Imago Dei: Lost or Retained?

Was the Imago Dei (Image of God) lost in the Fall of man, or was it retained, yet in a distorted or compromised sense?

The phrase has its origins in Genesis 1:27, wherein “God created man in his own image…”

I posit that the Image of God was lost in the Fall of man and that it is restored when we are regenerated. It can’t be restored if it was never lost.

Below are quotes from Reformers, and preeminent Reformed theologians, that clearly and unambiguously teach that the Image of God was lost in the Fall. Also, I will demonstrate that the historic Reformed confessions, catechisms, and the Synod of Dordt all teach that the image of God in man was lost. It was the de facto position of Reformed theology for nearly 350 years.

Adam did fall from that image, became rebellious disobedient, and slave to the devil. And in the same damnation wrapped all his posterity.

John Knox, On Predestination

But after the fall, man lost this glorious image of God, on account of sin, and became transformed into the hateful image of Satan.

Zacharias Ursinus, Heidelberg Commentary, Point 2

Wether Adam by his fall lost the image of God. We affirm.

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Topic 9, Q. 8

By the entrance of sin, this image of God so far as it was our righteousness and holiness before Him, was utterly defaced and lost. This also I have sufficiently evidenced before. It did not depart from any one power, part, or faculty of our souls, but from our whole nature.

John Owen, A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit, pg 246

Hence followed the obliteration of the image of God in man, who became unbelieving, unrighteous, liable to death.

John Calvin, Aphorisms, Book 2, #17

While it is true that he has lost the image of God through sin, as we have seen above, it is capable of being restored through the word and Holy Spirit.

Martin Luther, Collected Works, Genesis 9:6

There was clearly such a strong consensus that the image of God was lost in man in the Fall. Yet how did this belief get lost as time marched on through the centuries? It seems the teaching that the natural fallen man did in fact still retain the image of God got traction in the Reformed world about 150 years ago. Today virtually every theologian teaching Reformed soteriology holds that the image of God was not lost in man! This is a serious pernicious and widespread error that has crept into the Church and we must rectify it.

When man Fell in Adam we took on the image of Satan. Scripture is clear that for the unregenerate Satan is their father. So how could man possess God’s holy and righteous image whilst being a slave to Satan? Even logically it doesn’t make sense. I think it is a form of semi-Pelagianism that has snuck into modern Reformed theology teaching that man still possesses inherent goodness and holiness vis-a-vis the image of God he retains.

Theologians on the Image of God in Man

Ambrose (c.340-397): “That soul is not, therefore, in the image of God, in which God is not at all times” (quoted in The Apology of the Augsburg Confession [1530]).

Martin Luther (1483-1546):

[1] “If these powers [i.e., memory, will and mind, etc.] are the image of God, it will also follow that Satan was created according to the image of God, since he surely has these natural endowments, such as memory and a very superior intellect and a most determined will, to a far higher degree than we have them” (Commentary on Genesis, p. 61; italics added).

[2] “The purpose of the Gospel is to restore this image of God. Man’s intellect and will have, of course, remained; but both are greatly corrupted and weakened. The chief purpose of the Gospel is to restore us to that lost image, yes, to a better one; for by faith we are born again onto eternal life, or rather unto the hope of eternal life, so we may live in God and with God and may be one with Him, as Christ says … righteousness within us, namely, the newness of life in which, instructed by the Word and helped by the Holy Spirit, we study to obey God. But this righteousness only begins in this life and cannot be perfected in the flesh. Nevertheless it pleases God …” (Quoted in Ewald M. Plass, What Luther Says [Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1959], p. 884; italics added).

“[Martin Luther] did not seek the image of God in any of the natural endowments of man, such as his rational and moral powers, but exclusively in original righteousness, and therefore regarded it as entirely lost by sin” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, rev. 1996], pp. 202-203; italics added).

The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article II (I): Of Original Sin (1530): “15] Neither have we said anything new. The ancient definition understood aright expresses precisely the same thing when it says: “Original sin is the absence of original righteousness” [a lack of the first purity and righteousness in Paradise]. But what is righteousness? Here the scholastics wrangle about dialectic questions; they do not explain what original righteousness is. 16] Now in the Scriptures, righteousness comprises not only the second table of the Decalog [regarding good works in serving our fellow-man], but the first also, which teaches concerning 17] the fear of God, concerning faith, concerning the love of God. Therefore original righteousness was to embrace not only an even temperament of the bodily qualities [perfect health and, in all respects, pure blood, unimpaired powers of the body, as they contend], but also these gifts, namely, a quite certain knowledge of God, fear of God, confidence in God, or certainly 18] the rectitude and power to yield these affections [but the greatest feature in that noble first creature was a bright light in the heart to know God and His work, etc.]. And Scripture testifies to this, when it says, Gen. 1:27, that man was fashioned in the image and likeness of God. What else is this than that there were embodied in man such wisdom and righteousness as apprehended God, and in which God was reflected, i.e., to man there were given the gifts of the knowledge of God, the fear of God, confidence in God, and the like? 19] For thus Irenaeus [c.130-c.202] and Ambrose [c.340-397] interpret the likeness to God, the latter of whom not only says many things to this effect, but especially declares: That soul is not, therefore, in the image of God, in which God is not at all times. 20] And Paul shows in the Epistles to the Ephesians 5:9, and Colossians 3:10, that the image of God is the knowledge of God, righteousness, and truth. 21] Nor does Longobard [i.e., Peter Lombard {c. 1095-1160}] fear to say that original righteousness is the very likeness to God which God implanted in man” (written by Philip Melanchthon [1497-1560]; italics added).

Aonio Paleario (c.1500-1570): “… our whole nature was corrupted by Adam’s sin.  And, like as erst it had superiority above all creatures, so became it an underling to all, the bond-slave of Satan, sin, and death, and condemned to the miseries of hell. Also he lost his judgment altogether, and began to say that good was evil, and evil good; esteeming false things to be true, and true things to be false. Which thing the prophet considering, saith that ‘all men are liars’ and that ‘there is not one that doth good’ [Ps. 14:3]; because the devil, like a stout man of arms, ruleth his own palace, that is to wit, the world, whereof he became the prince and lord. There is no tongue that can express the thousandth part of our misery, in that we, being created by God’s own band, have lost the said image of God, and are become like the devil, and too like to him in nature and condition, willing whatsoever he willeth, and likewise refusing whatsoever he misliketh. By reason whereof, being given up for a prey to that wicked spirit, there is no sin so grievous which every one of us would not be ready to do, if the grace of God stay us not. And this our deprivation of righteousness, and this forward inclination to all unrighteousness and naughtiness, is called original sin; the which we bring with us from out of our mother’s womb, so as we be born the children of wrath; and it hath had his first spring from our first fathers, and is the cause and fountain of all the sins and iniquities that we commit; wherefrom if we will be delivered, and return again to our first innocency, to recover the image of God, first of all it standeth us on hand to know our own wretchedness. For, like as no man will ever seek to the physician except he know himself to be diseased, or acknowledge the excellency of the physician, and how much he is bound unto him, except he know his own disease to be pestilent and deadly; even so no man acknowledgeth Jesus Christ, the only Physician of our souls, except he first know his own soul to be diseased: neither can he perceive the excellency of him, nor how much he is bound unto him, except he first enter into the knowledge of his own outrageous sins, and of the incurable infirmity which we have received through the infection of our first fathers” (The Benefit of Christ’s Death [Boston, MA: Gould and Lincoln, 1860], pp. 26-28).

Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575): “This depravation of our nature is nothing else but the blotting out of God’s image in us. There was in our father Adam before his fall the very image and likeness of God; which image, as the apostle expoundeth it, was a conformity and participation of God’s wisdom, justice, holiness, truth, integrity, innocency, immortality, and eternal felicity. Therefore what else can the blotting or wiping out of this image be but original sin; that is, the hatred of God, the ignorance of God, foolishness, distrustfulness, desperation, self-love, unrighteousness, uncleanness, lying, hypocrisy, vanity … ? This corrupt image and likeness is by propagation derived into us all, [for] … ‘Adam begat a son in his own similitude and likeness’ [Gen. 5:3]” (The Decades of Heinrich Bullinger, Third Decade, p. 394; italics added).

The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord (1577), I. Original Sin: “8] 3. In the third place, what [and how great] this hereditary evil is no reason knows and understands, but, as the Smalcald Articles [1537] say, it must be learned and believed from the revelation of Scripture. And in the Apology [of the Augsburg Confession {1530}] this is briefly comprehended under the following main heads:
9] 1. That this hereditary evil is the guilt [by which it comes to pass] that, by reason of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, we are all in God’s displeasure, and by nature children of wrath, as the apostle shows Rom. 5:12ff.Eph. 2:3.
10] 2. Secondly, that it is an entire want or lack of the concreated hereditary righteousness in Paradise, or of God’s image, according to which man was originally created in truth, holiness, and righteousness; and at the same time an inability and unfitness for all the things of God, or, as the Latin words read: Desciptio peccati originalis detrahit naturae non renovatae et dona et vim seu facultatem et actus inchoandi et efficiendi spiritualia; that is: The definition of original sin takes away from the unrenewed nature the gifts, the power, and all activity for beginning and effecting anything in spiritual things.
11] 3. That original sin (in human nature) is not only this entire absence of all good in spiritual, divine things, but that, instead of the lost image of God in man, it is at the same time also a deep, wicked, horrible, fathomless, inscrutable, and unspeakable corruption of the entire nature and all its powers, especially of the highest, principal powers of the soul in the understanding, heart, and will, so that now, since the Fall, man inherits an inborn wicked disposition and inward impurity of heart, evil lust and propensity; 12] that we all by disposition and nature inherit from Adam such a heart, feeling, and thought as are, according to their highest powers and the light of reason, naturally inclined and disposed directly contrary to God and His chief commandments, yea, that they are enmity against God, especially as regards divine and spiritual things. For in other respects, as regards natural, external things which are subject to reason, man still has to a certain degree understanding, power, and ability, although very much weakened, all of which, however, has been so infected and contaminated by original sin that before God it is of no use.
13] 4. The punishment and penalty of original sin, which God has imposed upon the children of Adam and upon original sin, are death, eternal damnation, and also other bodily and spiritual, temporal and eternal miseries, and the tyranny and dominion of the devil, so that human nature is subject to the kingdom of the devil and has been surrendered to the power of the devil, and is held captive under his sway, who stupefies [fascinates] and leads astray many a great, learned man in the world by means of dreadful error, heresy, and other blindness, and otherwise rushes men into all sorts of crime.
14] 5. Fifthly, this hereditary evil is so great and horrible that only for the sake of the Lord Christ it can be covered and forgiven before God in the baptized and believing. Moreover, human nature, which is perverted and corrupted thereby, must and can be healed only by the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Ghost, which, however, is only begun in this life, but will not be perfect until in the life to come” (written by Jakob Andreä [1528-1590], Martin Chemnitz [1522-1586], Nikolaus Selnecker [1528-1592], David Chytraeus [1531-1600], Andreas Musculus [1514-1581] and Christoph Körner [1518-1594]; italics added).

William Perkins (1558-1602): 

[1] “The image of God is nothing else but a conformity of man unto God whereby man is holy as God is holy: for Paul saith, Put on the new man, which after God, that is in God’s image, is created in righteousness and holiness [Eph. 4:24]. Now I reason thus: Wherein the renewing of the image of God in man doth stand, therein was it at the first; but the renewing of God’s image in man doth stand in righteousness and holiness: therefore God’s image wherein man was created at the beginning, was a conformity to God in righteousness and holiness. Now whether God’s image doth further consist in the substance of man’s body and soul, or in the faculties of both, the Scriptures speak not” (Works, vol. 1, pp. 150-151; italics added).

[2] “[M]an by creation was made a goodly creature in the blessed image of God: but by Adam’s fall men lost the same, and are now become the deformed children of wrath” (An Exposition of the Symbol or Creed of the Apostles, According to the Tenor of Scripture in The Work of William Perkins [Cambridge: John Legat, 1600], p. 240; italics added).

Paul Bayne (c.1573-1617), the successor of William Perkins at the University of Cambridge: “The image of God is not to be conceived in bodily things, as the anthropomorphites imagined, nor yet standeth in the essence and faculties of the soul, as memory, reason, will, as Augustine took it, for wicked men have these; nor in dominion and rule, which made man as a little God amongst the creatures, for this is a consequence that followed on the image; but as Paul teacheth, it standeth in these divine qualities, which as certain signs and forms express the divine nature, most holy, most just, so far as the Creator can be figured forth in such a creature” (Comm. on Eph. 4:24; italics added).

Georg Zeämann (1580-1638): “Although the essential activities or capacities natural to man were not lost after the Fall (man in the state of corruption still retains the ability to understand, to will, to not will, to choose, to reject), however the spiritual uses of these faculties, through sin, are entirely destroyed and the natural predisposition is changed so that the mind is spiritually blind, spiritually and totally depraved. This is why Scripture says man is not deprived, but dead … The Image of God was not only obscured by the Fall but completely destroyed” (Controversia Difficilima, De Imagine Dei In Primo Homine Statuque Innocentiae Item De Paradiso, Arbore Vitae, Arbore Scientiae Boni Et Mali, Et Cognatis arduis Quaestionibus, Methodo Theologico Scholastica perspicue nervose, & solide explicata [Campidoni: Kraus, 1619], pp. 147, 250; translated by Andy Underhile).

Thomas Gataker (1574-1654), a member of the Westminster Assembly

Q. 14. What became of man after he had thus sinned against God?
A. He became most wicked (Gen. 6:5), and most wretched (Job 14:1; 5:6-7).
Q. 15. In what regard wicked?
A. In that he lost God’s image (Gen. 3:7; Eph. 4:22, 24), and was not now like unto God as before (Gen. 3:22; Deut. 32:4-5), but like the devil (John 8:44; I John 3:8).
Q. 16. In what regard wretched?
A. In that he lost God’s favour (Gen. 3:23), and brought upon himself (Gen. 3:16-19; Rom. 5:12, 16) God’s everlasting curse (Gal. 3:10) and wrath (Rom. 2:8-9).
Q. 17. In what state are we all then, since this fall of our first parents?
A. We are all also by nature (Eph. 2:2-3) most wicked (Rom. 3:9-20; 5:12, 19; Titus 3:3), and most wretched (Rom. 3:23; 5:12, 15-18) (The Christian Man’s Care: A sermon on Matth. 6:33, together with a short Catechisme for the simpler Sort [London: By John Haviland for Fulke Clifton, 1624], pp. 56-57; spelling, etc., modernized; italics added).

Richard Sibbes (1577-1635): “Therefore, when you read of the image of God in the New Testament [including I Cor. 11:7 and James 3:9], it must be understood of the image of God in Jesus Christ, the second Adam. Now this image consists in knowledge, in holiness and righteousness. If we compare Col. iii. [verse 10] with Eph. iv. [verse 24], this was perfect in Christ, who was the image of his Father, and we must be like Christ the second Adam in sanctification … When God set his image on the first Adam, it was rased, and decayed and lost, by the malice of the devil … For every man by nature carries the nature of the devil on him, till the image of God be stamped on, and the image of Satan rased out” (Works, vol. 4, pp. 260-261; italics added).

John Geree (c.1600-1649):

Q. What was our perfection by creation? 
A. We were created after God’s image which consists in knowledge and holiness (Gen. 1:26-27).
Q. What is our misery by corruption?
A. We are guilty of Adam’s sin, deprived of the image of God (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10), prone to all sin, slaves of Satan, children of wrath, that is, liable to God’s judgments here, death and hell hereafter (Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:1-3).
Q. What benefit have we by renovation?
A. The guilt of our sins is purged by the blood of Christ (I Cor. 6:11), we have in part the Image of God renewed upon us in knowledge and holiness (Col. 3:10), and have our right to heaven restored (Rom. 8:15-17). (A Catechisme in briefe Questions and Answers, containing such Things as are to be knowne or had by all such as would partake the Sacrament of the Lords Supper with Comfort [London: R. C. for F. Grove, 1st ed., 1647], p. A2v; spelling, etc., modernized; italics added).

Joseph Caryl (1602-1673): “Sinful man is loathsome and abominable unto God. ‘How much more abominable … is man’ [Job 15:16]. This is not to be understood of some particular man or of some sort of men who are more vile than others. But take the best of men, the most accomplished and complete in the whole course of nature, these are abominable. They are deprived of the image of God; they are stamped with the image of Satan. They are not only unable to do that which is good but they are totally averse from it, yea, enemies to it. Is not all this enough to render man abominable in the sight of God? And so abominable is man that he doth not only displease the eye of God but the very eyes of those who have received the grace of God. A godly man turns away from the wicked, as the wicked man does from the godly. ‘An unjust man is an abomination to the just: and he that is upright in the way is an abomination to the wicked’ (Prov. 29:27). The distaste is mutual; it is called enmity (Gen. 3:15), here abomination” (An Exposition on the Book of Job; spelling, etc., modernized; italics added).

“[Johannes] COCCEIUS [1603-1669] (Summ. theol. XVII) finds the divine image not in the ‘substance of the soul,’ nor yet in the ‘faculties of the soul,’ nor yet in the ‘imperium which man had over the living,’ but in the rectitudo of the soul which he explains as moral reciprocity with God in all a man’s parts, in the soul of course as [the ruling principle in man] and in the body and limbs as the [vessels]. Similarly [Johannes Heinrich] HEIDEGGER [1633-1698] (VI, 19), [Johannes] BRAUN [1628-1708] (I, ii, 15), [Leonard] RIISSEN [c.1636-1700] (VI, 60) etc.” (Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, trans. G. T. Thompson [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1978], p. 232; italics Heppe’s).

John Owen (1616-1683):

[1] Q. 4. Wherefore did God make man?
A. For his own glory in his service and obedience.—Gen. i. 26, 27, ii. 16, 17; Rom. ix. 23.
Q. 5. Was man able to yield the service and worship that God required of him?
A. Yea, to the utmost, being created upright in the image of God, in purity, innocency, righteousness, and holiness.—Gen. i. 26; Eccles. vii. 29; Eph. iv. 24; Col. iii. 10 (The Works of John Owen, vol. 1, p. 474; italics added).

[2] “They cannot prove that man, in the condition and state of sin, doth retain any thing of the image of God. The places mentioned, as Gen. ix. 6, and James iii. 9, testify only that he was made in the image of God at first, but that he doth still retain the image they intimate not; nor is the inference used in the places taken from what man is, but what he was created” (Vindiciæ Evangelicæ; or, The Mystery of the Gospel Vindicated and Socinianism Examined [Oxford, 1655] in William H. Goold [ed.], The Works of John Owen [1850-53; Edinburgh: Banner, 1966], vol. 12, p. 162; italics added).

Thomas Watson (c.1620-1686): “A sanctified person bears not only God’s name, but his image … ‘Be ye holy in all manner of conversation.’ I Pet i 15. Where the heart is sanctified the life will be so too. The temple had gold without as well as within. As in a piece of coin there is not only the king’s image within the ring, but his superscription without; so where there is sanctification, there is not only God’s image in the heart, but a superscription of holiness written in the life … Sanctification makes us resemble God. It was Adam’s sin that he aspired to be like God in omniscience, but we must endeavour to be like him in sanctity. It is a clear glass in which we can see a face; it is a holy heart in which something of God can be seen. Nothing of God can be seen in an unsanctified man, but you may see Satan’s picture in him. Envy is the devil’s eye, hypocrisy his cloven foot; but nothing of God’s image can be seen in him … As a king delights to see his image upon a piece of coin, so where God sees his likeness he gives his love. The Lord has two heavens to dwell in, and the holy heart is one of them” (A Body of Divinity [London: Banner, 1970], pp. 241, 246, 248; italics added).

Ralph Venning (1621-1674): “Sin is contrary to the image of God, in which man was made. God made man in his own likeness, viz. in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4. 24). Now sin is clean contrary to this image, as much unlike it as deformity and ugliness is unlike handsomeness and beauty, as darkness is to light, as hell to heaven. Yes, and there is more too: sin is the Devil’s image. When God made man, he made him in his own image; so when the Devil made man sin, he thereby made him his own image and likeness. In this sense I conceive the Devil meant that phrase, ‘Ye shall be like gods,’ Elohim (Genesis 3. 5). He did not say or mean that he should be like the Elohim, the Creators, as the word is in Job 35. 10 and Ecclesiastes 12. 1, the God who made them; but like Elohim, gods, viz. such as I and my angels are, who once knew good, but now know evil, both by doing it, and suffering the sad effects of it. The word Elohim is used not only of God and good angels, but of fallen angels or devils (1 Samuel 28. 13). And under the covert of this ambiguous word, he craftily abused our first parents; for he well knew that by sinning they could not become like Elohim, God above, but would become like Elohim, the gods below. And alas! are we not like Elohim-devils, knowing good by loss, and evil by its sad and dismal effects? Thus he that runs may read the picture, image, and likeness of the Devil in sin; sinners are as much like the Devil as anything. He that sinneth is of the Devil (1 John 3. 8), not only a servant but a child of the Devil: ‘Ye are of your father the devil’ said holy Jesus to the sinful Jews (John 8. 44). Never was child more like the father than a sinner is like the Devil; sin has the nature, the complexion, the air, the features, the very behaviour of the Devil” (The Sinfulness of Sin [Edinburgh: Banner, 1993], pp. 33-34; italics added).

Edward Reynolds (1599-1676):
[1] “It is in the power of the king to raise a man out of prison, like Joseph, and give him the next place unto himself. Now this, then, is a plain argument of the great baseness of any of these things, in comparison of the soul of man, and, by consequence, of their great disability to satisfy the same: for can a man make anything equal to himself? Can a man advance a piece of gold or silver into a reasonable, a spiritual, an eternal substance? A man may make himself like these things; he may debase himself into the vileness of an idol, — ‘They that make them, are like unto them;’ he may undervalue and uncoin himself, blot out God’s image and inscription, and write in the image and inscription of earth and Satan; he may turn himself ‘into brass, and iron, and reprobate silver,’ as the prophet speaks; but never can any man raise the creatures by all his estimations to the worth of a man. We cannot so much as change the colour of a hair, or add a cubit to our stature: much less can we make any thing of equal worth with our whole selves … To which of the creatures said God at any time, ‘Let us create it after our image?’ Of which of the angels said he at any time, Let us restore them to our image again? … Now secondly, let us see how the creature is sanctified by the word. By ‘word’ we are not to understand the word of creation, wherein God spake, and all things were made good and serviceable to the use of man; for sin came after that word, and defaced as well the goodness which God put into the creature, as his image which he put into man” (The Vanity of the Creature, pp. 8, 11, 22).

[2] “Three hateful evils are in sin: aberration from God’s image; obnoxiousness to his wrath; and rejection from his presence: stain, guilt, and misery, which is the product or issue of the former. Now as we say, ‘Rectum est sui judex et obliqui,’ the law is such a rule, as can measure and set forth all this evil; it is holy, just, and good! Holy, fit to conform us to the image of God; just, fit to arm us against the wrath of God; and good, fit to present us unto the presence and fruition of God. According unto this blessed and complete pattern was man created; an universal rectitude in his nature, all parts in tune, all members in joint; light and beauty in his mind, conformity in his will, subordination and subjection in his appetites, serviceableness in his body, peace and happiness in his whole being. But man, being exactly sensible of the excellency of his estate, gave an easy ear to the first temptation, which laid before him a hope and project of improving it: and so believing Satan’s lie, and embracing a shadow, he fell from the substance which before he had, and contracted the hellish and horrid image of that tempter which had thus deceived him” (The Sinfulness of Sin, p. 117).

Thomas Vincent (1634–1678):

Q. 3. Wherein doth consist the image of God, which was put upon man in his first creation?
A. 1. Negatively, the image of God doth not consist in any outward visible resemblance of his body to God, as if God had any bodily shape.  2. Positively, the image of God doth consist in the inward resemblance of his soul to God, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. ‘Renewed in knowledge, after the image of Him that created him’ (Col. 3:10). ‘Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness’ (Eph. 4:24).
Q. 4. What is included in this image of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, as man had it at first?
A. The image of God in man at the first doth include the universal and perfect rectitude of the whole soul: knowledge in his understanding, righteousness in his will, holiness in his affections (The Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture, p. 48; italics added).

“While there were during the seventeenth century, and there are even now, some Lutheran theologians who have a broader conception of the image of God, the great majority of them restricted it to the spiritual qualities with which man was originally endowed, that is, what is called original righteousness” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, rev. 1996], p. 207).

Herman Witsius (1636-1708):

[1] “[T]he heathen … we all know were blind and foolish, and destitute of the divine image” (Sacred Dissertations on the Apostles’ Creed [Escondido, CA: den Dulk Christian Foundation, rep. 1993], 1:135).

[2] “The first of these was, as one elegantly expresses it, as precious ground on which the image of God might be drawn and formed: the second, that very image itself, and resemblance of the divinity: the third, the lustre of that image widely spreading its glory; and as rays, not only adorning the soul, but the whole man, even his very body; and rendering him the lord and head of the world, and at the very same time immortal, as being the friend and confederate of the eternal God” (The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man: Comprehending A Complete Body of Divinity, trans. William Crookshank, vol. 1 (Escondido, CA: den Dulk Christian Foundation, repr. 1990), p. 57; italics added).

“Those dogmaticians who declared against [the view that unbelievers are in the image of God] and took sides with [Johannes] COCCEIUS [1603-1669], unanimously made three distinctions in the imago divina, namely (1) the ‘antecedent of the image,’ (2) its ‘consequent’ and (3) the ‘actual formal nature of the image of God,’ understanding by the first ‘the spiritual essence of the soul which alone is fit for the imago Dei to be stamped on it,’ by the second the ‘uprightness of the soul,’ by the third Adam’s dominium ([Johannes Heinrich] HEIDEGGER [1633-1698], [Johannes] BRAUN [1628-1708], [Herman] WITSIUS [1636-1708], [Leonard] RIISSEN [c.1636-1700] and others) (Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, trans. G. T. Thompson [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1978], pp. 237-238; italics Heppe’s).

Theodorus VanderGroe (1705–1784): “You who are still unconverted, you are utterly incapable of obeying this commandment of the Lord even in the very least—although you may refrain from the blatant and external worship of graven images. You lack a true and spiritual knowledge of God and, by reason of sin, are void of God’s image in your soul. Therefore, you cannot but make mental images of God that are both carnal and/or earthly. And though you may not actually make graven images of God with your hands, you are nevertheless making mental images of Him. Your understanding is completely earthly and carnal, and therefore you cannot possibly either think or speak of God in any way but as earthly and carnal. Mentally, you are measuring God by yourself and by other physical creatures. However, you do not know Him in His majesty, glory, or holiness. You are bowing down before carnal and earthly images of God. Such graven images you honor and serve, and you foster the foolish notion that you are serving the true God. In reality, however, you are serving an idol, a false god of your arbitrary imagination. As long as you do not rightly learn to know the true God, your worship will be nothing but sin, deceit, and vanity. I recognize that you cannot possibly understand what I am telling you, for the almighty hand of God must arrest you in order for you rightly to understand this. The Spirit of God must convict you of your sins” (The Christian’s Only Comfort in Life and Death: An Exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism [Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books & Dutch Reformed Translation Society, 2016], Lord’s Day 35; italics added).

Lambertus De Ronde (1720-1795):

Q. Did our first parents continue in the state wherein they were created?
A. No. Our first parents being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the state wherein they were created, by eating the forbidden fruit, and so sinned against God. Gen. 3:6, 7.
Q. What evil was there in eating thereof?
A. There was a twofold evil, namely, the evil of sin, and the evil of punishment; both very great evils.
Q. What was the evil of sin?
A. A threefold evil: First, against God, called disobedience. Rom. 5:19. ‘As by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.’ Second, against himself, soul, body, and estate. Third, against his posterity. Rom. 5:12.
Q. What was the evil of punishment?
A. First, loss of God’s image. Second, horror of conscience. Third, sorrow and trouble on mankind. Fourth, expulsion from paradise. Fifth, death both of body and soul, and curse on the earth and creature (A System: Containing the Principles of the Christian Religion, Suitable to the Heidelberg Catechism [New York: H. Gaine, 1763; spelling, etc., modernized], pp. 19-20; italics added).

Johannes van der Kemp (1747-1811): “Our first parents also were punished with death, according to the divine threatening, Gen. 2:17, ‘In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’ There is no reason why we should not understand death here in its greatest extent, of temporal, spiritual and eternal death: they did not indeed die temporally on the day on which they sinned: but the Lord may, consistently with his justice and truth, moderate and defer punishment: the sentence of death was pronounced upon them that same day: yea, on that very day they began to die by all the evil occurrences, which were presently denounced and inflicted upon them, Gen. 3:16-24. They died also spiritually; for they were instantly deprived of the image of God, ‘their understanding was darkened, and they were alienated from the life of God.’ Eph. 4:18. This soon appeared, since they knew not that God was all-knowing and everywhere present, when they thought to hide themselves from him among the trees of the garden, and Adam covered his transgression, and ‘hid his iniquity in his bosom,’ Job 31:33. The man excused himself, and blamed his wife, who had deceived him, yea, blamed God, who had given him such a deceiving wife: and the woman shifted the blame from herself upon the serpent; Gen. 3:12, 13. Let us not ask here, how a single action could do all this, since a wise man doth not lose all his wisdom by one foolish action: for this sin of Adam was a bond of iniquity, which disordered the whole human constitution. They deserved by this one sin to be deprived of the divine image, since they did not make a good use of it. When man withdrew from his obedience to his Creator and Law giver, and apostatized to the creature, to sin and Satan, he was then justly condemned to become a slave of the creature and of Satan” (The Christian Entirely the Property of Christ, in Life and Death, Exhibited in Fifty-Three Sermons on the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 3; italics added).

George Lawson (1749-1820): “They thought themselves happy that were admitted to hear the discourses of this great philosopher, while he lived among men. But the best of his instructions are left on record for our benefit. The best knowledge is the knowledge of God, and of Christ, who is his representing image to men, and holiness, which is the image of God in men … God is well pleased, not only with the reverence and love which his people shew to himself, but with that generosity and mercy, that sincerity and faithfulness, which they evince to their fellow-men. Mercy and truth are glorious perfections in the Deity,—perfections which shall be for ever praised as the springs of our felicity. Of these, the mercy and truth found in wisdom’s disciples, are to be regarded as a faint imitation. To find in his children this his true, though imperfect image, the Deity is greatly delighted. To the merciful he will shew himself merciful, and they that deal truly are his delight … No human creature is to be despised, for he is our neighbour. He is our own flesh, our brother, sprung from our common father, Adam. Honour all men. Men were made in the image of God; and though that image is now lost, it is still a sufficient evidence of the sinfulness of despising, as well as of murdering, our neighbour, that in the image of God man was made, and that we cannot say whether the persons whom we are tempted to despise, are not in that happy number of the chosen of God, for whose sakes the Son of God hath dignified our nature by assuming it, and whom he will again beautify with that glorious image which was effaced by the fall … One thing appears in the behaviour of children with too much evidence, that they are the descendants of Adam. The selfishness, vanity, and revengeful spirit, that appears in all of them, are lineaments of the image of the first transgressor” (Exposition of the Book of Proverbs; commenting on Prov. 1:3; 3:4; 11:12; 20:11).

Robert Haldane (1764-1842):

[1] “In this manner, after adoption comes our sonship by regeneration, not in the order of time, but of nature; for, being united to Christ, God forms in us His image, and this is the second way in which we are made the children of God. Regeneration, or this new birth, is not a figurative but a real change. ‘If any man be in Christ he is a new creature,’ or a new creation, 2 Cor. 5:17; for when we are regenerated, we are created in Christ Jesus, Eph. 2:10. Nor is it a reformation of character, but the renewal of the image of God in the soul, which had been totally effaced. They who are born again, are begotten in Christ Jesus through the Gospel, being born not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. Thus they are ‘born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,’ For this new birth the man can do nothing to prepare himself. Neither after he is renewed can he effect anything to ensure his perseverance in his new state. The Spirit of God alone both renews and preserves those who are renewed. By this regeneration we obtain qualities which are analogous to the nature of God. He enlightens our understanding, sanctifies our will, purifies our affections, and, by the communication of those qualities which have a relation to his Divine nature, begets us in His image and likeness, which is the new man of which Paul speaks, Eph. 4:23-24; Col. 3:10; and, as the Apostle Peter declares, we are made ‘partakers of the Divine nature.’ The fall of Adam has not deprived man of his subsistence or of his faculties, but has introduced into his understanding the darkness of ignorance, with malice and evil into his will, and disorder in his affections; so that, before his adoption and regeneration, he is by these vicious qualities the child of Satan, whose image he bears. The opposite of all this is that spiritual regeneration by means of which he is the child of God, consisting in the re-establishment of the uprightness of his faculties, and the abolition of those vicious qualities which have been introduced by sin” (Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans [London; Banner, 1958], pp. 357-358).

[2] “To be conformed to the image of His Son.—This implies that the children of God must all be made to resemble Christ, their head and elder brother. This likeness respects character and suffering, as well as all things in which such similarity is found to exist. The Lord Jesus Christ, the first elect of God, is the model after which all the elect of God must be formed. Man was created in the image of God; but when sin entered, he lost this image; and Adam ‘begat a son in his own likeness after his image,’ Gen. 5:3; thus communicating to his posterity his corrupted nature. But as God had determined to save a part of the fallen race, it was ‘according to his good pleasure’ to renew His image in those whom he had chosen to this salvation. This was to be accomplished by the incarnation of His Son, ‘who is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of His person,’ to whose image they were predestinated to be conformed. This image of the Son of God, consisting in supernatural, spiritual, and celestial qualities, is stamped upon all the children of God when they are adopted into his family. Imparting to them spiritual life, He renders them partakers of the Divine nature; that is to say, of His image, being the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. They are the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus, being born of the Spirit, and the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them; and he that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit. Thus the souls of believers are conformed to the image of Christ, as their bodies will be also at His second coming when they shall be fashioned like unto his glorious body.’ To this conformity to the image of His Son, all those whom God foreknew are predestinated. For as they have borne the image of the earthy, they shall also bear the image of the heavenly Adam (Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans [London; Banner, 1958], pp. 399-400).

George Smeaton (1814–1889): “The image of God, in which Adam was created, was replaced by the entire corruption of man’s nature (John 3:6). His understanding had been furnished with a true and saving knowledge of his Creator and of spiritual things; his heart and will had been upright; all his affections had been pure; and the whole man holy: but, revolting from God by the temptation of the devil, the opposite of all that image of God became his doleful heritage [Canons III/IV:1]; and his posterity derive corruption from their progenitor, not by imitation, but by the propagation of a vicious nature [Canons III/IV:2], which is incapable of any saving good. It is prone to evil, and dead in sin [Canons III/IV:3]. It is not denied that there still linger in man since the Fall some glimmerings of natural light, some knowledge of God and of the difference between good and evil, and some regard for virtue and good order in society. But it is all too evident that, without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, men are neither able nor willing to return to God, or to reform their natural corruption [Canons III/IV:4]” (The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, pp. 17-18; italics added).

John Kennedy of Dingwall (1819-1884): “Fallen man must be an alien, in relation to the living God, for he is dead; and he must be an enemy, to the holy God, for he is under the sway of sin. All the image of God is effaced from the soul of fallen man … He is at once sustained and accursed by God” (Man’s Relations to God [Scotland: The James Begg Society, 1995], pp. 28-29).

R. L. Dabney (1820-1898):This image [of God] has been lost, in the fall, and regained, in redemption. Hence, it could not have consisted in anything absolutely essential to man’s essence, because the loss of such an attribute would have destroyed man’s nature. The likeness which was lost and restored must consist, then, in some accidens” (Lectures in Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1972], p. 293; italics added).

“[R. L.] Dabney, for instance, holds that it [i.e., the image of God] does not consist in anything absolutely essential to man’s nature, for then the loss of it would have resulted in the destruction of man’s nature; but merely in some accidens” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, rev. 1996], p. 206; italics added).

Thomas E. Peck (1822-1893): “The hostility to truth, which is natural to all men, is a mournful evidence that the soul, which was created to be the temple of God and the residence of his glory, is now in ruins. The fire is not only extinguished upon the altar; the shekinah has not only been withdrawn and darkness been suffered to usurp an universal dominion, but that very darkness is filled with the damp of death, a pestilential vapor, which opposes and resists the entrance and existence of the light. That darkness is not a mere negation of light; it contains a positive principle of opposition to the light. This deplorable condition of the soul is frequently alluded to in the Scriptures. ‘The wicked,’ says the psalmist, ‘are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear, which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely.’ The wicked are here represented as characterized from the very womb by a love of falsehood, as infected with the ‘poison of the serpent,’ with that hatred of truth which belongs, by way of eminence, to the ‘old serpent,’ the devil, who was a liar from the beginning, and, in consequence of this condition of the heart, as wilfully shutting up their ears against the voice of God speaking in his word. ‘This is the condemnation,’ says the Saviour, ‘that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light; because their deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light; neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.’ These words afford a striking illustration of the desperate antipathy of the human heart to the truth of God, and also reveal the foundation of that antipathy … Every man comes into the world bearing the image of the devil, filled with malignity against God, and consumed with intensest selfishness. He makes his own glory his end, and his own will his law. It is perfectly natural for him, therefore, to hate the light, which reveals the character of God and his prerogatives as ruler of the universe. The sinner then perceives that he is the subject of a moral government whose law is pure and unchangeable, and whose penalty it is impossible to evade. He perceives that to live for himself, to make his own glory his end, and his own will his law, is just to live for hell, to treasure up ‘wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.’ That blessed truth of God’s absolute sovereignty, as it is that to which sin is, in its very essence, opposed, so it is that which causes the sinner the greatest uneasiness and pain. Enclosed and confined with the conviction of this truth, he raves and tosses and roars like ‘a wild bull in a net.’ The thought that he is wholly in the hands of that God before whose face the heavens and the earth flee away, whose word makes the very pillars of the universe to tremble, crushes him to the earth with apprehension and dismay; but the thought of being absolutely dependent upon that God for deliverance from the pains of hell; the thought that he can do absolutely nothing, and that if he is saved at all it must be by the mere sovereign pleasure of him ‘who will have mercy on whom he will have mercy,’ this is a thought far more agonizing still; and it is mere mercy if the pride and obstinate rebellion of his heart do not lead him to prefer damnation rather than salvation by sovereign grace; it is of mere mercy if that madness with which he gnashes his teeth upon this solemn truth be not converted into the madness of despair. The sense of God’s absolute supremacy, and consequently of the impossibility of any creature’s making his own will his law with impunity, is that which the sinner, engaged in his deeds of darkness, is unable to endure, and he therefore ‘hates the light, and will not come to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.’ The grand reason that men hate the truth is, that they are sinners” (The Writings of Thomas Peck, vol. 3, pp. 325-327; italics added).

G. Van Reenen (-1946): “God also created man after his own image. How is this to be understood: ‘created after his own image and likeness’? We are thereby to understand, that man expressed some likeness to his Creator; that man possessed some similarity to God, like as the son may possess some of the features of his father. The son may be like his father because of similarity in form and feature, or because of likeness in inclination and character. And he may be as liberal, bountiful, and kind as his father, and then it may be said: ‘That boy, bears a striking resemblance to his father.’ So it is in this latter sense that Adam bore the likeness of his Creator. He could not have borne such a likeness in the former sense. For, ‘God is a Spirit’ [John 4:24] and has no body; thus in external physical form we can never bear any likeness to God. There are some people who think that God created man after the form of the body of Jesus and for that reason say that we bear the image of God. But, I read in the Bible that Jesus is become like unto us in all things [Heb. 2:17]—sin excepted—and not that we were created after the form of that body, which Jesus was to receive four thousand years later. Then, there are others who teach that this image consisted in man’s dominion over the animals. But the Rev [Abraham] Hellenbroek [1658-1731] properly teaches in his ‘Specimen of Divine Truths,’ chapter 9, question seven, that, the dominion over the animals which Adam possessed ‘is a result of this image, and will not be perfect in heaven, where nevertheless the image of God will be most perfect.’ Friends, all those things are the ‘inventions’ spoken of in our text —’but they have sought out many inventions’ [Ecc. 7:29]. Truly, God is wise, indeed He is Wisdom itself, and He endowed man with some degree of this Wisdom; God is holy, yea, He is Holiness itself, and of this Holiness He also imparted a portion onto man; God is Righteous, and He also communicated a measure of this attribute to man. Thus man in the state of original righteousness, which might also be termed the state of innocence, was truly good, had a true knowledge of God, was righteous and holy, yes, in this respect, he truly bore a striking resemblance to his Creator … The greatest evil, then, is that we have lost the image of God, that glorious image in which our Creator made us. That image consisted in knowledge, righteousness and holiness. We have lost that image, we have lost that knowledge, righteousness and holiness. We now are foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another (Tit. 3:3). The greatest evil is that we are now image-bearers of the devil. Satan has impressed his image upon us, so that we now show the nature and character of the Satan” (The Heidelberg Catechism: Explained for the Humble and Sincere in 52 Sermons [Netherlands Reformed Congregations in America, 1955], pp. 35, 159; italics added).

A. W. Pink (1886-1952): “Even among those preachers who desire to be regarded as orthodox, who do not deny the Fall as a historical fact, few among them perceive the dire effects and extent thereof. ‘Bruised by the fall,’ as one popular hymn puts it, states the truth far too mildly; yea, entirely misstates it. Through the breach of the first covenant all men have lost the image of God, and now bear the image of the Devil (John 8:44). The whole of their faculties are so depraved that they can neither think (2 Cor. 3:5), speak, nor do anything truly good and acceptable unto God. They are by birth, altogether unholy, unclean, loathsome and abominable in nature, heart, and life; and it is altogether beyond their power to change themselves” (The Doctrine of Sanctification [Choteau, MT: Gospel Missions, n.d.], p. 45; italics added).

“Thus we are faced again with [Friedrich Karl] Schumann’s [1886-1960] question as to the meaning and legitimacy of the ‘widening’ of the concept of the image of God. The discussion as to the legitimacy of such a wider use has naturally centered around the well-known Scriptural passages in Genesis, James, and I Corinthians. Are these passages intended to call our attention to a permanent ‘analogy’ in respect to the wider aspects of the image, even though every other analogy, every other resemblance, has disappeared in man’s alienation from the life of God (Eph. 4:18)? Not only [Klaas] Schilder [1890-1952] but also [Edmund] Schlink [1903-1984] has vigorously denied this … Schumann goes even further: ‘God has impressed in the structure of man’s being the divine intention that man shall find the fulfillment of his existence only from God, in God and through God’” (G. C. Berkouwer, Man: The Image of God, trans. Dirk W. Jellema [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962], pp. 58-59; italics added).

Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965): “The distinction between the image of God in a narrower and in a wider sense … has never received official standing in Reformed churches [i.e., it is not taught in the Reformed confessions]. This distinction is neither innocent nor without danger to true doctrine. It is dangerous because it prepares room for the further philosophy that there are remnants of the image of God left in fallen man, and that therefore the natural man cannot be wholly depraved … the trouble is that words have meaning and that the real meaning of words will still assert itself regardless of false distinctions we may try to maintain. The term image of God conveys meaning that cannot very well be applied to a man who is changed into the image of the devil. The concept image of God carries a favorable connotation. It denotes goodness—moral, ethical, spiritual integrity. To state that man after the fall is an image bearer of the devil and at the same time to maintain that he still bears the image of God or a remnant of it does not harmonize and is flatly contradictory … The being who was designed to be the image of God changed into the image of the devil. It is only through the grace of Christ that the image of God is restored and raised to a higher, heavenly level and glory that can be lost never more” (Reformed Dogmatics [Grandville, MI: RFPA, repr. 2004], vol. 1, pp. 294, 302; italics added).

Klaas Schilder [1890-1952] … begins with a denial of the distinction between ‘wider’ and ‘narrower,’ which he says cannot be supported from Scripture. The appeal to Genesis 9 and James 3 must be rejected … and [also] I Corinthians 11:7 … Hence Schilder wishes to distinguish between creation and image. Man’s creation is indeed the precondition for the image, but it is not the image itself. The actual image lies in the office, the officium, created man received. We should not describe the image of God in terms of nature or qualities, but in terms of calling. The image of God does not refer to a static, ontic state, but to man’s service, man’s fulfilling his calling. The image is expressed in a dynamic and close fellowship with the God of the Covenant. And — says Schilder — the image exists only when that close contact, that communication, that loving relationship exists. For ‘not in static possessions of abstract adornments but only in dynamic discharge of his calling can man reflect God in His world here below.’ The word ‘image’ implies ‘making visible.’ God has given man the task of ‘representing Him on earth through being in His image’ … The creation of man, his whole created existence, is the background and presupposition for the image. But the actual image is found in the use of these created qualities in an active and dynamic service of God. Thus and only thus can man reflect God, mirror God, be in God’s image. The image of God does not consist of qualities in themselves, but in created man’s life in actu, in action, and in functioning” (G. C. Berkouwer, Man: The Image of God, trans. Dirk W. Jellema [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962], pp. 54, 55; italics added).

“Calvinist [A. D. R. Polman {1897-1993} provides a] sympathetic description of [Martin] Luther’s view on the image as ‘not a collection of static qualities, but a complete orientation towards God.’ Polman also views this orientation as central, and will not accept the image in the wider sense (with appeals to Gen. 9 and Jas. 3:9) or the image ‘as man’s essence in distinction from his nature’” (G. C. Berkouwer, Man: The Image of God, trans. Dirk W. Jellema [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962], p. 64, n. 50; italics added).

“[Edmund] Schlink [1903-1984] … speaks of a ‘true antinomy’ [i.e., contradiction], involving ‘both this — that the image of God can be wholly lost in man’s sin; and this — that the image of God can never be lost even in the greatest sin’ … [Genesis 9:6 does] not say that man ‘has’ the image of God, but rather that he was originally like God … Schlink has vigorously denied [that Genesis 9, I Corinthians 11 and James 3 teach that unbelievers are in God’s image] … Schlink, too, sees the reference to the creation of man in the image of God not as implying a permanent and inviolate analogia entis, but rather as indicating God’s remaining faithful to the creation of man in God’s image: ‘this original similarity is for Him the basis for His plan of salvation, which begins with the law, and this lost similarity again appears by way of the law as a demand made of man.’ Man thus no longer is the image of God because of some permanent analogy, but God has thoughts about man ‘in His mindfulness of the act of creation and in His objective for the new creation” (G. C. Berkouwer, Man: The Image of God, trans. Dirk W. Jellema [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962], p. 53, n. 34; p. 54, n. 38; p. 58; italics added).

G. C. Berkouwer (1903-1996): “Indeed, that the distinction between the broader and narrower meanings of the image of God is often criticised because of the arbitrariness and uncertainty of the delimitation of the image in a broader sense is quite understandable … Appealing to the ontic [or wider] aspect of the image can almost automatically lead to a relativizing of man’s corruption … This ontic [or broader] conception of the image tends next to become imperialistic and to encroach on the domain of the active aspect of the image, man’s conformitas to God! … we should always be alert for the dangers of stressing the image of God in fallen man. There is always the possibility that such accentuation is a result of a kind of thinking in which emphasis on man’s reason, freedom, and personality surely seriously weakens, if it does not destroy, the reality of sin and corruption … Do we not, then, in dealing with an image which is both kept and lost, have to do with a strange paradox, or a dialectic, or a mysterious antinomy, which invites confusion? … too often in distinguishing the image in the wider and narrower senses the two ‘images’ are placed alongside each other, as related merely mechanically … merely as dualistic co-ordinate concepts … Does not Scripture’s treatment of the image … deal with wealth and glory, and is not the image of God in man related to the likeness of a child to his father? Does it not refer to man’s activity, his response to God, his imaging of God, his serving God? Have not theologians discussing image in the narrower sense almost unanimously pointed to these also in their attempts to delimit the image? And then is it possible to talk meaningfully of a loss of the image in the narrower sense, and the retention of the image in a broader sense? Doesn’t the concept of two aspects of the image of God actually involve the postulating of two very different things, two separate images?It has proved impossible to bring any real clarity to the duality in the image, this ontic structure on the one hand, and man’s conformitas on the other. Despite all attempts to overcome the ‘antinomy’ involved and to develop a unified view of the image, the ‘twofold image’ remains stubbornly dualistic, because the image understood in the wider sense has a very different content than the image understood in the narrower sense … A synthesis is not possible because the two aspects of the image are tied in with two very different concepts … But if theologians attempt to equate the image in the wider sense … in terms of self, person and reason, then they are using concepts which are notably not used in Scripture with reference to the image. We are not then helped at all in our attempt to understand the meaning of the image of God in man … The whole Scriptural witness makes clear that our understanding of the image of God can be sound only when in unbreakable relation to the witness concerning Jesus Christ, who is called the image of God. Not only is the creation of the new man after the image of God spoken of in direct relation with Christ — in Christ — but He is Himself called the image, the ‘eikoon‘ of God. In II Corinthians 4:4, Paul writes of the ‘gospel of Christ, who is the image of God’ and in Colossians 1:15 of Christ, who has delivered us from the power of darkness, as ‘the image of the invisible God’ … It goes without saying that everything which the New Testament says about this reflection of God’s glory is Christologically redefined, and wholly so. Only through and in Him and through His Spirit is this visibility an actuality. The interest in showing forth the image is never abstractly or ontologically orientated … This becoming similar to Christ corresponds also to the relation between Christ as the first-born from the dead and the others; he is the first-born among many brothers (Col. 1:18, Rom. 8:29)” (Man: The Image of God, trans. Dirk W. Jellema [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962], pp. 40, 50, 51, 53, 57, 61, 62, 107, 112; italics added).

“These passages [i.e., Gen. 9:6; I Cor. 11:7; James 3:9] do not say that [unregenerate] man ‘has‘ the image of God … Cf. further [Cornelis] Vonk [1904-1993]” (G. C. Berkouwer, Man: The Image of God, trans. Dirk W. Jellema [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962], p. 54, n. 38; italics added).

Arthur Custance (1910–1985): “It is not, therefore, the possession of a faculty that constitutes in man the Imago Dei, but the possession of a relationship … [When a man is] born again, something which sets him apart from all unredeemed men and makes him a member of what is, in fact, a new species, the blameless family of God. He becomes related as a son to the Father and knows it. He knows it because the new spirit born within him bears witness to this fact in a self-conscious way and because he is assured of it by the Holy Spirit of God, whereby he cries, ‘Father’ (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6)” (Man in Adam and in Christ [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1975], Part 3, chapter 1, p. 9; italics added).

Homer C. Hoeksema (1923-1989):

[1] “It is perhaps even well not to speak of the image of God in the ‘[f]ormal’ and ‘material’ sense, though this distinction is much safer [than that of the image of God in the broader and narrower sense]. For after all, the ‘image of God in the formal sense’ is, strictly speaking, not the image of God in man, but his capacity to be an image bearer. And as such, he may bear either the image of God or the image of the devil. It is well, therefore, to limit ourselves to the language of our Canons and to include in the image of God only what this article [i.e., III/IV:1] included, namely, the excellent spiritual, ethical gift which man forfeited through his rebellion and fall” (The Voice of Our Fathers: An Exposition of the Canons of Dordrecht [Grand Rapids, MI: RFPA, 1980], pp. 433-434; italics added).

[2] “‘Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man’ [Gen. 9:6]. Man was made after Gods’ image. Notice that the text does not say that fallen man still possesses that image of God. This is not true. He has lost it and has become the image-bearer of the devil. But God made man in his image in the beginning [Gen. 1:26-27]. God made man so as to resemble himself. God made him in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. In man’s whole nature, with heart and mind and will and all his strength, when God breathed into man the breath of life, he so formed him that man would resemble God and reflect his perfections in a creaturely measure. such, briefly, is the idea of the image of God” (Unfolding Covenant History, vol. 2 [Grandville, MI: RFPA, 2001], p. 25; italics added).

David J. Engelsma (1939-): “Identification of the image in which Adam was created as something other than his original spiritual goodness of nature is serious doctrinal error. It underestimates the gravity of the fall: the loss of the spiritual likeness to God. Invariably, error concerning the image entails the notion that fallen man retained the image, or at least part of the image. This, in turn, involves the false doctrine that fallen man is still somewhat pleasing to God and even that he can contribute to his salvation, usually by a free will that he is thought to have retained. Retention of even a small portion of the image implies that fallen, unsaved man is still somewhat pleasing to God and capable of some good. Thus fallen man escapes the devastating judgment of the gospel upon him: dead in sin, incapable of any good. Neither is it Reformed orthodoxy, as outlined by article 14 of the Confession, to speak of the image in a ‘wider and narrower sense.’ This is common in Reformed circles, but wrongly. The thought is that man lost the image in the narrower sense, with reference to his original goodness, but retained the image in the broader sense, with reference to his mind and will. First, there is no creedal basis for this distinction. Second, the distinction teaches, and is intended to teach, fallen man’s retention of the image in some important respect. Since the image is obviously good and capable of willing and doing good, the result of the distinction, if not its purpose, is to teach that fallen man retains some good and some capability for good. Thus is denied total depravity. Thus is asserted fallen man’s retention of a free will upon which his salvation depends, to the denial of the gospel of grace” (The Belgic Confession: A Commentary, vol. 1 [Jenison, MI: RFPA, 2018], pp. 226-227; italics added).

Harry Fernhout: “The search to locate the image of God somewhere inside man can never become concretely meaningful. It can never give us comfort and encouragement because it is basically on the wrong track. The essence or heart of man cannot be found by looking inside him at some of his faculties. Rather the essence of man comes out in his way of relating to the bond with which God ties man to Himself, the “Love me and keep my commandments.” When God’s Word tells us that we are His image-bearers, it wants us to know not that we have certain qualities or abilities [e.g., man’s rationality or spirituality] which remain vague and difficult to relate to the bread and butter of daily living, but that we, in the very way we are put together, in our whole way of living and acting, must give a reflection of the king whom we serve” (Towards A Biblical View of Man: Some Readings, eds. Arnold H. De Graaf and James H. Olthuis [Toronto: AACS, 1978], p. 13; italics added).

Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (1991):

106. What was the image of God?
The image of God was this: A. Adam and Eve truly knew God as He wishes to be known and were perfectly happy in Him (Col. 3:10). B. They were righteous and holy, doing God’s will (Eph. 4:24).
107. Do people still have the image of God?
No, this image was lost when our first parents disobeyed God and fell into sin. Their will and intellect lost the ability to know and please God. In Christians God has begun to rebuild His image, but only in heaven will it be fully restored (Gen. 3:8-10; 5:3; I Cor. 2:14; Ps. 17:15) (Explanation of the Small Catechism, 1991; italics added).

Robin D. Fish:Man lost the image of God in sin … In order to more clearly see what the image of God is, we look at what we will be when restored. Scripture says much more about that … If we become like Christ, we become His image. Note Romans 8:29. But is that God’s image – that is, is it the same as the image of God from Genesis (after all, Jesus is God)? Look up 2 Corinthians 4:4. Also check Colossians 1:15. Man was the image of God, Jesus Christ is the image of God, and (Colossians 3:10) believers will be again. Notice what one element of the image is, according to Colossians 3:10 … Turn now to Ephesians 4:24. What other elements of the renewed image do we see?… Man today is not the image of God, but the image of Adam” (“What Does the Image of God Mean?” italics added).

Nathan J. Langerak: “When [I Corinthians 15] verses 49-50 speak of ‘image’ and ‘inherit,’ they define the relationship of men to either Adam or Christ as similar to that of a father to his children. ‘Image’ refers to his spiritual children. Children bear the image of their parents; they look like them and act like them. When Paul says ‘inherit,’ he reinforces the same idea of a parent-child relationship. There are two families that have existed. The one is headed by the first Adam and includes all men except the last Adam. The other family is headed by the last Adam and includes all his elect people … Fallen Adam corrupted his whole nature. He bore yet an image, but it was an image that was wholly corrupted by sin and was the image of the devil, his new spiritual father. All the light in Adam was changed into darkness. All his knowledge was changed into ignorance. All his righteousness became unrighteousness. All his holiness became separation from and hatred of God. That image Adam passed on to his children [Gen. 5:3]—an image of ignorance, darkness, unrighteousness, rebellion, and obstinacy against God. ‘As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy’ (I Cor. 15:48). All children of Adam receive only an image of corruption from him … When the apostle makes the parallel ‘as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly,’ he emphasizes that the human race is saved in Christ in the same way that it was lost in Adam. The whole human race was corrupted in Adam and lost God’s image because all humans were included in Adam and represented by him, so that his sin was imputed to them, his corruption was passed on to them, and they bore his image of corruption. In Adam man perished completely. Man need not commit another sin to be liable to temporal and eternal punishment. The deed of Adam was the issue; by his one sin the whole human race perished in him [Rom. 5:12ff.]. In the same way, a man bears the image of the heavenly by being incorporated into Christ, so that Christ is made his head, his work is imputed to him, and his quickening Spirit and all its life are bestowed on him [I Cor. 15:45] … Christ’s power as one who himself is the quickening Spirit is to bestow that heavenly, immortal, eternal life on his own and to make them heavenly and spiritual. He does not merely give Adam’s image back. Man does not need Adam’s image, either what he possessed in earthly perfection or what he possessed after the fall, because that image is no good for eternity. Man must have Christ’s image. Christ by the power of the quickening Spirit recreates his people in his own image so that they bear the image of the heavenly salvation consists of being incorporated into Christ. This salvation the apostle simply calls ‘incorruption’ (v. 50). Incorruption is such a life, such a glory, and such a power as to be beyond corruption. Incorruption is to be beyond the possibility of corruption. It is to possess the glorious, heavenly, and spiritual life that Christ received in his resurrection. By regeneration those who are in Christ are begotten again to an incorruptible and immortal life that cannot die. They cannot fall away into perdition and cannot go lost. At their deaths they are raised to heavenly glory in Christ’s Spirit. At the coming of Christ they will be fully recreated in the image of Christ, bear the image of the heavenly, and inherit incorruption body and soul in the eternal kingdom of God” (Walking in the Way of Love, vol. 2 [Jenison, MI: RFPA, 2019], pp. 450, 452, 454-455; italics added).

M. Gobac: “When approaching the doctrine of man it is important to understand how it affects the Gospel message, for if men do not see themselves as completely lost they will never seek a Saviour. Therefore, to say that man is still in the image of God after the Fall without being regenerated in Christ Jesus would be a denial of the vital doctrines of the antithesis, man’s original sin and true total depravity and [this] in turn would steal from the glory of God’s grace because the image of God can only be good and if man still has anything of it then he can not be totally depraved and would have something in which to boast before God” (“The True Image of God“)

The Reformed Confessions on the Image of God in Man

Large Emden Catechism (1551):
Q. 81. How should I understand this?
R. Indisputably, the image and likeness of God, in which man was created in the beginning, along with all inclinations for good, was lost in him.
Q. 82. How should I understand this?
R. This image of God was in Adam in the beginning, by virtue of which he was immortal, holy, wise, and lord of the entire world, and thus was endowed with the freedom and ability to either completely execute or disregard the commandment of God. However, the image of God in himself and in all of us he so destroyed by his sin, that henceforth, all offerings intended for goodness were utterly destroyed both in himself and in all of us (Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation [Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008], vol. 1, p. 607).

Scottish Confession (1560):
3. By which transgression, commonly called original sin, was the image of God utterly defaced in man; and he and his posterity of nature, became enemies of God, slaves to Satan, and servants to sin.

Confession of the Spanish Congregation of London (1560/61):
4:1. We confess that, man, at his creation, having received from the hand of God the powers of wisdom and the ability and will to know, love, and serve his Creator, persisting in his obedience (which is commonly called free will), received also a law (Gen. 2), in the obedience of which he exercised these admirable gifts; which, breaking by his own free will (Gen. [3]), at the same time was marred from the image of God, and all the benefits that make him like God. And from the state of being wise, good, just, truthful, merciful, and holy he was rendered ignorant, evil, impious, a liar, and cruel, clothed in the image and likeness of the devil toward whom he moved as he departed from God, with the loss of that holy liberty with which he was created (Eccl. 7; 2 Peter 2), and thus was made a slave and servant of sin and of the devil (Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation [Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010], vol. 2, p. 376).

Belgic Confession (1561):
14. We believe that God created man out of the dust of the earth, and made and formed him after his own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy, capable in all things to will, agreeably to the will of God. But being in honour, he understood it not, neither knew his excellency, but willfully subjected himself to sin, and consequently to death, and the curse, giving ear to the words of the devil. For the commandment of life, which he had received, he transgressed; and by sin separated himself from God, who was his true life, having corrupted his whole nature; whereby he made himself liable to corporal and spiritual death. And being thus become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways, he hath lost all his excellent gifts, which he had received from God, and only retained a few remains thereof, which, however, are sufficient to leave man without excuse; for all the light which is in us is changed into darkness, as the Scriptures teach us, saying: The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not: where St. John calleth men darkness …

Larger Catechism of Zacharias Ursinus (c. 1562):
1. Q. What firm comfort do you have in life and in death?
A. That I was created by God in his image for eternal life; and after I willfully lost this in Adam, God, out of infinite and free mercy, took me into his covenant of grace that he might give me by faith, righteousness and eternal life because of the obedience and death of his Son who was sent in the flesh. And that he sealed his covenant in my heart by his Spirit, who renews me in the image of God and cries out in me, “Abba,” Father, by his Word and the visible signs of this covenant.

12. Q. What is this image?
A. A true knowledge of God and the divine will and the inclination and desire of the whole man to live according to God’s will alone.

19. Q. Why are we unable to fulfill it?
A. Because we lost the image of God.

107. Q. Why is he called “Spirit”?
A. Not only because he is God, but especially because he is the person through whom the Father and the Son make us alive and move our hearts.

108. Q. Why “Holy”?
A. Because he is God and makes us like God.  

Heidelberg Catechism (1563):
Q. 6. Did God then create man so wicked and perverse?
A. By no means; but God created man good, and after his own image, in true righteousness and holiness, that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love him and live with him in eternal happiness to glorify and praise him.

Q. 86. Since then we are delivered from our misery merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?
A. Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by His blood, also renews us by His Holy Spirit after His own image; that so we may testify by the whole of our conduct our gratitude to God for His blessings, and that He may be praised by us; also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith by the fruits thereof; and that by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ.

Q. 115.  Why will God then have the ten commandments so strictly preached, since no man in this life can keep them?
A.  First, that all our lifetime we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature, and thus become the more earnest in seeking the remission of sin and righteousness in Christ; likewise, that we constantly endeavor, and pray to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we may become more and more conformable to the image of God, till we arrive at the perfection proposed to us in a life to come.

Documents of the Debrecen Synod (1567):
First, since the image of God was lost by Adam, it was restored through the image of the infinite God, consubstantial and equal with the Father, i.e., Christ was made to us righteousness, life, truth, and sanctification; that is, He restored our lost virtues (1 Cor. 1; Col. 1-2; Eph. 1, 3; 1 Cor. 15). “Day by day, we are renewed more and more to His image through the Spirit of God” (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18). “Put on the new man, who has been created in accordance with God” (Eph. 4:24) … Therefore Christ, by the power of His deity, has restored the image of God, the lost virtues (Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation [Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012], vol. 3, pp. 17-18).

The Synod at Szikszó (1568):
XII. They err exceedingly who speak the nonsense that the image of God in which man was made was the future humanity of Christ, since it is the virtues that are communicated to men: righteousness, holiness, wisdom (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). And the first man is said to be the form of the future, not the image of man (Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation [Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012], vol. 3, p. 151).

Craig’s Catechism (1581):
Q. In whose image made He them? (Gen. 1:26)
A. In His own image.
Q. What is the image of God? (Eph. 4:24)
A. Perfect uprightness in body and soul.

Q. What was the craft of Satan here?
A. He persuaded them that good was evil and evil was good.
Q. How could they be persuaded, having the image of God?
A. They had the image, but not the gift of constancy.
Q. What things did they lose through their fall? (Gen. 3:17)
A. The favor and image of God, with the use of the creatures.
Q. What succeeded the loss of the favor and image of God? (Gen. 3:14)
A. The wrath of God and original sin.
Q. What is original sin? (Rom. 5:19; 7)
A. The corruption of our whole nature

Q. In what did their salvation stand?
A. In the remission of their sin and repairing of God’s image.
Q. What followed upon the repairing of God’s image? (Rom. 7:5)
A. A continual battle both within and without.
Q. From whence does this battle proceed?
A. From the two contrary images in mankind.
Q. What are these images?
A. The image of God and the image of the serpent (Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation [Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012], vol. 3, pp. 545, 546, 549).

Canons of Dordt (1618-1619):
III/IV:1. Man was originally formed after the image of God. His understanding was adorned with a true and saving knowledge of his Creator, and of spiritual things; his heart and will were upright; all his affections pure; and the whole man was holy; but revolting from God by the instigation of the devil, and abusing the freedom of his own will, he forfeited these excellent gifts; and on the contrary entailed on himself blindness of mind, horrible darkness, vanity and perverseness of judgment, became wicked, rebellious, and obdurate in heart and will, and impure in his affections.

III/IV:2. Man after the fall begat children in his own likeness. A corrupt stock produced a corrupt offspring. Hence all the posterity of Adam, Christ only excepted, have derived corruption from their original parent, not by imitation, as the Pelagians of old asserted, but by the propagation of a vicious nature.

III/IV:3. Therefore all men are conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto, and without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit they are neither able nor willing to return to God, to reform the depravity of their nature, nor to dispose themselves to reformation.

III/IV:R:2. [The Synod rejects the errors of those] Who teach that the spiritual gifts, or the good qualities and virtues, such as goodness, holiness, righteousness, could not belong to the will of man when he was first created, and that these, therefore, could not have been separated therefrom in the fall.

Westminster Confession (1646):
4:2. After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it: and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.

Westminster Larger Catechism (1647):
Q. 17. How did God create man?
A. After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man out of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness.

Q. 75. What is sanctification?A. Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God hath, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.

Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647):
Q. 10. How did God create man?
A. God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

Q. 35. What is sanctification?
A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

Waldensian Confession (1662):
VIII. That man, who was created pure and holy in God’s image, by his own fault deprived himself of that blessed estate, having believed the lying words of the devil.
Proofs: Eccl. 7:29; Gen. 1:26-27; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14; Rom. 5:12.

IX. That in his transgression man lost the righteousness and holiness he received, incurring the wrath of God, death, and captivity under the power of the one who has the power of death, namely the devil; so that his free will became a slave of sin and by nature all men, Jews and Gentiles, are children of wrath, dead in trespasses and sins; and are consequently incapable of anything good towards salvation and indeed of any good thought without grace; for all his thoughts are only evil at all times.
Proofs: Rom. 3:9; 5:12; John 8:34; Rom. 6:17; Eph. 2:1; Rom. 8:7; 1 Cor. 2:14; Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Jer. 17:9; Matt. 7:18; John 6:44; 15:5; 3:5, 27; 1 Cor. 2:11, 14; 12:3; 2 Cor. 3:5 (Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation [Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014], vol. 4, pp. 502-503).

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