Let us start with the Introduction to Michael’s book, and focus on one major claim that undergirds much else. Michael takes Gen. 1.26 to mean: 1) that God his consulting his heavenly council (its not a discussion in the Trinity. There wouldn’t need to be a discussion between omniscient persons), and this is not just a plural of majesty. So far so good. I think the evidence definitely supports this conclusion; 2) this means that human beings are created in the image of God AND of these other supernatural beings that we call angels. Again, I think the balance of the evidence supports this claim; 3) the Hebrew supports the conclusion that we, like the angels are ‘imagers’ we represent God and he takes this to mean that we, like angels, represent God, acting on behalf of God on earth. We are God’s representatives on earth, and when people look at us, if we are believing and behaving rightly, they should get a glimpse of God. So far, so good. But Michael also wants to deny that this verse and the way it plays out in the OT and NT theology does not refer to some particular quality or aspect of who we are or task that we have (like filling the earth and subduing it). Now the problem with this, both in the OT and in the NT is that the text does not say ‘let us make humanity our image’ it says ‘let us make humanity IN our image’, and I suspect there is a difference. If one were to ask me in what way are human beings different from other earthly creatures (i.e. animals) it is that we, being in the image of God, have a capacity for a personal relationship with God that they simply do not have. In this respect we are like the angels, and unlike, say horses or deer, or bunny rabbits or cats or dogs. We just are. I do indeed think that image theology is critical in Biblical Theology and we need to get it right because it is one of the things that binds the OT and NT theology together. For those wanting more, see my The Indelible Image (Volume One, IVP– later called Theology and Ethics of the NT) and I will have a good deal more to say about this in my forthcoming volume with Cambridge University Press, entitled Biblical Theology: The Convergence of the Canon. I agree with Michael that we image God when we imitate God properly, BUT its who we are as well as what we do that has to do with our being ‘in the image’. We have abilities to love God with all our hearts etc. that lesser creatures do not. The very reason God’s redemption plan focuses on humans and nor primarily animals or angels is because: 1) as Michael says, the latter are already inherently immortal and the good ones don’t need redemption; and 2) the former are not in the image and not fallen in the way humans, who are responsible for their beliefs and behavior, are.
One more thing before we move on in this discussion— I strongly agree with Michael’s argument that angels like humans are not pre-programmed by God. They have in a limited sense free will and precisely because they do, they are held accountable for their behavior. Angels are not God’s Bots! No, they are capable of violating God’s will and messing with God’s plans, and they do so according to the Bible. Interestingly, fallen angels seem to have preceded the existence of fallen humans, but unlike the human race which was all affected by the Fall, various angels who remained good were not tainted by the behavior of angels gone rogue.