the Biblical descriptions of humanity as “made in the image and likeness of God” refer to all the wonderful characteristics that set human beings apart from other living things on this planet. No matter what processes were involved in our being this way, that we are distinctive in those ways is a matter of observation, and has nothing to do with evolution or supposed Biblical literalism. The former does not detract from it, and the latter cannot add to it – although it can distract from it and deny it.

And so once again, we find that we must choose. Not between the Bible and science, nor between Christianity and evolution, as young-earth creationism claims. No, the choice is in fact between young-earth creationism and acceptance of a core Biblical tenet within the context of our scientifically-informed understanding of the world.


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  • gamgokt

    You really do not know what you are talking about and mis-state the YEC position. If you hate the YEC position so much why talk about it every chance you get?

    • James F. McGrath

      I was a young-earth creationist, and both before and after leaving that stance I studied its teachings. And so I think I know what I am talking about.

      I do hate deceptions – it isn’t just young-earth creationism but anything that involves spreading misinformation and duping the gullible.

  • Brandt Hardin

    Here in TN, they have taken steps though new legislation to allow creationism back into the classroom. This law turns the clock back nearly 100 years here in the seemingly unprogressive South and is simply embarrassing. There is no argument against the Theory of Evolution other than that of religious doctrine. The Monkey Law only opens the door for fanatic Christianity to creep its way back into our classrooms. You can see my visual response as a Tennessean to this absurd law on my artist’s blog at with some evolutionary art and a little bit of simple logic.

  • Nick Heil

    Wow… so you misrepresent a position (that of the young-earth creationist), then spend the rest of the post knocking down that false representation? Young-earth creationists affirm the natural processes that you mention (sexual reproduction, cell division, etc) as processes that are continued. We believe, however, that they didn’t START life initially. You irrationally assume that since natural processes are at work now, then they MUST have INITIALIZED life to begin with. It’s like lumping micro-evolution (evolution within a kind of animal) together with macro-evolution (natural processes INITIALIZING life), and then saying that young-earthers don’t believe in evolution. Micro-evolution is evident and confirmed by direct scientific observation. Macro-evolution is dependent on an INTERPRETATION of data, not direct observation. Natural processes are clearly at work now and are confirmed by direct scientific observation. The idea that natural processes INITIALIZED life is an interpretation of data, not an observed conclusion.

    • James F. McGrath

      You seem to be missing the point. Either human beings having been brought into existence through natural processes makes it impossible for us to be in the image of God, or it doesn’t. If the latter, then claiming that there is an either/or choice between evolution on the one hand, and humans created in the image of God on the other, is clearly a false antithesis, and any young-earth creationists interested in being honest and Scriptural, however few they might be, need to stop presenting the false antithesis as though it were a necessary choice.

      Please don’t conflate the matter of abiogenesis with evolution, the topic at hand – especially in a comment that complains, rightly or wrongly, about distinct things being lumped together.

      • Nick Heil

        My problem with the article is the misrepresentation of the young-earth view. “They are making an argument which has as its implication that today’s human beings are not bearers of the image of God.” This is not a true statement. The “image of God” was built into humanity by God. First two people, and people today. “Most Christians reject such a stance.” So do young-earthers. Again, my problem is with you knocking down the false representation that you created.

        • James F. McGrath

          You seem to be assuming that, for something to be an implication of the young-earth creationist stance, the proponents of that stance have to have expressly acknowledged and embraced the implication. My point is rather that there are unacknowledged implications of and inconsistencies in the young-earth creationist viewpoint.

          It is rather like the distinction between whether young-earth creationists claim to take Genesis literally and whether they actually do so, if that helps. The fact that most young-earth creationists have never given any thought to the dome mentioned in Genesis 1 does not mean that they are not being inconsistent when they insist that the days and chronology must be accepted as literally factual when they do not treat the dome in the same manner.

          • Nick Heil

            I’d agree with that. People tend to believe things blindly without delving into the details. I did that with macro-evolution through college, then looked further into both it and creationism, and came out a young-earth creationist.

  • Mason elliott

    Dumbest argument I have ever heard

  • Mason elliott

    God spoke the earth into existence and it continues by the plan he put in place.why is that so difficult to believe

    • rmwilliamsjr


      God spoke the earth into existence

      you realize that this is an anthropomorphic metaphor and not an accurate historical description?

  • L. E. Alba

    Uncommonly good reasoning. It makes my old atheist’s heart sing…almost enough to reconsider the devoutness of my early years. ;~)