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|Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky|
Orthodox dogmatic theology
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Man — the Crown of Creation
In the ladder of the earthly creation, man is placed on the highest rung, and in relationship to all
earthly beings he occupies the reigning position. Being earthly, according to his gifts he approaches
the heavenly beings, for he is “a little lower than the angels” (Ps. 8:5). And the
Prophet Moses depicts man's origin in this way: “After all the creatures of the earth had been
created, And God said, Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness; and let him have dominion
over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air … and over all the earth … So God
created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him” (Gen. 1:26-27).
1. In itself, the counsel of God, which is not indicated at the creation of the other creatures
of the earth, clearly speaks of the fact that man was to be a special creation, distinct from the others,
the highest, most perfect on earth, having also a higher purpose in the world.
2. The concept of man's high purpose and his special significance is emphasized yet more
in the fact that the counsel of God ordained that man be created “in the image and likeness of
God,” and that in fact he was created in God's image. Every image necessarily presupposes a
similarity with its archetype; consequently, the presence of God's image in man testifies to a reflection
of the very attributes of God in man's spiritual nature.
3. Finally, certain details of man's creation which are given in the second chapter of Genesis
emphasize once more a special preeminence of human nature. To be precise, it is said there:
“And God formed man of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7). Two actions, or two aspects of action, are distinguished
here, and they may be understood as simultaneous: the formation of the body, and the
giving of life to it. St. John Damascene notes: “The body and the soul were formed at the same
time, not one before and the other afterwards, as the ravings of Origen would have it” (Exact Exposition,
Bk. 2, ch. 12, “On Man”). According to the description of the book of Genesis, God
created the body of man from already existing earthly elements, and He created it in a very special
fashion: not by His command or word alone, as was done in the creation of the other creatures,
but by His own direct action. This shows that man, even in his bodily organization, is a
being surpassing all other creatures from the very beginning of his existence. Further, it is said
that God breathed into his face the breath of life and the man became a living soul. As one who
has received the breath of life, in this figurative expression, from the mouth of God Himself, man
is thus a living, organic union of the earthly and the heavenly, the material and the spiritual.4. From this follows the exalted view of the significance of the human body as is set forth
generally in the Sacred Scripture. The body must serve as the companion, organ, and even fellow
laborer of the soul. It depends on the soul itself whether to lower itself to such an extent that it
becomes the slave of the body, or, being guided by an enlightened spirit, to make the body its
obedient executor and fellow-laborer. Depending upon the soul, the body can be a vessel of sinful
impurity and foulness, or it can become a temple of God, participating with the soul in the
glorification of God. This is taught in Sacred Scripture (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:3; 1 Cor. 9:27; Gal.
5:24; Jude 7-9; 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 6:20). Even with the death of the body, the bond of the
soul with the body is not cut off forever. The time will come when the bodies of men will arise
in a renewed form and will again be united forever with their souls, in order to receive a part in
eternal blessedness or torment, corresponding to the good or evil deeds performed by men with
the participation of the body in the course of earthly life (2 Cor. 5:10).
An even more exalted view is instilled in us by the word of God regarding the nature of the
soul. At the creation of the soul, God took nothing of it from the earth, but imparted it to man
solely by His creative inbreathing. This clearly shows that, in the conception of the word of God,
the human soul is an essence completely separate from the body and from everything material
and composed of elements, having a nature not earthly, but above the world, heavenly. The high
pre-eminence of man's soul compared to everything earthly was expressed by the Lord Jesus
Christ in the words: “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose has own
soul? Or what shall a man give an exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). The Lord instructed
His disciples: “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul” (Matt.
Concerning the exalted dignity of the soul, St. Gregory the Theologian expresses himself
thus: “The soul is the breath of God, and while being heavenly, it endures being mixed with
what is of the dust. It is a light enclosed in a cave, but still it is divine and inextinguishable …
The Word spoke, and having taken a part of the newly-created earth, with His immortal hands
formed my image and imparted to it His life; because He sent into it the spirit, which is a ray of
the invisible Divinity” (Homily 7, “On the Soul”).
Nevertheless, one cannot make such exalted figurative expressions of the Holy Fathers into
a foundation for teaching that the soul is “divine” in the full sense of the word, and that consequently,
it had an eternal existence of its own before its incarnation in earthly man, in Adam.
(This view is found in those contemporary theological philosophical currents which follow V.S.
Soloviev). The very statement that the soul is of heavenly origin does not mean that the soul is
divine in essence. “He breathed the breath of life” (Gen. 2:7) is an anthropomorphic expression,
and there is no basis for understanding it as meaning that he gave something of His Divine substance.
After all, man's breathing is not an “outbreathing” of the elements of human nature itself,
nor even of its physical essence. Likewise, from the Biblical expression one cannot draw the
conclusion that the soul proceeded from the Essence of God nor is an element of the Divinity.
Chrysostom writes, “Certain senseless ones, being drawn away by their own conceptions, without
thinking of anything in a God-befitting manner, and without paying any attention to the adaptation
of the expressions (of Scripture), dare to say that the soul has proceeded from the Essence of
God. O frenzy! O folly! How many paths of perdition has the devil opened up for those who
wish to serve him! In order to understand this, behold the opposite ways in which these people
go: some, seizing on the phrase, “He breathed,” say that souls proceed from the Essence of God;others, on the contrary, affirm that souls are converted into the essence of the lowest irrational
creatures. What can be worse than such folly?” (Commentary on the Book of Genesis).
That St. Gregory the Theologian spoke of the divinity of the soul not in the strict sense of
the word is evident from another homily of his: “The nature of God and the nature of man are not
identical; or, to speak more generally, the nature of the Divine and the nature of the earthly are
not identical. In the Divine nature, both existence itself and everything in It which has existence
are unchangeable and immortal; for, in that which is constant, everything is constant. But what is
true of our nature? It flows, is corrupted, and undergoes change after change” (Homily 19, “On
We have already spoken in the chapter on the Attributes of God (on God as Spirit) of the
question as to how one should understand anthropomorphic expressions about God. Here let us
only cite the argument of Blessed Theodoret: “When we hear in the account of Moses that God
took dust from the earth and formed man, and we seek out the meaning of this utterance, we discover
in it the special good disposition of God towards the human race. For the great prophet
notes, in his description of the creation, that God created all the other creatures by His word,
while man He created with His own hands. But just as we understand by “word” not a commandment,
but the will alone, so also, in the formation of the body, (we should understand) not
the action of hands, but the greatest attentiveness to this work. For in the same way that now, by
His will, the fruit is generated in a mother's womb, and nature follows the laws which He gave to
it from the very beginning — so also then, by His will the human body was formed from the
earth, and dust became flesh.” In another passage Blessed Theodoret expresses himself in a general
way: “We do not say that the Divinity has hands . . . but we affirm that every one of these
expressions indicates a greater care on God's part for man than for the other creatures” (quoted in
the Dogmatic Theology of Metr. Macarius, Vol. I, p. 430-431).
The soul as an independent substance.
The ancient Fathers and teachers of the Church, strictly following the Sacred Scripture in the
teaching on the independence of the soul and its value in itself, explained and revealed the distinctness
of the soul from the body in order to refute the materialistic opinion that the soul is only
an expression of the harmony of the members of the body, or is a result of the body's physical
activity, and that it does not have its own particular spiritual substance or nature. Appealing to
simple observation, the Church Fathers show:
a. that it is characteristic of the soul to govern the strivings of the body, and characteristic of
the body to accept this governance (Athenagoras and others).
b. that the body is, as it were, a tool or instrument of an artist, while the soul is the artist
(Sts. Irenaeus, Gregory of Nyssa, Cyril of Jerusalem, and others).
c. that the soul is not unconditionally subject to the impulses of the body; it is even capable
of entering into warfare with the strivings of the body as with something foreign and hostile to it,
and is able to gain a victory over it, thus showing that it is not the same thing as the body but is
an invisible essence, is of a different nature, surpassing every bodily nature (Origen).
d. that it is intangible and ungraspable, and is neither blood, nor air, nor fire, but a
self-moving principle (Lactantius).
e. that the soul is a power which brings all the members of the organism into full harmony
and full unity (Sts. Athanasius the Great, Basil the Great).f. that the soul possesses reason, self-awareness, and free will (Origen and others).
g. that man, while he is in the body on earth, mentally thinks of that which is heavenly and
beholds it; being mortal in his body, he reasons about immortality and often, out of love for virtue,
he draws upon himself suffering and death; having a body which is temporal, with his mind
he contemplates the eternal and strives towards it, disdaining that which is under his feet. The
body itself would never have imagined such things (St. Athanasius the Great).
h. that speaking of the very nature of the soul, the Fathers and teachers of the Church point
to the simplicity and immateriality of the soul, as opposed to the complexity and material crudeness
of the body; they indicate its invisibility and complete absence of form, and in general to the
fact that it is not subject to any of the measurements (space, weight, etc.) to which the body is
subject (Origen and others).
With regard to the fact that the conditions of the body are reflected in the activities of the
soul, and that these conditions can weaken and even corrupt the soul — for example, during illness,
old age, or drunkenness — the Fathers of the Church often compare the body to an instrument
used in steering. The different degrees of the soul's manifestation in the body testify only to
the instability of the instrument — the body. Those conditions of the body which are unfavorable
for the manifestation of the soul may be compared to a sudden storm at sea which hinders
the pilot from manifesting his art but does not prove that he is absent. As another example, one
might take an untuned harp, from which even the most skilled musicians cannot bring forth harmonious
sounds (Lactantius). So also, poor horses give no opportunity for a horseman to demonstrate
his skill (Blessed Theodoret).
Certain ancient Fathers (Sts. Ambrose, Pope Gregory the Great, John Damascene), while
acknowledging the spirituality of the soul as distinct from the body, at the same time also ascribe
a certain comparative corporality or materiality to the soul. By this supposed attribute of the soul
they had in mind to distinguish the spirituality of the human soul, as also the spirituality of angels,
from the most pure spirituality of God, in comparison with which everything must seem
material and crude.
The origin of the souls.
How the soul of each individual man originates is not fully revealed in the word of God; it is
“a mystery known to God alone” (St. Cyril of Alexandria), and the Church does not give us a
strictly defined teaching on this subject. She decisively rejected only Origen's view, which had
been inherited from the philosophy of Plato, concerning the pre-existence of souls, according to
which souls come to earth from a higher world. This teaching of Origen and the Origenists was
condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council.
However, this conciliar decree did not establish whether the soul is created from the souls of
a man's parents and only in this general sense constitutes a new creation of God, or whether each
soul is created immediately and separately by God, being joined at a definite moment to the body
which is being or has been formed. In the view of certain Fathers of the Church (Clement of Alexandria,
John Chrysostom, Ephraim the Syrian, Theodoret), each soul is created separately by
God, and some of them refer its union with the body to the fortieth day after the body's formation.
(Roman Catholic theology is decisively inclined toward the view that each soul is separately
created; this view has been set forth dogmatically in several papal bulls, and Pope Alexan-der VII linked with this view the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Virgin
In the view of other teachers and Fathers of the Church (Tertullian, Gregory the Theologian,
Gregory of Nyssa, Macarius the Great, Anastasius the Presbyter), both soul and body receive
their beginning simultaneously and mature together; the soul proceeds from the souls of the parents
just as the body proceeds from the bodies of the parents. In this way “creation” is understood
here in a broad sense as the participation of the creative power of God which is present and
essential everywhere, for every kind of life. The foundation of this view is the fact that in the
person of our forefather Adam, God created the human race: “He hath made of one blood all nations
of men” (Acts 17:26). From this it follows that in Adam the soul and body of every man
was given in potentiality. But God's decree is brought into reality in such a way that God holds
all things in His hand: “He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). God, having
created, “continues to create.”
St. Gregory the Theologian says, “Just as the body, which was originally formed in us of
dust, became subsequently the current of human bodies as has not been cut off from the
first-formed root, in one man including others — so also the soul, being inbreathed by God, from
that time comes together into the formed composition of man, being born anew, and from the
original seed (St. Gregory evidently means here a spiritual seed) being imparted to many and always
preserving a constant form in mortal members … Just as the breath in a musical pipe produces
sounds depending upon the width of the pipe, so also the soul, appearing powerless in an
infirm body, becomes manifest as the body is strengthened and reveals then all its intelligence”
(Homily 7, “On the Soul”). St. Gregory of Nyssa has the same view.
In his diary, St. John of Kronstadt has this observation: “What are human souls? They are
all one and the same soul, one and the same breathing of God, which God breathed into Adam,
which from Adam until now is disseminated to the whole human race. Therefore all men are the
same as one man, or one tree of humanity. From this there follows the most natural commandment,
founded upon the unity of our nature: ‘Thou shall love the Lord thy God (thy Prototype, thy
Father) with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength;
and thy neighbor (for who is closer to me than a man who is like me and of the same blood with
me?) as thyself’ (Luke 10:27). There is a natural need to fulfill these commandments” (My Life
The immortality of the soul.
Faith in the immortality of the soul is inseparable from religion in general and, all the more,
comprises one of the fundamental objects of the Christian Faith.
Nor is this idea foreign to the Old Testament. It is expressed in the words of Ecclesiastes:
“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God Who gave it”
(Eccl. 12:7). The whole account in the third chapter of Genesis — from the words of God's
warning: “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day
that thou eat thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17) — is the answer to the question of the
appearance of death in the world, and thus it is in itself an expression of the idea of immortality.
The idea that man was foreordained to immortality, that immortality is possible, is contained in
the words of Eve: “Of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of Paradise, God hath said, ye
shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die” (Gen. 3:3). The same thought is ex-pressed by the Psalmist in the words of the Lord: “I said Ye are gods, and all of you the sons of
the Most High. But like men ye die and like one of the rulers do ye fall” (Ps. 81:6-7).
One must emphasize the fact that the idea of immortality is present without any doubt in the
Old Testament, because there exists an opinion that denies that the Jews had faith in the immortality
of the soul. In the accounts of Moses there are indications of faith in the immortality of the
soul. Concerning Enoch, Moses remarks that “he was not; for God took him” — that is, he went
to God without undergoing death (Gen. 5:24). From the Biblical expressions concerning the
deaths of Abraham (Gen. 25:8), Aaron and Moses (Deut. 32:50), “and he was gathered to his
people,” it is illogical to understand that this means they were placed in the same grave or place,
or even in the same land with their people, since each of these Old Testament righteous ones died
not in the land of his ancestors but in the new territory of their resettlement (Abraham) or their
wandering (Aaron and Moses). Patriarch Jacob, having received news that his son had been torn
to pieces by beasts, says, “I will go down into hades unto my son, mourning” (Gen. 37:35, Septuagint).
“Hades” here clearly means not the tomb, but the place where the soul dwells. This
condition of the soul after death was expressed in the Old Testament as a descent into the underworld;
that is, as a joyless condition in a region where even the praise of the Lord is not heard.
This is expressed in a number of passages in the book of Job and in the Psalms.
But already in the Old Testament, and especially as the coming of the Savior approaches,
there is heard a hope that the souls of righteous men will escape this joyless condition. For example,
in the Wisdom of Solomon we find: “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them … The righteous live forever, and their reward is with the
Lord” (3:2; 5:15). The hope of the future deliverance from hades of the souls of the righteous is
more clearly and distinctly expressed in the words of the Psalmist: “My flesh shall dwell in
hope, for thou wilt not abandon my soul in hades, nor wilt thou suffer Thy holy one to see corruption”
(Ps. 15:9-10; see also Psalm 48:16).
The Lord Jesus Christ often pointed to the immortality of the soul as the foundation of pious
life, and He accused the Sadducees, who denied immortality. In His farewell conversation with
His disciples the Lord told them that He was going to prepare a place for them so that they might
be where He Himself would be (John 14:2-3). And to the thief He said, “Verily I say unto thee,
today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
In the New Testament, generally speaking, the truth of the immortality of the soul is the object
of a more complete revelation, making up one of the fundamental parts of Christian faith itself.
This truth inspires a Christian, filling his soul with the joyful hope of eternal life in the
Kingdom of the Son of God. St. Paul writes, “For to me to die is gain … having a desire to depart,
and to be with Christ (Phil. 1:21, 23). For we know that, if our earthly house of this tabernacle
were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the
heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is
from heaven” (2 Cor. 5:1-2).
It goes without saying that the holy Fathers and teachers of the Church have unanimously
preached the immortality of the soul, with this distinction only: that some acknowledge the soul
as being immortal by nature, while others — the majority — say that it is immortal by the grace
of God. “God wishes that the soul might live” (St. Justin Martyr); “the soul is immortal by the
grace of God Who makes it immortal” (St. Cyril of Jerusalem and others). The Holy Fathers by
this emphasize the difference between the immortality of man and the immortality of God, Whois immortal by the very essence of His nature and therefore “Who only hath immortality,” according
to the Scripture (1 Tim. 6:16).
Observation shows that faith in the immortality of the soul has always been inwardly inseparable
from faith in God, to such an extent that the degree of the former is determined by the degree
of the latter. The more lively is one's faith in God, the more firm and undoubting is his faith
in the immortality of the soul. And, on the contrary, the weaker and more lifeless is one's belief
in God, the greater the wavering and doubt one brings to the truth of the immortality of the soul.
One who completely loses or stifles faith in God within himself usually ceases to believe in the
immortality of the soul or the future life at all. This is surely understandable. A man receives the
power of faith from the very Source of life, and if he cuts off his tie with this Source, he loses
this stream of living power. Then no rational proofs or persuasions will be able to pour the
power of faith into him.
One might also make the opposite conclusion. In those confessions and world views —
even though they might be Christian — where the power of faith in the active existence of the
soul beyond the grave has grown dim, where there is no prayerful remembrance of the dead,
Christian faith itself is in a condition of decline. One who believes in God and acknowledges
God's love cannot allow the thought that his Heavenly Father might wish to completely cut off
his life and deprive him of the bond with Himself, just as a child who loves his mother and is
loved by her in turn does not believe that she would not wish him to have life.
One may rightly say that in the Orthodox Eastern Church the acknowledgment of the immortality
of the soul occupies a fitting central place in the system of teaching and in the life of
the Church. The spirit of the Church typicon, the content of the Divine services and separate
prayers, all support and animate in the faithful this awareness, this belief in a life beyond the
grave for the souls of our close ones who have died, as well as a belief in our own personal immortality.
This belief sheds a bright ray on the whole life's work of an Orthodox Christian.
Soul and spirit.
The spiritual principle in man which is opposed to the body is designated in Sacred Scripture
by two terms which are almost equal in significance: “spirit” and “soul.” The use of the
word “spirit” in place of “soul,” or both terms used in exactly the same meaning, is encountered
especially in the Apostle Paul. This is made evident, for example, by placing the two following
texts side by side: “Glorify God in your body and in your soul, which are God's” (1 Cor. 6:20);
and “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” (2 Cor. 7:1).
In addition, there are two passages in the writings of this Apostle where soul and spirit are
mentioned side by side, and this gives occasion to ask the question: Is the Apostle not indicating
that, besides the soul, there is also a “spirit” that is an essential part of human nature? Likewise,
in the writings of certain Holy Fathers, particularly in the ascetic writings, a distinction is made
between soul and spirit. The first passage in the Apostle Paul is in the Epistle to the Hebrews:
“The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even
to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the
thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Another passage from the same Apostle is in the
Epistle to the Thessalonians: “Your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto
the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes. 5:23). It is not difficult, however, to see that in
the first passage the spirit is to be understood not as a substance that is separate and independent
from the soul, but only as the inward and most hidden side of the soul. Here the relation of souland spirit is made parallel to the relationship between the members of the body and the brain, and
just as the brain is the inward part of the same bodily nature, or is a content as compared to its
container, so also the spirit is evidently considered by the Apostle as the hidden part of the soul
of a man.
In the second passage, by “spirit” is evidently meant that special higher harmony of the hidden
part of the soul which is formed through the grace of the Holy Spirit in a Christian: the
“spirit” of which the Apostle says elsewhere, “quench not the spirit” (1 Thes. 5:19), and “fervent
in spirit” (Rom. 12:11). Thus, the Apostle is not thinking here of all men in general, but only of
Christians or believers. In this sense the Apostle contrasts the “spiritual” man with the “natural”
or fleshly man (1 Cor. 2:14-15). The spiritual man possesses a soul, but being reborn, he cultivates
in himself the seeds of grace; he grows and brings forth fruits of the spirit. However, by
carelessness towards his spiritual life he may descend to the level of the fleshly or natural man:
“Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal.
3:3). Therefore, there are no grounds for supposing that the thinking of the Apostle Paul is not in
agreement with the teaching that the nature of man consists of two parts.
This same idea of the spirit as the higher, grace-given form of the life of the human soul is
evidently what was meant by those Christian teachers and Fathers of the Church in the first centuries
who distinguished in man a spirit as well as a soul. This distinction is found in St. Justin
Martyr, Tatian, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, Ephraim the Syrian,
and likewise in later writers and ascetics. However, a significant majority of the Fathers and
teachers of the Church directly acknowledge that man's nature has two parts: body and soul (Sts.
Cyril of Jerusalem, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Blessed
Augustine, St. John Damascene). Blessed Theodoret writes: “According to the teaching of Apollinarius
(the heretic) there are three composite parts in a man: the body, the animal soul, and the
rational soul, which he calls the mind. But the Divine Scripture acknowledges only one soul, not
two, and this is clearly indicated by the history of the creation of the first man. God, having
formed the body from the dust and breathed a soul into it, showed in this wise that there are two
natures in man, and not three.”
The image of God in man.
The sacred writer of the account of man's creation relates, “And God said: Let us make man
in Our image, after Our likeness … So God created man in His own image, in the image of God
created He him; male and female created He them” (Gen. 1:26-27).
In what does the image of God in us consist? The Church's teaching tells us only that in
general man was created “in the image,” but precisely what part of our nature manifests this image
is not indicated. The Fathers and teachers of the Church have answered this question in various
ways: some see it (the image) in reason, others in free will, still others in immortality. If one
brings together their ideas, one obtains a complete conception of what the image of God in man
is, according to the teaching of the Holy Fathers.
First of all, the image of God may be seen only in the soul, not in the body. According to
His nature, God is most pure Spirit, not clothed in any kind of body and not a partaker of any
kind of materiality. Therefore the image of God can refer only to the immaterial soul — many
Fathers of the Church have considered it necessary to give this warning.Man bears the image of God in the higher qualities of the soul, especially in the soul's immortality,
in its freedom of will, its reason, and in its capability for pure love without thought of
a. The eternal God gave immortality of soul to man, even though the soul is immortal not
by nature but only by the goodness of God.
b. God is completely free in His actions, and He gave to man free will and the ability to act
freely within certain boundaries.
c. God is most wise, and He has given man a reason which is capable of being not limited
only to earthly, animal needs and to the visible side of things, but is capable of penetrating
to their depths, of recognizing and explaining their inward meaning. Man's reason is
able to rise to the level of that which is invisible and of striving in thought towards the
very Source of all that exists — God. Man's reason makes his will conscious and authentically
free, because it can choose that which corresponds to man's highest dignity
rather than that to which his lower nature inclines him.
d. God created man in His goodness and He has never left him nor ever will leave him
without His love. Man, having received his soul from the breathing of God, strives towards
his first Principle, God, as towards something akin to himself, seeking and thirsting
for union with Him. This is specifically shown in the straight and upright posture of
his body, and his gaze, which turns up towards heaven. Thus, this striving towards and
love for God expresses the image of God in man.
In summary, one may say that all of the good and noble qualities and capabilities of the soul are
an expression of the image of God in man.
Is there a distinction between the “image” and the “likeness” of God? The majority of the
Holy Fathers and teachers of the Church reply that there is. They see the image of God in the
very nature of the soul, and the likeness in the moral perfecting of man in virtue and sanctity, in
the acquirement of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, we receive the image of God from
God together with existence, but the likeness we must acquire ourselves, having received the
possibility of doing this from God.
To become “in the likeness” depends upon our will; it is acquired in accordance with our
own activity. Therefore, concerning the “counsel” of God it is said: “Let us make man in Our
image, after Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26), but with regard to the very act of creation it is said:
“God created man in His own image” (Gen. 1:27). About this St. Gregory of Nyssa reasons,
“By God's ‘counsel,’ we were given the potential to be ‘in His likeness.’”
The purpose of man.
Having raised man above all the earthly world, having given him reason and freedom, having
adorned him with His own image, the Creator thus indicated to man his especially high purpose.
God and the spiritual world lie before man's spiritual gaze; before his bodily gaze lies the
a. The first purpose of man is the glory of God. Man is called to remain faithful to his bond
with God, to strive towards Him with his soul, to acknowledge Him as his Creator, to glorify
Him, to rejoice in union with Him, to live in Him. “He filled them with knowledge and understanding,”
says the most wise son of Sirach with regard to the gifts God has given to man. “Heset His eye upon their hearts to show them the majesty of His works. And they will praise His
holy name, to proclaim the grandeur of His works” (Sirach 17:6-10). For if all of creation is
called, according to its ability, to glorify the Creator (as is stated, for example, in Psalm 148),
then of course man, as the very crown of creation, is all the more intended to be the conscious,
rational, constant, and most perfect instrument of the glory of God on earth.
b. For this purpose, man should be worthy of his Prototype. In other words, he is called to
perfect himself, to guard his likeness to God, to restore and strengthen it. He is called to develop
and perfect his moral powers by means of good deeds. This requires that a man take care for his
own good, and his true good lies in blessedness in God. Therefore one must say that blessedness
in God is the aim of man's existence.
c. Man's immediate physical gaze is directed to the world. Man has been placed as the
crown of earthly creation and the king of nature, as is shown in the first chapter of the book of
Genesis. In what way should this be manifested? Metropolitan Macarius speaks of it thus in his
Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: “As the image of God, the son and inheritor in the house of the
Heavenly Father, man has been placed as a kind of intermediary between the Creator and the
earthly creation: in particular he has been foreordained to be a prophet for it, proclaiming the will
of God in the world in word and deed; he is to be its chief priest, in order to offer a sacrifice of
praise and thanksgiving to God on behalf of all those born of earth, thus bringing down upon
earth the blessings of heaven; he is to be head and king so that by concentrating the aims of all
existing visible creatures in himself, he might through himself unite all things with God, and thus
keep the whole chain of earthly creatures in a harmonious bond and order.”
Thus was the first man created, capable of fulfilling his purpose and of doing so freely, voluntarily,
joyfully, according to the attraction of his soul, and not by compulsion. The idea of
man's royal position on earth causes the Psalmist to praise the Creator ecstatically, “O Lord, our
Lord, how wonderful is Thy Name in all the earth! For Thy magnificence is lifted high above the
heavens … For I will behold the heavens, the works of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars,
which Thou hast founded. What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that
Thou visitest Him? Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, with glory and honor hast
Thou crowned him, and Thou hast set him over the works of Thy hands … O Lord, our Lord,
how wonderful is Thy Name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:1, 3-5, 8).
From creation to the majesty of the Creator.
The Apostle instructs, “The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are
clearly seen . . . even His eternal power and Godhead” (Rom. 1:20). That is, the invisible things
of God are seen through beholding the creation. In all epochs of human history, the best minds,
reflecting deeply on the world, have paused with astonishment before the majesty, harmony,
beauty and rationality of the order of the world, and have been raised up from this to reverent
thoughts of the goodness, majesty and wisdom of the Creator. St. Basil the Great, in his homilies
on the six days (Hexaemeron), examines the first words of the book of Genesis. “In the beginning
God created the heaven and the earth” — and then calls on his hearers: “Let us glorify the
superb Artist Who created the world most wisely and skillfully; and from the beauty of that
which is visible, let us understand Him Who surpasses all in beauty: from the majesty of these
sensible and limited bodies let us make a conclusion regarding Him Who is endless, Who surpasses
every majesty, and in the multitude of His power surpasses every understanding.” And
then, going to the second homily, as it were pausing in hopelessness at penetrating further intothe depths of creation, he utters these words: “If the entrance to the holy is such, and the entryway
of the temple is so praiseworthy and majestic … then what is to be said of the Holy of Holies?
And who is worthy to enter into the Holy Place? Who will stretch forth his gaze to that
which is hidden?”