Dominion As Functional Image

Typically when the discussion regarding man as the Image of God begins the emphasis almost immediately falls on ontological categories. The Westminster Larger Catechism, when speaking about the Image of God begins with the ontological categories,

Question 17: How did God create man?

Answer: After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness,and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall.

However we want to note here that the WLC not only lists the ontological realities of man as the Image of God, but it also lists one of the functional realities. Man revealed himself as God’s Image by what he did. Man revealed himself as God’s Image bearer by having dominion over the Creatures.

The Scripture teases out this functional dynamic of man as Image bearer by saying,

Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

The emphasis here, regarding man as the bearer of God’s Image, falls on functionality more then ontological correspondence. This is not to say that the ontological aspects of man as the Image bearer of God are not true. It is merely to say that the emphasis in Scripture (as we shall see) is on the functional aspects.

Adam and Eve were charged with reflecting God’s Image by “ruling” over the creation. In doing so they would be imaging God as the Sovereign Ruler over all. The rule of Adam and Eve, there in the Garden, was to be an ectypal shadow of which God’s rule was the archetypal reality. Just as God, in creation, subdued the chaos, exercised regency, and filled the earth, so Adam and Eve were to Image God, upon God’s command, by subduing, ruling, and filling the earth by being fruitful and multiplying.

Genesis 2:15 hits this theme again,

15 And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

The idea of dressing and keeping the garden would include the idea of serving and protecting it. The Garden thus becomes a kind of Temple Sanctuary in which Adam as a High Priest and Eve, as his help-meet, were placed in order to Image God in the pleasurable duties that were laid upon them as Image Bearers. That the Garden is a Temple Sanctuary is seen by God presence in the Garden and His communion with Adam and Eve.

Though not explicitly stated in the text, Adam’s failure as High Priest over God’s Temple Garden is seen in his failure to serve and protect the Temple Garden. With Adam’s failure to keep the serpent out of the Garden Sanctuary Adam’s is unfaithful to the assignment to serve and protect the Temple Garden. The immediate consequence of Adam’s failure to Image God was the loss of the woman, who was given to Adam to Image Adam. Adam’s failure in Imaging God led to the failure of the Woman to Image Adam. The Serpent, having eluded God’s covenantal ordering by eluding Adam’s serving and protecting role, seeks to continue to upset God’s covenantal ordering, circumventing Adam’s authority by eliciting Eve into joining him in creating a New World Order. Adam has failed in the Imaging task of Dominion to which he was called and in his failure he Images the Serpent. (The Serpent gained traction by way of deception and soon enough Adam is practicing deception by hiding from God and by blaming the Woman God had given him.)

Adam, as God’s functional Image bearer, has failed with his attempt to seize God’s place. Subsequently, Adam will reap what he has sown as seen in Eve’s curse to be always grasping for Adam’s position instead of being content as Adam’s Image bearer. (“Your desire shall be for your husband [i.e. — for his position] and he shall rule over you.”) Because of this dominion, filling the earth by being fruitful and multiplying, and a reversal of the Serpent’s hold will have to be restored by another Adam who always is content to be the express image of His person.

Before pushing on here, let us note that this functional Image bearing of Adam was not divorced from his ontological Image bearing. Obviously Adam could not serve and protect the Temple Sanctuary, could not bear hegemony as God’s Steward King, could not be fruitful and multiply apart from true knowledge, righteousness and holiness, which characterized the ontological correspondence between Adam as the creature Image bearer and God as the uncreated Regent. Man cannot do (functionality) what he is not.

However, before the successful eschatological Adam arrives (that is, the Adam who is all that the failed 1st Adam was commanded to be) other Adam models arise and fail at being faithful functional Image bearers of God.


1.) Man is a Imaging being. Imaging is an inescapable concept. Man will either Image the God of the Bible and His Christ or he will Image some other false God (Idol). There is no neutrality.

2.) Failure in Adam’s Imaging God meant failure in Adam’s created Image (Eve) imaging Adam. Failure in the creature Creator relationship always means failure in the creature creature relationship.

3.) Lex Talionis (the punishment fits the crime).

Adam reaps with Eve (her constant desire for his position) what he sowed with God (a desire for His position).

Next Entry — Other failed Adam Image bearer models and the failure of Corporate Israel to be reflect God’s Image

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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