What does it mean when the Church says we are created in the image of God?

Hi everyone. What does it mean when the Church says that we are created in the image of God? How does being created in the image of God make us different from animals?

Here are my own personal thoughts…

At bare minimum, I would say its our souls and our capacity for intelligence, imagination, wonder, love, creativity, wisdom, knowledge, kindness, generosity, joy, sorrow, empathy, sympathy, compassion, etc.

At most, I would say the above and the fact that we also look like Christ. But I’m not sure that the physical appearance is what counts. This would be especially true if God created other worlds with intelligent people, who may or may not look like us. Because if they don’t look like us doesn’t mean tab He didn’t create them in His image too.

I think what really matters is our souls. Our souls were made in His image for sure.

I hope this makes sense.

It means that we are capable of both justice and mercy (which ought to be a logical dichotomy).

Animals do not have this insight. If a big dog steals a bone from a little dog, the big dog feels no guilt, and the little dog does not feel that “it’s not fair.” Yet, human children, from a very early age, recognize the idea of fairness (justice). If one child gets one scoop of ice cream, and another gets two, the first child will cry, “no fair!” Human children understand justice (but not mercy). Animals have no such sense whatsoever.

But this sense of fairness is also a reflection of our fallen nature. If the first child complained, and the extra scoop was taken from the second child, the first child would feel satisfied that “fairness” had been achieved. He gained nothing, but the other child lost his extra scoop. In a sense, the first child would rejoice in the loss of the second child.

God calls us to a higher state which is beyond our base human nature. We should rejoice that someone else has two scoops of ice cream, even if we only have one. How do we benefit if the other is denied the second scoop? If we never saw the other child with his two scoops, we would be perfectly content with our one scoop.

This teaching is reflected in Our Lord’s parable about the workers in the field, who were all paid the same wage (a full day’s pay), even though some worked only part of the day. Those who worked a full day, seeing that less productive workers were paid a full day’s wage, expected a bonus (which is “fair”). When they received the same payment, they complained, though they would not have complained if they had been paid the exact same amount (and left) before the other workers. They would have assumed the latecomers would be paid a partial wage, and felt that to be “fair.”

This sense of fairness (justice), tempered by mercy, reflects that we are created in the image of God.

I agree with post 2 of phil. I also think I read somewhere, maybe gospel of John, Love is the image of God.


Scripture tells us that our human bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). As Catholics we believe that our Blessed Mother Mary was united perfectly - as one - with the Holy Spirit in order to give birth to Jesus Christ.

All Catholics, including men, are called to imitate the Blessed Mother Mary by becoming one with the Holy Spirit. It is when this connection with the Holy Spirit becomes less plugged up by our own selfish agendas, we can also give birth to the “Light of Christ” in the world. Therefore, we ARE NEVER little gods like New Age theology teaches, but rather we simply reflect the goodness of Christ to others.

I think of the wet saturated sand on the shores of a beach where I used to walk every evening at sunset. Sometimes at sunset, the sunlight would reflect off from this wet shoreline like a mirror. This wet sand on the beach was NOT the sun, but it looked a lot like the sun for a short moment in time. We are like that, we are here on earth for a short moment in time, just like the wet saturated sand reflecting the beauty of a sunset. Mary our Blessed Mother was that perfectly wet saturated sand, she was soaked in the Holy Spirit.


Thank you for posting this. I did read the section on us being created in the image of God but I still don’t understand what the Church means when the Church says that we are created in the image of God. :blush:

We are sentient, rational, personal, free to a degree, creative, and capable of love.

It means we have an immortal soul, a spiritual soul, with intellect and will. Our end is to be in union with God in the beatific vision.

God, the angels, and people have such a soul and as such are destined for eternity.

Animals and plants do not, they have material souls, nor is eternity their destiny.

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