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Did the Fall destroy God’s image in man?

Bruce B. from New Zealand wrote in response to Is the whole creation fallen?:

123rf.com/Nirot Sriprasit

I note your article includes the phrase, “He has a special relationship with humanity that is different from His relationship to the rest of Creation, by virtue of man being in His image.” and would like to pass on the observations of an elderly biblical scholar, a friend of mine. He points out that most ministers some time or other will use such a phrase, or claim that ‘man is made in God’s image.’

But he argues that man’s disobedience of God resulted in Adam no longer being the image of his creator because it introduced sin as a characteristic of mankind. Sin is not a characteristic of God, and since every human who descends from Adam carries the sin in our nature we cannot be in the image of God.

I delight in the articles on your website, and would be pleased if you would discuss this issue.

CMI’s Lita Sanders responds:

Dear Mr. B.,

I certainly believe that the Fall affected the image of God in mankind, that the image is marred and mutilated by sin. But I believe it’s still there in a substantial way, because it’s the basis for God’s relationship with us—we were created to relate to God in a way that is different in kind, not only degree, from the way the rest of creation does. This cannot be attributed to man’s intelligence and moral accountability only; angels are intelligent and morally accountable, yet there is no salvation for the fallen angels (Hebrews 2:16).

The image of God is also the basis for the inherent wrongness of killing a human being. We’re allowed to kill animals for food—although the Bible indicates that in the New Heavens and Earth there will be no animal death of any kind. But in God’s institution of capital punishment for murder, the express reason that is given is “For in the image of God, God created man”. Now, some people say, “Yeah, He created (past tense!) us in His image, but we lost it at the Fall; there’s nothing that says we’ve still got His image!” Yes, it is past tense, but the past tense doesn’t negate the present possession of His image, and frankly the command doesn’t make much sense if we’re no more in God’s image than anything else. If the ‘image’ was lost at the Fall then why is not permissible to now kill human beings or abort babies, for example?

There’s also Matthew 12, which I think is important for understanding humans as remaining in the image of God. In that passage, the Pharisees ask Jesus whether or not Jews should pay taxes. He replies by asking for a coin. When Jesus asks them whose image and inscription is on the coin, they say, “Caesar’s.” Jesus takes Caesar’s image and inscription to indicate his ownership of the coin, he says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” But then he adds, “And give to God what is God’s.” What is God’s? Well, if we apply the same criteria, it’s what has His image. What has His image? Us. In Genesis Adam was described as a son of God because he was supernaturally created by God. This term was also applied to the angels (sons of God). However, after Adam it was not used of humans again in the Old Testament. But in the New Testament, believers are called sons of God again. This is because we have been supernaturally reborn (born-again) by the Spirit of God. In addition, we are reminded that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in sin-wracked, fallen bodies. That is just one example where sin and God seem to coexist within mankind. Many people think that God can’t coexist with evil, but if that were the case, God wouldn’t act in the fallen sinful world at all; and Jesus wouldn’t have been able to come in the Incarnation.

Of course, one could make the argument that a broken image is worse than no image at all. It’s a constant reminder that we’re not what we’re supposed to be; we fall so short not only of God’s standard, but of what we are, or at least what we were made to be. We were made to rule angels, but instead we’re fallen and subject to ‘the elemental powers of the world’ in our unregenerate state.


Lita Sanders

Jeff M. from the United Kingdom writes in response to article The Fall and the existence of other religions.

Hello Lita

I wonder if I can ask some supplementary questions?

1.Why does God feel the need to be “glorified”? Is he insecure? It seems a strange desire from the Supreme Being.

2. You say God waited until the time of Pax Romana because communications were much easier then. Why did He not wait until this century, when the Internet could have spread His word even more effectively? Or until the year 2417, when we will all be able to communicate telepathically?

CMI’s Lita Sanders responds:

Dear Jeff,

Thanks for writing in. I’ll take your questions one at a time.

1. God doesn’t need anything outside of Himself; He is self-existent. But God deserves glory and honor because He is the Creator (Revelation 4:11). We owe Him our existence, and every good thing is a result of His providence. So He is deserving of worship in a way that no created being is. And that He deserves our worship means that ego doesn’t come into it. For a limited analogy, consider a husband who is jealous when his wife flirts with another man. That jealousy doesn’t come out of insecurity or ego, necessarily, but out of a rightful sense of deserving the wife’s unconditional loyalty based on their marriage vows. But the wife chose at some point to take marriage vows, so perhaps it’s a bit more analogous with a father’s rightful expectation that his children will obey him.

2. We can rarely give definite answers for why God did something one way as opposed to another. I’ll leave out the prophecies, etc., because God could have made the prophecies go a different way if He had wanted Jesus to come in the modern age. I think one excellent reason Jesus came in the first century is so that billions of people who have lived between then and now could hear the message and believe. The Internet can and does spread His message effectively now, just as the printing press did in Gutenberg’s day, etc.


Lita Sanders

Published: 18 November 2012

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