On The Human Person In God's Image
Introduction by Wendy Boring
How much like God?
Western medieval thinkers drawing on the biblical account of Creation in Genesis (1: 26) believed all creatures must be somewhat like God. The question is: how much like God? And how can one assert that creatures are like God without blurring the distinction between divine and human essence?
Asserting that humans carry God's image requires careful negotiation of a potentially dangerous terrain.
The questions in the Commentary on the Sentences are like maps of difficult terrain that must be negotiated. Each map contains markings made by past travelers, the "authorities" on the landscape. The questions begin with arguments pro and con, which function to point out the major landmarks and indicate the trouble zones.
In Bonaventure's text, two pro arguments lifted directly from Scripture (Genesis 1:26, Ecc. 17:1) state explicitly that humans were created in the image of God. Additional arguments from reason and from authority suggest that:
Con arguments point out the potential pitfalls: where there is image, there is likeness and possible identity of essences, which cannot be true of creatures and God (2.2,4). Also, asserting that humans carry the image of God seems to suggest that humans represent the whole of God -- but nothing finite can represent the whole of God (2.5), because humans are infinitely distant from God (2.6).Bonaventure Picks His Way Through
Bonaventure's response is typical of the way scholastics negotiated tricky terrain. He picks his way through and avoids pitfalls by carefully defining terms. There are different kinds of likeness:
But there are two ways that all creatures can be said to be like God:
And thus: A way through!
What about humans in particular? Are they different than other creatures? Following in the footsteps of Augustine (On the Trinity I, XIV), Bonaventure argues that while all creatures carry the vestiges or traces of God, only humans carry the image of God, found in their rational nature.
The map now carries not only the markings of past travelers, but also Bonaventure's particular path: likeness is attained not by identity or sharing of essence, but by agreement in order and proportion.