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Friday, April 07, 2006

What is the "image of God?" Summary so far

As John Calvin put it, in describing the meaning of the term image of God, "Interpreters do not agree concerning the meaning of these words."

In this post, I shall attempt to summarize what Calvin, John Wesley, and Matthew Henry believed about this term. These three are the only commentators I have found in the public domain who wrote at some length on the meaning of this term in Genesis 1:27 and related verses. (See previous posts in this series -- there should be links to them, or at least to the most recent of them, which, in turn, will have links to earlier posts, under the heading Previous in the right column of this blog. Earlier posts quote extensively from Calvin, Wesley and Henry without comment. It is possible that, here, I am misinterpreting one or more of these authorities.)

Calvin wrote that image meant the substance. He did not believe that image meant physical likeness. He believed that God's image included righteousness and true holiness. He also believed that there was "perfect intelligence" in humans, originally, and that reason reigned in Adam and Eve. He believed that "although some obscure lineaments of that image are found remaining in us; yet are they so vitiated and maimed, that they may truly be said to be destroyed."

John Wesley:
Wesley believed that the image of God in humans consisted of the following:
The nature of our souls, which was ". . . a spirit, an intelligent, immortal spirit, an active spirit, herein resembling God, the Father of spirits . . ."
Our Dominion over other organisms, and over ourselves.
"God's image upon man consists in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness . . ."

Wesley agrees with Calvin that much or all of that image was lost in the Fall. In his commentary on Genesis 3, he said, of Adam and Eve: "They saw God provoked, his favour forfeited, his image lost . . ."

Matthew Henry:
"God’s image upon man consists in these three things:-1. In his nature and constitution . . . 2. In his place and authority . . . 3. In his purity and rectitude."
Like Wesley and Calvin, Henry believed that much or all of God's image was lost in the Fall: ". . .his likeness and image lost, dominion over the creatures gone."

So, to combine, and summarize, these three believed that humans were like God in having an immortal soul, intelligence, righteousness, and authority over other creatures, and believed that much or all of that image was lost when we fell.

I hope to post later on what some current thinkers have to say.

Thanks for reading!

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