What is the difference between man and animal? Genesis seems to answer the question as ‘the image of God’. We are given a stamp and a seal of the Triune God, and more than that, we are that stamp and seal for the world. The imago dei means that we are supposed to be imitators of God. We are to be artisans and scientists and poets, creators of worlds, workers, and people who take rest after work is completed.
Rationality is often listed as one of the first characteristics that separate man and animals. The ability to think is said to be one of our defining characteristics. And this is true, but Genesis shows us a God who speaks, creates, evaluates, divides, names, blesses, organizes, delegates, and finally rests. These are the things that make us image bearers. And as God created a son (Adam) to pass responsibilities on to, so we too are given the opportunity to be fruitful even as God was fruitful. Thus even the commands that God gave to our first parents were the means by which we show and effect God’s image on the world. Being an image bearer means being an image bestower. As we rule, fill, and adorn the earth we emboss it more and more with the Creator’s image.
That is the difference between man and animal. We do certain things. We act in certain ways. We perform specific tasks in specific ways, putting our image which is the Triune image, on our acts. I have a dog and I believe that at this point, he is far more sentient than my son. But my son is nevertheless an image bearer. He acts in ways that imitate his Maker. And this means that he, at 4wks., is not only an image bearer but an image bestower. We are the image of God in and on the world. We are the icons of God, impressing His life on the world.