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Evolutionary theory, human uniqueness and the image of God

Gijsbert van den Brink
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 46, No 1 | a39 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v46i1.39 | © 2012 Gijsbert van den Brink | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 July 2012 | Published: 19 October 2012


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Abstract

In this article, I examined what might be called the evolutionary argument against human uniqueness and human dignity. After having rehearsed briefly the roots of the classical Judeo- Christian view on human uniqueness and human dignity in the first chapters of Genesis, I went on to explore and delineate the nature of the evolutionary argument against this view. Next, I examined whether Christian theology might widen the concept of imago Dei so as to include other beings as well as humans, thus giving up the idea of human uniqueness. I concluded, however, that this move is deeply problematic. Therefore, I turned to a discussion of some recent attempts to define both human uniqueness and the image of God in theological rather than empirical terms. One of these, which is based on the concept of incarnation, is found wanting, but another one is construed in such a way that it enables us to reconcile the idea of human uniqueness as encapsulated in the doctrine of the imago Dei with contemporary evolutionary theory. Thus, this article can be seen as an exercise in bringing classical Christian theology to terms with evolution, further highlighting this theology’s ongoing vitality.

Evolusieteorie, menslike uniekheid and die beeld van God. In hierdie artikel ondersoek ek die sogenaamde evolusionêre argument teen menslike uniekheid en menswaardigheid. Na ‘n kort oorsig oor die oorsprong van die klassieke Joods-Christelike siening van menslike uniekheid en menswaardigheid soos uit die eerste vyf hoofstukke van Genesis blyk, ondersoek en beeld ek die aard van die evolusionêre argument hierteenoor uit. Vervolgens word die vraag ondersoek of die Christelike teologie die konsep van imago Dei sodanig kan verbreed dat dit ook ander wesens behalwe mense kan insluit, waardeur die idee van menslike uniekheid dus prysgegee word. Ek kom egter tot die slotsom dat hierdie skuif hoogs problematies is. Daarom wend ek my tot ’n bespreking van onlangse pogings om menslike uniekheid en die beeld van God eerder in teologiese as empiriese terme te definieer. Een hiervan, gebaseer op die konsep van inkarnasie, is te lig bevind. ‘n Ander poging is egter sodanig vertolk dat dit ons in staat stel om die idee van menslike uniekheid, soos ingesluit in die leerstelling van die imago Dei, met die hedendaagse evolusieteorie te versoen. Hierdie artikel kan dus gesien word as ‘n poging om die klassieke Christelike teologie in ooreenstemming te bring met evolusie en om hierdie teologie se voortgaande lewenskragtigheid te beklemtoon.

Keywords

Evolutionary theory; human dignity; imago Dei; stewardship; theological anthropology

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