Original Research - Special Collection: Wentzel van Huyssteen

Alone in the world? Imago Dei from theological anthropology to Christology

Nadia Marais
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 42, No 2 | a2380 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v42i2.2380 | © 2021 Nadia Marais | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 September 2021 | Published: 16 November 2021

About the author(s)

Nadia Marais, Department of Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


In Princeton theologian Van Huyssteen’s (2006) major interdisciplinary work, Alone in the World? Human Uniqueness in Science and Theology, human uniqueness is rhetorically coupled with human aloneness. A comparison with a contemporary theological anthropology, namely Yale theologian Kelsey’s (2009) Eccentric Existence: A Theological Anthropology, shows an alternative approach to the notion or concept of the imago Dei, namely a theological shift from viewing human beings as image(s) of God, to viewing human beings as images of Christ, or images of the image of God. This contribution responds to the invitation implied in Van Huyssteen’s book title – are we alone in the world? – by exploring some of the rhetorical implications of a Christological interpretation of the imago Dei. One such implication may imply a different answer to Van Huyssteen’s question – are we alone in the world?; not yes, but no. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s idea of Christ’s promeity illustrates how the rhetorical dynamics behind such a move in response – from yes to no – may potentially look, and that a rearticulation of human uniqueness could have direct consequences for how we imagine our human aloneness in the world.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This article contributes to a specifically intradisciplinary conversation in Systematic Theology, on reading and interpreting the notion or theological idea of human beings being created in the image of God. This article does this through a close reading and comparison of two interdisciplinary projects on what it means to be human, namely Van Huyssteen’s Alone in the World? and Kelsey’s Eccentric Existence.


Wentzel van Huyssteen; David Kelsey; theological anthropology; Christology; imago Dei


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