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This article poses a challenge to the assumption that all conceptions of the imago Dei are practical, meaning that they can coherently provide a guide for human action. The article identifies three criteria for practicality and applies them to two accounts of the imago, one in the thought of the twentieth-century theologian Helmut Thielicke, the other in the Roman Catholic tradition. It argues that Thielicke’s account of the imago, which forms the basis for what he calls ‘alien dignity’, fails to meet the criteria of practicality, and thus cannot serve as an adequate guide for action. In contrast, the account of the imago and human dignity in the Roman Catholic tradition does meet the criteria. This comparison, the article concludes, ultimately helps provide a means of assessing diverse theological interpretations of the imago and their value for supporting a morally useful conception of human worth.
Petrusek, Matthew. The Image of God and Moral Action: Challenging the Practicality of the Imago Dei.” Studies in Christian Ethics, (2016) 30 (1): 60-82.