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Book review: Image Bearers: Restoring our identity and living out our calling by Rachel Atkinson and Michael Lloyd

12 January 2024

Mike Starkey finds this look at the implications helpful as far as it goes

THIS is a book on healing and wholeness. Specifically, it explores the biblical language of being made in the image of God and how it affects Christian discipleship.

The authors are both theologian-pastors: Rachel Atkinson leads St Marks Academy, an offshoot of St Marks, a resource church in central Coventry; Mike Lloyd is the Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Each writes separate sections. A third contributor is the late Ruth Miller, who practised the type of Christian counselling outlined here. Much of the book is based on her notes, and anonymised stories are included from Miller’s clients.

Lloyd opens with a theology of the image of God. He locates the image in seven aspects of our humanity, including our value as persons, equality, creativity, and relationality. He discusses ways in which the image of God can be marred and broken in a fallen world, and outlines a theological vision of the image restored, with examples from church history — such as the dignity afforded to women in the Early Church, compared with their status in ancient paganism.

In the rest of the book, Atkinson offers a toolkit for contemporary applications. These include ways to listen for the voice of God to help us to discern God’s perspective on our life story; rediscovering a kind of knowing which comes from the heart; receiving parental-style love; and dying well. A broadly Evangelical theology is assumed, but Atkinson’s recommended exercises draw on a breadth of Christian spirituality.

The subtitle promises a discussion of identity, but the book leaves unexplored the knotty question how the image of God relates to today’s debate about self-ID. Is a male-bodied person who identifies as a woman thereby defacing their God-given image, or somehow celebrating it? This is a wise and thoughtful book that will help Christian counsellors to minister hope and healing in the area of personal identity. I would have valued additional reflections on what it all implies for the minefield of identity politics.

The Revd Mike Starkey is a London-based freelance writer, and former Head of Church Growth for Manchester diocese.

Image Bearers: Restoring our identity and living out our calling
Rachel Atkinson and Michael Lloyd
Hodder & Stoughton £18.99
Church Times Bookshop £17.09

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