When God the Almighty was making mankind through His own Word, He perceived that they, owing to the limitation of their nature, could not of themselves have any knowledge of their Artificer, the Incorporeal and Uncreated. He took pity on them, therefore, and did not leave them destitute of the knowledge of Himself, lest their very existence should prove purposeless. For of what use is existence to the creature if it cannot know its Maker? How could men be reasonable beings if they had no knowledge of the Word and Reason of the Father, through Whom they had received their being? They would be no better than the beasts, had they no knowledge save of earthly things; and why should God have made them at all, if He had not intended them to know Him? But, in fact, the good God has given them a share in His own Image, that is, in our Lord Jesus Christ, and has made even themselves after the same Image and Likeness. Why? Simply in order that through this gift of Godlikeness in themselves they may be able to perceive the Image Absolute, that is the Word Himself, and through Him to apprehend the Father; which knowledge of their Maker is for men the only really happy and blessed life.Athanasius says several things about the knowledge of God in this passage. First, an existence without the knowledge of our Maker is a life to be pitied and a life a futility. He asks, " For of what use is existence to the creature if it cannot know its Maker?"
Second, our faculty of reason is comes from our knowledge of God; this separates us from all other earthly creatures and is surely part of God's image in us: we "would be no better than the beasts."
Third, our existence is defensible only because we can know God. Athanasius queries, "why should God have made them at all, if He had not intended them to know Him?" This is so contrary to modern sensibilities that think we are the be all and end all of our existence. Rather, we were created for Another.
Fourth, the reason we have been made in the image of God, distinct from the rest of creation, is that we might " be able to perceive the Image Absolute, that is the Word Himself, and through Him to apprehend the Father." Thay is why we exist; because of Him.
Finally, this ability to know God is the path to a fulfilling and purposeful life. Indeed, this is the only "happy and blessed life" available to us.