And Scripture testifies to this, when it says, Gen. 1:27, that man was fashioned in the image and likeness of God. What else is this than that there were embodied in man such wisdom and righteousness as apprehended God, and in which God was reflected, i.e., to man there were given the gifts of the knowledge of God, the fear of God, confidence in God, and the like? For thus Irenaeus and Ambrose interpret the likeness to God, the latter of whom not only says many things to this effect, but especially declares: That soul is not, therefore, in the image of God, in which God is not at all times. And Paul shows in the Epistles to the Ephesians 5:9, and Colossians 3:10, that the image of God is the knowledge of God, righteousness, and truth. Nor does Longobard fear to say that original righteousness is the very likeness to God which God implanted in man. We recount the opinions of the ancients, which in no way interfere with Augustine’s interpretation of the image.
-Philip Melanchthon, “Apology of the Augsburg Confession”
This is a very interesting explanation of what does the “image of God” consist in, for the vast majority of the Christian world seems to identify the “image of God” with some inherent feature of mankind, e.g. reason, the soul, consciousness, etc. The Lutheran tradition on the other hand does not identify the image of God with some “natural” property of man but instead refers to qualities of righteousness, wisdom, knowledge of God, etc. Thus, mankind does not inherently bear the image of God but contingently so. This is the reason why the later Lutherans affirm that “terrible” doctrine that because of original sin, we have lost the image of God and no longer image God, because by original sin we have lost wisdom, righteousness and knowledge of God, which is what constitutes our likeness to God. Our likeness to God is however restored only by faith, justification and righteousness.
I kinda like this idea that our likeness to God and value is a contingent matter, not something inherently part of the human condition, etc, and that in the eyes of God we are no different from the rocks from whom God can equally by divine power raise children of Abraham…