Imago Dei and Soul How to Justify A Special Position of Humans?

Main Article Content

Andreas May


Today, it is highly controversial in Western societies, that humans are made in the image of God (“imago Dei”). This article is looking for a unique feature of man that can justify his special position. The methodological approach consists of contrasting research results and social developments documented in current publications with modern theological and philosophical publications. Our intelligence and the fact that we are self-aware are no longer sufficient as a unique human feature, because biology, palaeoanthropology and computer technology call it into question. This article shows that the soul remains the unique feature of the human being. But often no clear distinction is made between the transcendent soul and the immanent mind. The article therefore emphasises that the soul is transcendent, eternal and a gift of God from transcendence. In order to achieve this, we must abandon the bipartition of man into body and soul and accept the tripartite division of man into body, mind and soul. The transcendence of the soul provides us with a justification for why humans and only humans are “imago Dei”. This gives us a basis for claiming the right of every human being for life and personal realisation.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
May, A. (2024). Imago Dei and Soul: How to Justify A Special Position of Humans?. KAMASEAN: Jurnal Teologi Kristen, 5(1), 1-18.


Ahlquist, Kaileigh D., Mayra M. Bañuelos, Alyssa Funk, Jiaying Lai, Stephen Rong, Fernando A. Villanea, and Kelsey E. Witt. “Our Tangled Family Tree: New Genomic Methods Offer Insight into the Legacy of Archaic Admixture,” Genome Biology and Evolution 13, no. 7 (2021): 1–19,

Allison, Gregg R. Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2011.

-------------. “Four Theses Concerning Human Embodiment,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 23, no. 2 (2019): 157–180,

Aslan, Reza. God: A Human History. New York: Random House, 2017.

Azevedo, Frederico A. C., Ludmila R. B. Carvalho, Lea T. Grinberg, José Marcelo Farfel, Renata E. L. Ferretti, Renata E. P. Leite, Wilson Jacob Filho, Roberto Lent, and Suzana Herculano-Houzel. “Equal Numbers of Neuronal and Nonneuronal Cells Make the Human Brain an Isometrically scaled-up Primate Brain,” The Journal of Comparative Neurology 513, no. 5 (2009): 532–541,

Balle, Simon. “Theological Dimensions of Humanlike Robots: A Roadmap for Theological Inquiry,” Theology and Science 21, no. 1 (2023): 132–156,

Bendeck Sotillos, Samuel. “The Jewish Tradition and its Science of the Soul,” Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics 46, no. 4 (2023): 100–109,

Bergström, Anders, Chris Stringer, Mateja Hajdinjak, Eleanor M. L. Scerri, and Pontus Skoglund. “Origins of Modern Human Ancestry,” Nature 590 (2021): 229–237,

Cavalieri, Paola, and Peter Singer. Eds. The Great Ape Project: Equality Beyond Humanity. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993.

Ciocan, Cosmin-Tudor. “The Value of the Soul in the Religious Views: An Overview targeting the Salvation of an Individual,” Dialogo 6, no. 2 (2020): 233–244,

Deane-Drummond, Celia. ““Shadow Sophia in Christological Perspective”: A Reply to Responses.” Theology and Science 6, no. 1 (2008): 61–71,

Doomen, Jasper. “The Artificial Intelligence Entity as a Legal Person,” Information & Communications Technology Law 32, no. 3 (2023): 277–287,

Ehrman, Terrence P. “Anthropogenesis and the Soul,” Scientia et Fides 8, no. 2 (2020): 173–193,

Farris, Joshua Ryan. “Creational Problems for Soul-Emergence from Matter: Philosophical and Theological Concerns,” Neue Zeitschrift für Systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie 60, no. 3 (2018b): 406–427,

-------------. “Souls, Emergent and Created. Why Mere Emergent Dualism Is Insufficient,” Philosophia Christi 20, no. 1 (2018a): 83–92,

-------------. “The Soul-Concept: Meaningfully Disregard or Meaningfully Embrace,” Annales Philosophici 5 (2012): 59–68.

Fuller, Michael, and David Jasper. Eds. Made in the Image of God. Durham: Sacristy Press, 2021.

Hasker, William. “A Critique of Thomistic Dualism,” in The Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism, edited by Jonathan J. Loose, Angus J. L. Menuge, and J. P. Moreland, 123–131, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2018.

Hollenbach, David. “Human dignity in Catholic thought,” in The Cambridge Handbook of Human Dignity. Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Marcus Düwell, Jens Braarvig, Roger Brownsword and Dietmar Mieth, 250–259; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Jones, Mostyn & Eric LaRock. “From Murphy’s Christian Physicalism to Lowe’s Dualism,” TheoLogica 5, no. 2 (2021): 100–128,

Kemp, Kenneth W. “God, Evolution, and the Body of Adam,” Scientia et Fides 8, no. 2 (2020): 139–172,

La Santa Sede, “Mensaje del santo padre Juan Pablo II a los miembros de la Academia Pontificia de Ciencias (22 de octubre de 1996),” (accessed November 11, 2023).

Larson, Erik J. The Myth of Artificial Intelligence: Why Computers Can’t Think the Way We Do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Press, 2021.

Lebel, Robert Roger. “Gender: Genetics, Genitality, Generosity (Grace), Gentility,” Theology and Science 9, no. 4 (2011): 435–450,

Leidenhag, Joanna. “Uniqueness and the Presence of the Image: Towards a Pneumatological Foundation,” in Issues in Science and Theology: Are We Special? Human Uniqueness in Science and Theology, edited by Michael Fuller, Dirk Evers, Anne Runehov, and Knut-Willy Sæther, 255–270, Basel: Springer, 2017.

Loose, Jonathan J., Angus J. L. Menuge, and J. P. Moreland. “Introduction: Substance Dualism and Its Physicalist Rivals,” in The Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism, edited by Jonathan J. Loose, Angus J. L. Menuge, and J. P. Moreland, 1–21, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2018.

Mangililo, Ira D. “Imago Dei. Sebuah Upaya Membaca Alkitab Sebagai Perempuan Indonesia Dalam Konteks Perdagangan Orang di Nusa Tenggara Timur,” Indonesian Journal of Theology 5, no. 2 (2017): 147–177,

Manzi, Giorgio. “Before the Emergence of Homo sapiens: Overview on the Early-to-Middle Pleistocene Fossil Record (with a Proposal about Homo heidelbergensis at the subspecific level),” International Journal of Evolutionary Biology 2011 (2011): 1–11,

Manzotti, Riccardo, and Paolo Moderato. “Neuroscience: Dualism in Disguise,” in Contemporary Dualism, edited by Andrea Lavazza, and Howard Robinson, 81–97, London: Routledge, 2013.

May, Andreas. “Since When have Humans had a Soul?,” HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies 78, no. 2 (2022): a7311,

-------------. Viaje a la Ciudad Eterna – En la búsqueda del sentido de la vida. Burgos: Monte Carmelo, 2024 (in press).

Mayer, Lawrence S., and Paul R. McHugh. “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences.” The New Atlantis 50 (2016): 4–143,

Molhoek, Braden. “The Scope of Human Creative Action: Created Co-creators, Imago Dei and Artificial General Intelligence,” HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies 78, no. 2 (2022): a7697,

Moritz, Joshua M. “Are Hominins Special? Human Origins as the Image and Likeness of God,” Theology and Science 18, no. 4 (2020): 537–551,

-------------. “Evolution, the End of Human Uniqueness, and the Election of the Imago Dei,” Theology and Science 9, no. 3 (2011): 307–339,

Murphy, Nancey C. “Human Nature: Historical, Scientific and Religious Issues,” in Whatever Happened to the Soul? Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature, edited by Warren S. Brown, Nancey C. Murphy, and H. Newton Malony, 1–30, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998.

Navon, Mois. “To Make a Mind – A Primer on Conscious Robots,” Theology and Science 22, no. 1 (2024): 221–241,

O’Donnell, Karen. “Performing the Imago Dei: Human Enhancement, Artificial Intelligence and Optative Image-Bearing,” International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church 18, no. 1 (2018): 4–15,

Ohlig, Karl-Heinz. “La muerte y su “superación” religiosa en la historia de la humanidad,” Concilium 318 (2006): 15–26,

Peters, Ted. “Imago Dei, DNA, and the Transhuman Way,” Theology and Science 16, no. 3 (2018): 353–362,

Pretorius, Mark. “Examining the Function of Neurobiology in Christian Spiritual Experiences and Practice,” HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies 76, no. 1 (2020): a6182, https://doi. org/10.4102/hts.v76i1.6182

Priest, Eric. “Human Uniqueness: Debates in Science and Theology,” Zygon 58, no. 2 (2023): 384–404,

Puzio, Anna, Nicole Kunkel, and Hendrik Klinge. Eds. Alexa, How Do You Feel About Religion? Theological Approaches to Technology and Artificial Intelligence. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2023.

Rabie-Boshoff, Annelien C., and Johan Buitendag. “Imago Dei: We are but dust and shadow,” HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies 77, no. 3 (2021): a6766,

Stein, Murray. “Imago Dei on the Psychological Plane,” Jung Journal 10, no. 4 (2016): 15–23,

The Holy See, “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” (accessed November 11, 2023).

Teixeira, João C., and Alan Cooper. “Using Hominin Introgression to Trace Modern Human Dispersals,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 116, no. 31 (2019): 15327–15332,

Turner, Léon. “Will We Know Them When We Meet Them? Human Cyborg and Non-Human Personhood,” Zygon 58, no. 4 (2023): 1076–1098,

Urk-Coster, Eva van. “Created in the Image of God: Both Human and Non-Human Animals?,” Theology and Science 19, no. 4 (2021): 343–362,

Van Huyssteen, Wentzel. “Fallen Angels or Rising Beasts? Theological Perspectives on Human Uniqueness,” Theology and Science 1, no. 2 (2003): 161–178,

Welz, Claudia. “Imago Dei. References to the invisible,” Studia Theologica 65, no. 1 (2011): 74–91,