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THEOLOGY > Man > Crown of Creation > The Continuing Image 


Support for the continuing image of God in man after the Fall is found in both Testaments:

Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man (Gen. 9:6).

Those who deny that man today is the image of God point out that this text says “made” without specifying that man is now the image of God; for them the basis for capital punishment is the potential that man has for bearing the image not the fact that man is currently the image.

Several observations are justified:

* first, the reference to the past act (“made”) does not deny the present reality (now); rather, the past act is the basis for the present reality—this seems to be the intention of the text.

* second, the mere potential for bearing the image, rather than the fact of being the image undercuts the argument for capital punishment; argument for capital punishment is based upon what man is not what man was or could be.

* third, the present act of capital punishment is related to the past act of creation—implied is the fact that man bears the image today because he was made in the image originally.

* fourth, the present and past are related in the two words: “sheds” and “made”.

* fifth, in light of #3 and #4 above, to argue for a position because the present is not specified is strained exegesis.

* sixth, to argue that the text does not affirm that man is now the image is to place arbitrary requirements on the text, as well as it being an argument from silence.

For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God (I Cor. 11:7).

Some writers dismiss this verse on the basis that the entire context is dealing with prayer and is addressed to “brethren” (v. 2); thus Paul is speaking of a man in Christ who has become the image of God in salvation, not of the compositional nature or being of every man.

But they are in error on three points:

* first, there is their prior assumption that the image was totally lost at the Fall and is regained in Christ; this conjecture conditions their interpretation regarding the image in 11:7.

* second, the passage is to “brethren” and is dealing with prayer, but Paul draws upon the creational model to support his position; disposition in prayer for the believer is related to the order at creation; therefore, the passage is not exclusively soteriological, but incorporates the creational model as a basis for Christian piety.

* third,  to come to this verse with a fixed view that the image was totally lost at the Fall is to bring a system to the verse and to cause the verse to fit the system, when the natural reading suggests original creation and its importance to the topic under discussion (original creation, not regeneration, is clearly spoken of in the statement: “for man is not from woman, but woman from man” [v. 8]).

With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God (Jas. 3:9).

As with the above two verses, some writers deny that this verse teaches that man currently is the image of God; their argument runs along the line that the verse in its context is speaking specifically of believers, not of all men generally.

Consider the following:

* first, the verse is speaking of what believers do toward “God” and also toward “men,” that is, the people, both believers and non-believers, who are around us both bless and curse; the word “men” is certainly not exclusively a reference to believers.

* second, proper language or speaking is to be used toward all men because all men, redeemed and unregenerate, “have been made in the similitude of God”.

* third, the verb, “have been made,” is the perfect, denoting a past act with present results—all men since Adam are born in the image of God and retain that image throughout their lives.

* fourth, it is improper to force a verse to conform to a preconceived concept, rather than letting a verse teach the obvious.

It is plain from the above three verses that man retains the image even in the midst of his sin.

To lose totally or to lose partially the image of God
would mean that man would cease to be man,
for man being the image is that which distinguishes man and defines man,
qualifying him to rule.

God’s image and man cannot be separated or distinguished;
they are one and the same.

Man is the image!

Attention must be called to the fact that no Scripture indicates that the image was lost or destroyed as a consequence of the Fall. The above verses, however, do affirm the presence of the image after the Fall.    


Irenaeus distinguished between the two words—“image” and “likeness”—with “image” being rationality and free will and “likeness” being righteousness, a donum superadditum, a supernaturally added gift that was given by the Spirit after Creation but before the Fall; and the latter was lost at the Fall.

Man’s retention of the image made available his intellectual pursuit of God and a volitional ability to embrace what the pursuit found. The interpretation of Irenaeus became the accepted view of the Middle Ages and was applied by Aquinas in his teachings. According to Roman Catholicism the image, composed of reason and will, was retained at the Fall; but the likeness, a gift of righteousness, was lost.

Thus, in this dualism man retains part and loses part of his original endowment. In his current state man is capable of seeking and desiring the spiritual things of God, which includes responding to God’s grace and thus meriting more grace. Through the grace bestowed upon the Church and dispensed by the Church man can be restored to the likeness.

For Luther the image was completely destroyed by the Fall, and this is the current position of Lutherans. The image was understood as original righteousness, involving knowledge of God and holiness before God, and this image was lost in the Fall. For Luther, the restoration of the image comes through the Gospel. He accepted the two words as being an example of Hebrew parallelism. So all of man’s nature was corrupted by the Fall, meaning that man lost the image.

For Calvin and the Reformed believers the image was marred or defaced by the Fall. The image was not destroyed but became deformed, with a corruption of the natural gifts and a loss of the supernatural gifts.

For many of the Reformed today the image is understood in a narrower and a broader sense; original righteousness (narrower sense) was lost in the Fall but other qualities (broader sense) of the image such as rationality and those characteristics that distinguish man from the animals were retained. These arbitrary divisions in the image are echoes and variations of earlier views that distinguished between image and likeness.

Such terminology of levels in the image is questionable for several reasons:  

* the concept is non-Biblical; no such language (broader/wider vs. narrower; general vs. special) is found in the Bible; the Bible only speaks of image;

* the divisions are arbitrary and contrived; they deny the Hebrew parallelism manifest in “image” and “likeness”;

* the divisions are for the purpose of fitting the concept of the “image” into a larger system or doctrinal perspective;

* the divisions deny the unity of the image, resulting in a compartmentalization of the image.

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