A Metaphysical Image of God and the Possibility of Natural Theology

This paper seeks to answer the question of the metaphysical possibility of natural theology. In other words, is there something about human nature that makes the task of natural theology a real possibility? The argument presented here is that it is mankind as made in the image of God that allows for the possibility for natural theology. However, such an argument cannot be made by merely a functional, vocational, or relational account of the image. What is needed is an understanding of the imago Dei at the ontological level or a consideration of human nature as such. This paper, then, seeks to build on a classical and metaphysical account of the imago Dei as constitutive of human nature, both body and soul. In other words, the image of God is not just what humans do, but who humans are. If natural theology is what humans can know about God through what has been made, and thus is a function of our rational minds as it abstracts knowledge through the bodily senses, then the image of God must be understood metaphysically, on the level of being, as central to human ontology. By understanding the image of God metaphysically, natural theology not only becomes possible but becomes a natural outworking of our God-given natures. Natural theology is an inescapable part of what it means to be a human being. To make this case, this paper first retrieves a classical understanding of natural theology, while answering some common Protestant objections to natural theology. Second, this paper expounds a specifically metaphysical account of the image of God, as constituting both body and soul, by retrieving and expanding primarily the work of the church fathers, Thomas Aquinas, and the Reformed Scholastics. Finally, it will discuss the proper function and use of natural theology as it relates to the image of God in man for both the believer and non-believer.