Human Sin and the Image of God – Baptist News Global

Advent is ahead of us, and in my house at least, we are already overwhelmed with Christmas decorations, music and movies. Peppermint crust sweets are already at hand. Christmas plates, cups and glasses are out. Our tree has been raised until November 29! My wife, Jeanie, is celebrating Christmas right.

At the Catholic Mass of the first Sunday of Advent, the priestly sermon contained a verse that resonated with me. He said, “Jesus did not come into the world to make us gods. He came to make us true people. ”

David gushee

Although I know that this claim hardly exhausts the meaning of the incarnation, I believe it is deeply important. This is an important aspect of the theology of “Christian humanism” that I have accepted After evangelization (2020) and on which I had previously worked under other conditions. In three fasts from now until Christmas, I want to offer a theological account of what it means to say that Christ came into the world to make human beings truly human. These posts are loosely adapted from my 2013 book. The sanctity of human life.

Genesis 1 says that human beings were created in the image and likeness of God (1: 26-27). Image of you The concept plays an important role in most contemporary Christian theological treatments on the nature, dignity and rights of human beings.

Whether it is understood that the image of God consists in our sublime rational, spiritual and moral abilities, in our delegated responsibility for the earth and other creatures, in our originally intended immortality, or perhaps as a statement that humans are the only permitted divine representations on earth, imago dei it has long been considered to give a sublime moral status to human life.

Genesis 9, quite significantly, cites the reason why murder is forbidden: “I will demand a showdown for human life … because God created men in his own image” (9: 5-6). Almost all Christian human rights documents make fundamental claims about the image of God. Precisely because people are created in the image of God, human life has dignity, human life must be protected and human rights must be respected.

“Precisely because humans are created in the image of God, human life has dignity, human life must be protected and human rights must be respected.”

However, some Christian theologians, taking the Christian meta-narrative of creation / fall / redemption as normative, like me, have argued that the image of God has not survived (in whole or in part) the entry of sin into the world. Christian traditions and theologians disagree on whether, or what components, or to what extent, the image of God in humanity has survived the decline.

Given the great importance attached to it imago dei in Christian theology and ethics this is no small matter. If it is imago dei was lost by the fall, and then to make modern moral claims based on imago dei it is completely illegitimate. This would nullify the essential theological basis of a major work on human rights and other issues.

A review of historical Christian confessions reminds us that the focus of Christian theology is correct and that it has always been God’s saving activity in Christ, not the smallest details concerning human nature. However, the general pattern in relation to this issue that the Catholic tradition affirms seems to be weakened but still present imago dei even in fallen humanity, he still uses the concept of the image of God to establish his human rights and demands for human dignity. Eastern Orthodox theology distinguishes between “images” and “opportunities” and uses it to preserve something good in fallen humanity, but also the need for our comprehensive moral and spiritual reclamation. Some versions of traditional Protestant theology claim that the image of God in humanity has been destroyed. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for example, says that the image of God was completely lost when Adam fell: “Human beings lost their own, God-like essence, which they had from God. They now live without their essential purpose, to be the image of God. Human beings live without being real people. ”

I do not see clear evidence in the Hebrew Bible that the image of God was completely lost by the entry of sin into the world. The imago dei is obviously reaffirmed in Genesis 5: 1-2 i clear reaffirmed in Genesis 9: 5-6, in the same original history in which the story of the fall takes place. No more can be said than that, for the concept does not appear anywhere else in the Hebrew Bible.

“I do not see in the Hebrew Bible any clear evidence of the teaching that the image of God is completely lost by the entry of sin into the world.”

Perhaps silence is relevant to the argument. In any case, it’s not unbelievable to claim that something is fundamentally wrong with human beings – no biblical unbelievable, because claims of human sinfulness abound in Scripture, not experientially unbelievable, as we witness the constant hesitation of our and other people to understand what it means to be a true, complete, meaningful, successful, human being.

Bonhoeffer’s claim that humans have lost some of our conceived Divine essence, essential purpose, and ability to be “true humans” makes so much sense as we look around. Think of the violence, cruelty, injustice, stupidity, weakness, and despair that afflict human life. Imagine a 15-year-old carrying a gun to his classmates on an average high school day. This pessimistic interpretation of the narrative of creation and decline, in which human life has staggered through the millennia, but is fundamental to what it means to be human hidden from us, or lost to us, or damaged in us, has some convincing power.

If salvation is to come to us, as Advent promises, we will need some kind of help that goes to the core. We need someone to show us what it means to be a real person and help us become that. The New Testament has something to say about that. That will be the focus of my next post.

David P. Gushee is a leading Christian ethicist. He serves as a distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University and is a former president of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Christian Ethics. He is the author Kingdom Ethics, After evangelization, i Changing our mindset: A significant call for the inclusion of LGBTQ Christians. He and his wife Jeanie live in Atlanta. Learn more: or Facebook.

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