Mankind bears the image of God. Every single person, male and female, bears the distinct mark of God. In contrast, no other created being in heaven above or earth below can make this claim. Mankind sits at the pinnacle of creation—placed there by God Himself. The importance of the image of God in mankind cannot be overstated.
Yet, despite the importance of this great truth, ambiguity persists. Some may rightly wonder if clarity is even attainable. Precision must be realized. Topics like murder and slander depend on a clear understanding of the image of God in man (cf. Gen. 9:6 and James 3:9). The Church has neglected her responsibility to articulate a biblical response to abortion because she has neglected to articulate the meaning of the image of God in mankind. Until clarity on the image of God is realized, topics like abortion will lack clear biblical direction.
To understand the meaning of the image of God, one must recognize that the image of God must be unique to mankind. No other created being possesses any characteristic of the image of God. This truth eliminates many of the possibilities of the meaning for the image of God. For example, the image of God cannot be attributes of God. Animals display characteristics like love and loyalty, yet animals do not bear the image of God. In fact, a dog can often be more loyal than a human. Therefore, the image of God in mankind cannot be attributes of God. Similarly, some have argued that the image of God is relational. Genesis 1:27 points out the relationship of the Godhead in the trinity during the creation of man (i.e. “Let us make man in our image…”). Again, relationships are evident in many created beings. Yet, no other created being bears the image of God. Therefore, the image of God cannot be relational. The image of God is unique to mankind.
Many have pointed out the connection between rule and the image of God found in Genesis 1:27-28. Ruling appears to be a result of being made in the image of God. Mankind is made in the image of God; therefore, he rules over creation. This does not mean that mankind will rule, but rather, that mankind has the intrinsic right to rule. The image of God, then, must be the intrinsic right to rule. The intrinsic right to rule is the God-given authority to rule. For example, the first-born son of a monarch in England has an intrinsic right to the throne—although unrealized until the day of coronation. At what point does the first-born son of a monarch have the right to rule? Did this intrinsic right occur at birth? Did it occur at the first heartbeat? No. At every moment of life, the first-born son of the monarch has an intrinsic right to the throne. Similarly, mankind has an intrinsic right to rule at every moment of life.
No other created being bears the image of God. When the Church argues against abortion based on a heartbeat or the ability to feel pain, she has denigrated the image of God in mankind. Does not a cow or a chicken have a heartbeat? Is it not legitimate to take the life of a cow in order to provide nourishment for mankind? Taking the life of a human is wrong merely because it mars the image of God—it takes away the intrinsic right to rule.
Since the image of God in mankind is evident at every stage of life, no individual (except a government [Romans 13] or in self-defense) has the right to take a life. Abortion is wrong because taking a human life is wrong. Abortion is not wrong because it stops a heartbeat. Abortion is wrong because it takes away the intrinsic right to rule that is stamped on every human being at the moment of life by God Himself. The Church must not fail to articulate from the Bible why abortion is wrong.