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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Michael Wittmer on the Image of God

In some earlier posts, I remarked on some thoughts of John Calvin, Matthew Henry and John Wesley, about the meaning of the image of God. I continue the series, using some current thinkers. Here's a recent post.

Michael Wittmer is the author of Heaven is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004). The definition of the image of God is not the main theme of his book, but he has thought about it, and writes about it at some length.

He says the following:
The image of God is what separates us from other creatures. (p. 76)

Some of the image of God remains, in spite of the Fall. He cites Genesis 9:6, which says "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image" and James 3:9, which says, about the tongue: "With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God." (ESV)

Some of the image of God was lost in the Fall. He cites Colossians 3:10 and Ephesians 4:22-24, which say that we are to have ourselves renewed by conversion, which, he says, means that some of God's image was lost to us.

The image of God may be thought of as in two parts. One, the ontological part, includes "higher intellect, free will, conscience and ability for logic and language. These capacities remain active even in fallen people . . ." (p. 81) The other, the ethical part, must be restored.

"God has given us our godlike capacities for language and reflection so that we might enter into three distinct relationships." (p. 82) These relationships are with God, with other people, and with the rest of creation. A scriptural reason why he thinks this is because Genesis 1:27 ties humans being in the image of God with humans being both male and female. Wittmer says that the Fall damaged our relationships in all three of these areas, and that redemption makes it possible for all of them to be at least partly restored.

Thanks for reading. I hope to post on this again.

2 comments:

Julana said...

Does he mention people with disabilities?

Martin LaBar said...

I don't believe so. Most of the writers I've read on the image of God don't consider that topic, which they certainly should, except that many of them say that all humans are in the image of God, including the severely disabled.