In philosophical and theological literature various accounts of evolutionary theism can be found. They all agree on the basic premise that God actualized the cosmos in such a way that natural evolution would necessarily emerge. But for the rest significant differences between these accounts exist. For example, some have it that the process of evolution is not autonomous since God is continuously "guiding" the process of natural evolution into a certain direction, while others maintain that God has set the initial conditions of the cosmos such that natural evolution would necessarily lead to mankind. It seems to me that these accounts are in conflict with the autonomous and unpredictable character of natural evolution. In what follows I provide a brief sketch of an alternative account of evolutionary theism, one that respects the autonomous and unpredictable character of natural evolution, while giving proper sense to the theistic claim that mankind is the image of God.
First, let us suppose that genuine randomness is not an objective feature of reality, which is a metaphysical claim that I have argued for elsewhere. Second, as I have also argued for in other texts, let us assume that dualism is true, that is, let us assume that consciousness possibly exists. In other words, let us assume that there are possible worlds in the Kripkean sense within which consciousness irreducibly exists and thus cannot be reduced to matter. Third, as I also argue for elsewhere, let us presume that libertarian free will possibly exists, and, moreover, that being a conscious agent is a necessary condition for being an agent endowed with libertarian free will.
Now, on the account I propose God actualized the cosmos in such a way that it initially contained nothing but space, time and matter (or energy which can be taken to be equivalent to matter). Hence, consciousness and libertarian free were not actual: they did not exist in the actual world. This state of affairs implies, since it is taken that genuine randomness is not an objective feature of the world, that the cosmos was initially entirely deterministic. Every event was by natural law causally predetermined by the chain of previous events causally related to it.
But then also the process of natural evolution itself, that, as mentioned, necessarily originated at some point in time, was initially wholly deterministic and therefore in principle, for any agent endowed with sufficient calculation power, entirely predictable.
Further, on the proposed account God, at the very beginning of the cosmos, conceived, perhaps by imagination, a specifc collection of basic non-conscious life forms that he wanted natural evolution to bring about. So, since God can be assumed to be an agent powerful enough to predict any future state of a deterministic system, and, since the cosmos was in fact initially deterministic, we may infer that He set the initial conditions of the cosmos in such a way that these forms indeed necessarily would evolve by means of the autonomous process of natural evolution.
Subsequently, once the basic non-conscious life forms that God originally wanted to bring about finally evolved, it is conceivable that God intentionally endowed a subset of these forms with a rudimentary level of consciousness and libertarian free will, so that, from that very moment, the further material and mental evolution of all life forms became unpredictable, even for God.
In addition, on the proposed view, God knew from his understanding of the nature of space, time, matter and consciousness that the further process of natural evolution, although in its details totally unpredictable, was nevertheless guaranteed to lead eventually to the coming into existence of some highly complex, self-conscious, libertarian free and sentient life form endowed with a significant level of intuition, empathy and reason. So although God did not know upfront how such a life form would look like, what shape it would take and what further attributes it would have, He at least knew that such a life form would inevitably evolve.
As the proposed view continues, after this life form finally evolved, it is conceivable that God intentionally chose it as the proper life form to which He would reveal Himself at some point in its further development. And, on the proposed account, the life form eventually chosen by God is mankind. Therefore, mankind is, on this view, an image of God in the sense that it was the life form chosen by God, the life form God decided to make Himself known to.
So, on the alternative view of evolutionary theism explored above, mankind was in fact not intentionally designed and created, but instead intentionally selected by God in the course of natural evolution. Mankind was originally chosen by God in the same way as He would later on in history choose the people of Israel and all of its prophets, and centuries later, Jesus would choose each of his disciples. Thus, the alternative account of evolutionary theism not only respects the autonomous and unpredictable character of natural evolution, but also accords with one of the most central themes found in Scripture.