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THEOLOGY > Man > Crown of Creation > Status of the Image 


The question is the relationship of the image to the Fall. Exactly what happened to the image when man sinned in the Garden? And what were the continuing consequences for the image, if any, following the intrusion of sin into God’s creation?

Succinctly stated,
man retained the image,
but the image became darkened or blighted by sin;
man is still the image of God,
but the image has become defaced or impaired.

“God created the heavens and the earth,” and the description of them, as well as the rest of creation, was that all of creation was “very good.” This is the testimony of Chapter One in Genesis, but in Chapter Three sin enters into the created order. The heavens and earth are still the heavens and earth that God made, but after Genesis 3 the heavens and earth exist in a different environment, an environment of sin; and they labor under the curse incurred because of sin. They are still the handiwork of God and show His handiwork (Ps. 19:1), but they are now in travail, groaning and anxious to be “delivered from the bondage of corruption” (Rom. 8:21-22; see: Creation's Groan).

So it is with man. Subsequent to the Fall man still is the image of God, but an alien element has been introduced into the life of man, an invasion of sin that comes with a curse, a contamination, and a condemnation. Even following the sin in Eden, man is still man. But there is an addition to man, an accretion that is not uplifting but is damning—there is the entrance of sin.

On the one hand, the image is indestructible; but, on the other hand, the image can be defaced or impaired. Man, made in the image of God, is still man, but now he is sinful man. And the sin that has come into the life of man impacts the image in a negative way. Man is bearing the weight of sin and dealing with the vitiating and dehumanizing consequences of sin.

Compositionally man is still the image of God but functionally he cannot live without or apart from the enfeebling consequences of sin. Being the mirror of God, man displays a soiled mirror; the soil is not of God but is a part of man. What a predicament—the likeness of God stained with sin, the image of the Creator besmirched by the sin of the creature.

Man has become wretched.

Man is still a wonder,
but man is a wretched wonder!

Man is a wonder—he still bears the image of God;
but man is wretched—the image has been encumbered and enervated by sin.

And this burden has impacted the working or functioning of the image: man still thinks, but because of sin, he does not think correctly (the noetic implications of the Fall). Surely, rationality is an integral aspect of the image; and even as a sinner man still has the ability to think. But as a sinner his thinking is flawed; in his present state man’s thoughts are humanistic and not Theistic—he thinks in terms of ego and not in terms of Theos. His worldview is perverted.

Improper thinking leads to improper living. Man becomes his own worst enemy. No area of man or of the image is exempt; sin is pervasive, extending to all areas of man—this is total depravity. Total depravity means that every aspect of man’s being labors under the curse and burden of sin; it does not mean that man ceases to be man. Even the image is beset by sin and its contagion.

In this resulting state man is wretched: he is weak, feeble, frail, and incapable of knowing and willing the good that he should do. Man is dead in trespasses and sin. Man is still the image of God but it is difficult to recognize the image—man lives like an animal.  

Man is a contradiction,
both a wonder and a wretch.

Man still has eyes, but he does not see; man still has ears, but he does not hear; man still has a mind, but he does not think Theistically; man still has a tongue, but he does not praise his Maker. Man rejects what he is, a creature made in the image of God and accountable to God; he seeks meaning in non-theistic reasoning and living. He is content to consider himself to be an evolving anthropoid. All aspects of the image are affected, with no part of man functioning properly.

The image labors under the weight of sin and its debilitating effects. This is the tragedy of man. Man has become not what he was made to be; man has become dehumanized even while he is still man.

In this sense the image has not been destroyed,
it has just become darkened.


Must the image be lost in order for man to be depraved? Is Hoeksema correct when he stated: “To state that man after the fall is an image bearer of the devil and at the same time to maintain that he still bears the image of God or a remnant of it do not harmonize with each other, are flatly contradictory” (RD, 207)?

Should the image be thought of in terms of the ethical (moral or spiritual graces) or in terms of the ontological (the being or compositional nature of man)?

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