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This magisterial and much-needed study by John Kilner thoroughly explains what the Bible teaches about humanity being in the image of God. Arguing against the common idea that sin damages the image of God in human beings, Kilner probes how our creation in God's image gives us dignity, and he points to humanity's renewal according to God's image in Christ as our destiny.
|Title: Dignity and Destiny: Humanity in the Image of God|
By: John F. Kilner
Number of Pages: 384
Vendor: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Publication Date: 2015
|Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.00 (inches)|
Weight: 1 pound 4 ounces
Stock No: WW867643
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In Dignity and Destiny John Kilner explores what the Bible itself teaches about humanity being in God's image. He discusses in detail all of the biblical references to the image of God, interacts extensively with other work on the topic, and documents how misunderstandings of it have been so problematic.
People made according to God's image, Kilner says, have a special connection with God and are intended to be a meaningful reflection of him. Because of sin, they don't actually reflect him very well, but Kilner shows why the popular idea that sin has damaged the image of God is mistaken. He also clarifies the biblical difference between being God's image (which Christ is) and being in God's image (which humans are). He explains how humanity's creation and renewal in God's image are central, respectively, to human dignity and destiny.
Locating Christ at the center of what God's image means, Kilner charts a constructive way forward and reflects on the tremendously liberating impact that a sound understanding of the image of God can have in the world today.
-Christine D. Pohl,
Asbury Theological Seminary
This masterful treatment of the image of God is not abstract theology removed from everyday reality; rather, as Kilner shows, what's at stake is human dignity in every sphere of life. A clear and cogently argued work that will become the major source for future explorations of the topic.
-Dennis P. Hollinger,
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
In this richly documented text John Kilner makes a case for the theological centrality and historical impact of the idea that humans are made in the image of God - for good but also for ill. . . . All readers will be enriched by Kilner's thoughtful argument and challenged by his exploration of the potency of an idea.
Wesley Theological Seminary
The most exhaustive study of the image of God of which I am aware. . . . I especially appreciate Kilner's Christological emphasis. . . . This will become the new standard reference work on the subject, particularly given its rich documentation throughout.
-Scott B. Rae,
Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
A masterful book on the important biblical concept of the imago Dei, which has too often received cursory treatment. The breadth and depth of Kilner's scholarship are impressive, and his carefully crafted work is simultaneously astute and engaging. . . . Students and theologians will be consulting his Dignity and Destiny for years to come.
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Kilner carefully demonstrates how theological convictions about the image of God matter profoundly for Christian life and witness. . . . Convincingly shows how poorly conceived or sloppy exegesis not only hampers an individual's love for God and others but also creates an ethos that reinforces broad injustices ranging from racism to disregard for those with disabilities.
Fuller Theological Seminary
A well-analyzed, nicely written study of the single most important truth undergirding respect for human life. . . . Our society, including the church, has a spotty record dealing with moral challenges - racism, poverty, gender roles, abortion - which are skewed by distorted views of what it means for us to bear the image of God. Kilner's book gives a soundly biblical understanding that can address these shortcomings.
-Daniel R. Heimbach,
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
In his book, Dignity and Destiny: Humanity in the Image of God, bioethicist John F. Kilner sketches the theological history of the image of God, critiques prominent viewpoints from this sketch, and offers a robust formulation of what it means to be in God's image. Since the understanding of this theological doctrine has both dignified and vilified certain human beings, Kilner astutely asserts the importance of explicating this doctrine well. All human persons, regardless of sex, ethnicity, class, ability, etc., must be valued, and this book gives the theological underpinning for the imperative nature of this valuation.
Kilner begins with stark examples of how the image of God has been used as a weapon to oppress certain human beings. Such oppression was especially prevalent, for example, during the time of slavery in the United States and has been used throughout church history to subordinate women to men. He specifically notes how women have borne the brunt of a misunderstood image of God, especially when it has been associated with rationalism and the soul. Women have been caricatured as being less rational, less spiritual, and consequently, less in the image of God and even less human. Kilner argues this is the necessary consequence of basing the image of God on the manifestation of certain attributes believed to be the possession of males rather than females.
The second chapter proffers that the starting point for understanding the image of God is Jesus Christ since he is the image of God. Here, Kilner offers the thesis of his book: "actual likeness to God is not what being created in God's image involves. Creation in God's image is God's expressed intention that people evidence the special connection they have with God through a meaningful reflection of God" (79). This approach differs markedly from most theological approaches throughout church history. Instead of claiming that humans intrinsically possess the image of God, Kilner affixes the divine image to God's intention that all people become like Christ. Furthermore, humans are created in this image as whole beings - including the physical and non-physical. This formulation ensures that everyone is equally in the image of God, regardless of attributes, and it also inhibits sin from damaging the image.
Knowing that many theologians have argued for an attributive understanding of the image of God, Kilner shifts to exegetical support for all persons being in the image of God, regardless of their attributes. A helpful distinction he articulates in ch. 3 is between image and glory. Being in the image of God cannot be degreed, but how well someone reflects God's glory can be degreed. A potential concern might arise here for an egalitarian reader since Kilner claims that men and women reflect God's glory differently (94). Although he is clearly making the point that men and women share the same image, his argument could be interpreted as "equal in image (essence), different in glory (function)." For this reason, a more complete elaboration of what this means would strengthen his argument.
Chs. 4 and 5 focus on the impact of sin on the image of God and also on misunderstandings about the image that have pervaded church history. Since Jesus Christ is the image of God and humans are in this irrevocable image, sin cannot mar it. This remains true for all human beings, regardless of whether they are being conformed to the image of Christ. Furthermore, maleness and femaleness do not constitute the image of God. Kilner argues, focusing on the Hebrew syntax of Gen 1:27, that the statement "male and female he created them" gives the means by which the image continues. This language parallels the words given for animals since this is their means of reproduction as well.
However, humans are intended to move beyond Eden and be conformed to the image of Christ, which can only happen through trust in Jesus. Thus, chs. 6 and 7 explain how God's intention is enacted through special connection with God which then meaningfully reflects God. Such intention can only occur through the power of the Holy Spirit and will look like certain attributes (rulership, relationship, reason, righteousness) being cultivated in the believer's life. Ultimately, the intended destiny of all human beings is to become the actual image of God through imitation of Christ's humanity and to be perfected in glory.
Kilner concludes with an exhortation to adopt such an understanding of the image of God and to allow this theology to permeate one's life. He makes a strong appeal to men, specifically in light of this doctrine, that "overcoming gender bias requires more than acknowledging women as created in God's image" (326). Even though this book is not expressly related to advocacy for gender equality, this appeal is a clear consequence of having a non-attributive view of being in the image of God.
Kilner makes a strong argument that all people are in the incorruptible image of God. However, a few questions remain that warrant clarity. For instance, how is the image of God connected to human personhood? Since this is a major question in bioethics, clarity of terms and the relationship between the two would be beneficial. Also, Kilner addresses the value of the body since it is part of the whole person being in the image of God. However, a statement about how this impacts being in the image during the temporal, disembodied existence of the dead prior to Christ's return would also be helpful. Finally, if the reader is strongly Reformed, the idea that God intends that all human persons spend their destinies being conformed to the image of Christ will seemingly contradict some persons being predestined for destruction. Because he assumes that all humans are intended to commune with and reflect God, this concern is not addressed. While these questions may arise for certain readers, this book remains a solid contribution to understanding theological anthropology and a wonderful basis for advocacy on behalf of all human persons.
---Christa L. McKirland, completing her ThM in Systematic Theology at Talbot School of Theology
---Used with permission from Christians for Biblical Equality
Christine D. Pohl
-- Asbury Theological Seminary
"John Kilners comprehensive and engaging work brings fresh insight to a central but often misunderstood and misused concept. His careful biblical, theological, and moral reflection on being in the image of God is exceptional -- a major contribution to the discussion."
Dennis P. Hollinger
-- Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
"This masterful treatment of the image of God is not abstract theology removed from everyday reality; rather, as Kilner shows, whats at stake is human dignity in every sphere of life. A clear and cogently argued work that will become the major source for future explorations of the topic."
-- Wesley Theological Seminary
"In this richly documented text John Kilner makes a case for the theological centrality and historical impact of the idea that humans are made in the image of God for good but also for ill. . . . All readers will be enriched by Kilners thoughtful argument and challenged by his exploration of the potency of an idea."
Scott B. Rae
-- Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
"The most exhaustive study of the image of God of which I am aware. . . . I especially appreciate Kilners Christological emphasis. . . . This will become the new standard reference work on the subject, particularly given its rich documentation throughout."
-- Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
"A masterful book on the important biblical concept of the imago Dei, which has too often received cursory treatment. The breadth and depth of Kilners scholarship are impressive, and his carefully crafted work is simultaneously astute and engaging. . . . Students and theologians will be consulting his Dignity and Destiny for years to come."
-- Fuller Theological Seminary
"Kilner carefully demonstrates how theological convictions about the image of God matter profoundly for Christian life and witness. . . . Convincingly shows how poorly conceived or sloppy exegesis not only hampers an individuals love for God and others but also creates an ethos that reinforces broad injustices ranging from racism to disregard for those with disabilities."
Daniel R. Heimbach
-- Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
"A well-analyzed, nicely written study of the single most important truth undergirding respect for human life. . . . Our society, including the church, has a spotty record dealing with moral challenges -- racism, poverty, gender roles, abortion -- which are skewed by distorted views of what it means for us to bear the image of God. Kilners book gives a soundly biblical understanding that can address these shortcomings."
Journal of the Christian Institute on Disability
"Readers of this book should expect to be challenged. They will likely recognize ways in which they themselves have spoken about the imago Dei ways which turn out to be inadequate, inaccurate, and (in some cases) even harmful. If taken seriously, the argument of this book has potential to catalyze a major paradigm shift in how the church thinks about, speaks of, and acts in regard to the image of Godwith powerful implications for its interactions with various marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities."
Books at a Glance
"A rich treatment of the theological doctrine of what it means for all humankind to be created in, and bear, the image of God. . . . Kilner has produced a very fine, scholarly work that is quite obviously well researched, will prominently stand out in the literature on the imago Dei, and will be a valuable asset for the church."
"Kilner handles the doctrine of imago Dei in a way that has been badly needed. Carefully holding the doctrine to its foundations in Scripture, he painstakingly documents a host of unwarranted extrapolations that theologians and preachers have let themselves construct. What's left after his thorough work of demolition? Plenty. The way has been cleared for the doctrine of the image of God to help guide our thinking about human nature."
Midwest Book Review
"A powerful survey that will attract theologians and Christian readers interested in philosophical and spiritual reflection."