The Doctrine of Man (part 2)

February 22, 2009     Time: 00:27:46

We’ve been talking about the doctrine of man. That was our topic that we introduced last week. We surveyed the difference between different approaches to the doctrine of man in empirical anthropology, philosophical anthropology, and theological anthropology. Then we talked specifically about man as made in the image of God and looked at the biblical data concerning man as made in God’s image.

Today we are turning to attempts to systematize the data.

[Opening Prayer]

We saw last time that the Bible teaches that man is made in God’s image. We want to look today at attempts to systematize this biblical data – to ask what it means that man is in the image of God.

The first attempt we want to look at will contrast real versus relational understandings of the image of God. The first view is the traditional Roman Catholic view which holds that there is a real image of God in man and which distinguishes between the image of God and the likeness of God. You will remember last week when we looked at the biblical data we saw that in Genesis it says, Let us make man in our image. . . . God made man in his likeness. It uses two different words: image and likeness. In traditional Roman Catholic theology this difference is thought to be significant. The image of God would represent that real constitution of human being that man has because he is God’s image. Man was created in a state of original righteousness – the original righteousness of God in a sinless condition in the garden. That is followed by man’s fall into sin and then subsequently is his redemption in Christ in which man now exists in a state of grace.

This change in the condition of man differently affects the image of God and the likeness of God. If we let the image of God be represented by this horizontal line, as a result of the fall the image of God in man is distorted and disrupted but nevertheless retained. Then it is restored in the state of grace. So the image of God is something that is real; it is something that man cannot lose. Even fallen, sinful man is still in the image of God. By contrast, the likeness of God, which is the relational aspect of man’s connection with God, is broken as a result of the fall and then is restored in the state of grace in Christ.[1] In traditional Catholic thought there is a difference between the image and the likeness of God. We are created in the image of God and we never lose that image even though it may be distorted through the effect of sin. By contrast, we are not like God anymore in the state of fall. We lose the original righteousness that we had in the primordial state in the garden. Then this is restored in the state of grace and the righteousness of Christ. So the image of God is a property that is unloseable. It is inalienable. We cannot be divested of it. But the likeness of God is this more relational aspect or righteousness that we had that is lost.

Contrast this with the Reformation view. In the view of the Reformers, the image and likeness of God are not distinct. These are really synonyms. So the image of God is the likeness of God. There isn’t any differentiation between the two. This is just the same thing. To say that we are created in God’s image and likeness is just a sort of parallelism. This image or likeness of God is again identified with this original righteousness that we had in the state of innocence in the garden. What that would imply then is that if that is our original righteousness, in the fall that is lost. Therefore we are no longer in God’s image in a fallen state, but that this relation is restored in Christ in the state of grace. But this leaves you with the very uncomfortable conclusion that sinful man, fallen man, is no longer in the image of God which doesn’t seem right. Luther and Calvin tried to distinguish a sort of general image of God and a special image of God in man and said that only the special image of God is lost but that there is a kind of vestige of God’s image that remains even in the fallen state. For example, Luther says that man almost lost the image of God in the fall into sin. Calvin says there is a relic of God’s image that remains in fallen man. But basically this is so disrupted that the general image of God in man at least is lost in the thinking of the Reformers though it is restored in the state of grace.

START DISCUSSION

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: It does sound very, very close although . . . I do think it is very close. I will say some more about this when we get to an evaluation because I think both sides have some truth in them and that the truth lies in a kind of combination of the two actually.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: My understanding is that they agree with the traditional view of original righteousness. That isn’t a point of dispute between the Catholics and the Reformers. The dispute came with respect to whether or not there is a likeness of God which is different than the image of God and which is lost.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Now that I am not prepared to answer. One would have to look more closely at what sort of exegesis they offered. I am not prepared at this point to say what passages they may have appealed to in support of their view.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: You can see how the first verse might be interpreted to mean that fallen people are merely in man’s image and not God’s image, but then that second passage, as you say, that prescribes capital punishment for murder does seem to suggest that fallen man is still in God’s image which would support the other point of view. So you are right that you can see how at least these passages might be interpreted in different ways.[2]

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: That could be one way to take it. You are highlighting the point that this isn’t easy. You can’t just sort of read it off the surface. It is going to involve some interpretation.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: That would support this equation here that the Reformers had that there really isn’t a differentiation.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I think you are right. I would agree.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: As I say, right now we are just surveying different attempts. We’ll get to an evaluation later on. But one thing that does occur to me about the view you are suggesting is that it would led us, or it would seem to imply, that insofar as we have a human body, if that is the likeness of God then God has a human body, or has some kind of physical form. That is what Mormons say, but that is not the traditional Christian position.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Usually those kinds of visions of God or anthropomorphic descriptions of God are thought of as being descriptions of God in human terms but not the other way around that human beings are somehow reflective of the way God is. So the Philippians passage says that Christ humbled himself and became in the likeness of men. The body reflects the likeness of humanity, and Christ took on a body like ours so that he could become incarnate. But to think of it the reverse way that somehow our physical bodies are in the likeness of God seems to me to make God less than a spirit and some kind of a physical entity.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: One other woman asked about this after the class. Notice he does not say there that woman is not made in God’s image. Genesis is very clear – it says “male and female created He them” so both man and woman are made in the image of God. But what Paul says there in Corinthians is that the man, or the husband, is the image and glory of God and the woman, his wife, is the glory of the man, her husband. But he doesn’t say the woman is the image of her husband or the woman is not the image of God. I think the woman, the wife, is just as much the image of God as the man is. The difference lies in the glory. The man is the glory of God, but the woman is the glory of her husband as she is his pride and what brings glory to him is his wife and help-mate. I would interpret that differently. I am so thrilled to hear you are looking these up and really reflecting on these. Let’s continue to wrestle with them.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I think it is a state of innocence in the sense that he isn’t created perfect. Adam doesn’t have all of the perfections that, say, Christ did. Even Christ himself, it said, learned and grew through his sufferings. He was made perfect through what he suffered, it says in Hebrews. To say that he has original righteousness doesn’t mean that Adam has all moral perfections. Adam, even if he hadn’t fallen into sin, could still grow in righteousness through moral experience and suffering and relating to God and so forth. So original righteousness doesn’t mean perfection morally.

END DISCUSSION

There have been other ways, of course, of understanding the image of God. One way is lordship. You will notice that in the Genesis narrative it says that God created him to be his image on Earth and then gave him dominion over all of the other creatures of the Earth as well as the plants of the Earth so that man is the lord of creation. Some have said the image of God represents man’s lordship over the Earth and the other animals and plants that are on the Earth.

Or there is the idea of image as reason.[3] What distinguishes man from the rest of the animals is his reason. He is a rational animal. We may have bodies that are, say, 99% genetically similar to a chimpanzee but we are not just primates, we are not just chimpanzees. Why? Because we have a rational faculty that no animal has. So it is in virtue of man’s reason or rational faculty that human beings are created in God’s image and are therefore distinct from the rest of the created order.

Another view would take the image to be man’s relative freedom. Human beings, unlike animals, are not ruled by instinct. Animals, like beavers say, don’t need to be taught to make dams. Spiders don’t need to be taught to spin webs. Animals do much of what they do simply by instinct. By contrast, human beings have a sort of relative freedom. We are not free to do anything we want, but we do have freedom within parameters. Human beings have very little instincts. There is not a whole lot that we just do by unreasoning instinct. Some have said this is what represents the image of God in man – the freedom of the will that human beings possess.

Finally, the last view that I wanted to mention was this notion of answerability or accountability to God. God has given man certain commandments which makes man morally accountable and responsible to God for how he discharges those commandments. Animals don’t have moral duties to carry out, and therefore are not answerable to God. They won’t be judged by what they’ve done. Human beings are different than animals in that they are morally accountable before God and are answerable to him. Some have said this is what represents the image of God in man.

I think you can see that this concept of the image of God is a multifaceted sort of notion that has been interpreted in many different ways. I think you probably already perceive that these ways needn’t be mutually exclusive. In fact they could represent different angles or facets of what it means that man is in God’s image. But these are some of the suggestions for how we might understand it.

START DISCUSSION

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: That is what I am going to say something by way of evaluation.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: That is very helpful. That is from an artistic point of view or an aesthetic point of view – that man has this aesthetic faculty. To imagine, to create works of fiction and make-believe and so forth. That would be something that is quite different from animals.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I think folks in the arts would be especially sympathetic to a view like that.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I appreciate your point here because I think you are quite correct that one of the hallmarks of a lot of the modern environmental movement has been to try to give the physical world worth not by elevating the physical world but by dethroning man to make him just one more animal, just part of the environment, and therefore on a par with other animals. So someone like Peter Singer, for example, an ethicist will say that human beings are no more valuable than whales, porpoises, and other animals. I’ve often heard students say that human beings are just really on the same level as even flies. This kind of dethroning of humanity by removing his freedom and turning him into just part of the animal creation is a kind of perverse way of trying to save the environment. I think it is so sad because I think the Christian is the one who has the really proper grounds for an environmental ethic in that man is given stewardship over the Earth, to care for it and tend it, not to rape the Earth and exploit it but to be, as it were, the gardener of the Earth.[4] As a beautiful creation given to man to tend as its steward I think the creation is something for which we ought to be very concerned. We, as Christians, of all people ought to have a sound environmental ethic, but certainly not based in lowering man to the level of animals which really is hard to see how you can have any ethical imperatives to do anything. It is just survival of the fittest.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I think what someone was talking about was not infringement of freedom that are due to sin, but rather the kind of original state in which man was created which would be denied by these environmentalists who wouldn’t even have a doctrine of sin. In saying we are created in the image of God and that we have freedom relative to God and in certain ways isn’t to say that we aren’t slaves to sin or anything like that. Don’t misunderstand that.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: We mustn’t overreact because of the wrong motivations and foundations that some people have so that we are unconcerned, for example, about pollution and conservation and things of that sort. You are quite right.

END DISCUSSION

Let’s go and have a few words of evaluation about this.

First, with respect to the image and the likeness of God, what I want to say here is that I agree with the Reformers here – there really isn’t any distinction between image and likeness. This is a simple Hebrew narrative technique where you have parallelism – you say the same thing in parallel terms. I don’t think the author of Genesis is intending to make any sort of a distinction between man’s being created in God’s image and man’s being created in God’s likeness. Rather, these are just synonyms. It is just parallelism, but it doesn’t mean to express some sort of a significant distinction. You need to read this in the sense in which Hebrew literary style was normally expressed. To see this at work, just read the Proverbs where you have this kind of parallelism all the time where the same thing is said over and over again in parallel terms.

Having said that, it seems to me that the Reformers were wrong in thinking that the image of God was lost through the fall. I think we have good grounds, not only in the passage quoted in Genesis about capital punishment, but also in the James passage that was mentioned. Even fallen man is still God’s image, and therefore we shouldn’t think of the image of God in relational terms as the Reformers did. Rather, I think this is where the traditional Catholic view was correct – the image of God is a real property or feature of human beings that cannot be lost.

So the image and likeness of God are identical, synonymous. They are not lost through the fall. They are not relational. Therefore, I don’t see any reason to even say it is disrupted. We are just as much God’s image as Adam was, even though we may be in a state of fallenness and separation from God spiritually.

When the New Testament speaks of Christ as God’s image, this is a quite different concern. This is a whole different discussion. What is going on there in Colossians for example is speaking of Christ as being the visible manifestation of the invisible God. God cannot be seen but Christ is his visible exemplification and therefore can be called God’s image. But that is a very different sense in which man is God’s image.

Similarly, when it speaks of man in Christ as being conformed to the image of Christ, that again is just a different discussion. That is a different concern. That is talking about sanctification and righteousness. As we become more Christ-like in our character, we are conformed to the image of Christ. But that is quite different from the discussion of man in God’s image insofar as he was created.

What this would imply then is that man, even as a sinner, is in the image of God. His relationship with God is broken alright, but he still is God’s image.[5] I think one way to capture this is to speak of man as a person. Man is a personal being, in contrast to the rest of creation, and therefore is capable of rationality, relationship with God, relative freedom, and so forth. All of those are different expressions of . . . the diagram that I will put on the board next time will be a diagram that we looked at when we talked about the attributes of God and where we discussed how the Judeo-Christian concept of God is that of the personal-infinite God. In that conception of God, you have a conception of God that really is unique to the Judeo-Christian tradition, I think, or at least I am not aware of other religions or faiths that hold to that. The idea that God is personal is something that was shared by, say, Greco-Roman mythology. It had lots of gods and goddesses. They were personal, but they weren’t infinite. Gods of Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism and Daoism are infinite alright, but they are not personal. But the Judeo-Christian concept of God is of an infinite personal being. Insofar as we are persons, though finite, we are in God’s image. I’ll expand on that a little bit more next time and put the diagram on the board that we used when we talked about the attributes of God.

I think that much of the discussion of the image of God can all be wrapped up in man’s personhood as a person in the image of God and therefore like God – a personal being – and therefore able to relate to him.

Next time we will expand on that a little bit more, and then say something about the man as a sinner and how that affects the image and relation of man to God.[6]



[1] 5:03

[2] 10:05

[3] 15:01

[4] 20:09

[5] 25:11

[6] Total Running Time: 27:46 (Copyright © 2009 William Lane Craig)