The Hexaemeron or Creation-Week (10): The Creation of Man (3)

We concluded our discussion of the origin of the soul in our previous article with the remark that Rev. Hoeksema offers us another solution of this problem, and promised to quote in this article from his book: In The Midst of Death. This quotation we may read on pages 155-156, and is as follows: “All these objections would seem to suggest that the distinction of the human being in body and soul cannot serve as a basis for the explanation of the propagation of original corruption. It does not offer us the proper working hypothesis. The reason for this must, perhaps, be found in the fact that it is not clearly defined what is meant by “soul”. In Scripture, too, the word for soul has different connotations. Sometimes it is used for the whole man; in other passages it is properly translated by life; while again in other parts of the Bible the meaning of the term closely approximates that of spirit. It would seem expedient, then to proceed from a little different point of view, and choose another distinction between person and nature. The whole living nature of man is propagated through generation, conception, and birth. But this propagation of the human nature takes place under the operation of an act of providence whereby that nature becomes a personal nature. This distinction and explanation has this in its favor, that it is in accord with what we confess concerning the incarnation. Also in the incarnation of the Son of God the whole human nature, we believe, is conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary and born from her. But the Son of God assumed an impersonal human nature: the Person also in this case came from God, is, in fact, the very second Person of the Holy Trinity Himself. If, then, the human nature is become corrupt in paradise, and the whole human nature in each individual child that is born comes from the parents through conception and birth, we can conceive of the possibility that a “corrupt stock produces a corrupt offspring,” and that, as the Catechism expresses it: “our nature is become so corrupt, that we are all conceived and born in sin.”—end of quote.

Created in the Image of God.

First, we would present to our readers a short historical review of this concept. We read in Gen. 1:26; “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” As far as the distinction is concerned between “image” and “likeness” some have declared that the one word refers to the body whereas the other refers to the soul of man. Augustine held that the “image” referred to the intellectual, and the “likeness” referred to the moral faculties of the soul. Others, as the Roman Catholics, maintained that the “image” was a designation of the natural gifts of man, whereas the “likeness” was a description of that which was supernaturally added to man.

Professor Berkhof, in his “Reformed Dogmatics”, gives us the following historical review of this concept which we wish to quote, pages 206-208.

BERKHOF’S HISTORICAL REVIEW

“1. The Reformed Conception. The Reformed Churches, following in the footsteps of Calvin, have a far more comprehensive conception of the image of God than either the Lutherans or the Roman Catholics. But even “they do not all agree as to its exact contents. Dabney, for instance, holds that it 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 accidents. McPherson, on the other hand, asserts that it belongs to the essential nature of man, and says that “Protestant theology would have escaped much confusion and many needless and unconvincing doctrinal refinements, if it had not encumbered itself with the idea that it was bound to define sin as the loss of the image, or of something belonging to the image. If the image were lost man would cease to be man. These two, then, would seem to be hopelessly at variance. Other differences are also in evidence in Reformed theology. Some would limit the image to the moral qualities of righteousness and holiness with which man was created, while others would include the whole moral and rational nature of man, and still others would also add the body. Calvin says that the proper seat of the image of God is in the soul, though some rays of its glory also shine in the body. He finds that the image consisted especially in that original integrity of man’s nature, lost by sin, which reveals itself in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. At the same time he adds further “that the image of God extends to everything in which the nature of man surpasses that of all other species of animals. This broader conception of the image of God became the prevalent one in Reformed theology. Thus Witsius says: “The image of God consisted antecendenter, in man’s spiritual and immortal nature; formaliter, in his holiness; consequenter, in his dominion.” A very similar opinion is expressed by Turretin. To sum up it may be said that the image consists: (a) In the soul or spirit of man, that is, in the qualities of simplicity, spirituality, invisibility, and immortality, (b) In the psychical powers or faculties of man as a rational and moral being, namely, the intellect and the will with their functions, (c) In the intellectual and moral integrity of man’s nature, revealing itself in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10. (d) In the body, not as a material substance, but as the fit organ of the soul, sharing its immortality; and as the instrument through which man can exercise dominion over the lower creation, (e) In man’s dominion over the earth. In opposition to the Socinians, some Reformed scholars went too far in the opposite direction, when they regarded this dominion as something that did not belong to the image at all but was the result of a special disposal of God. In connection with the question, whether the image of God belongs to the very essence of man, Reformed theology does not hesitate to say that it constitutes the essence of man. It distinguishes, however, between those elements in the image of God which man cannot lose without ceasing to be man, consisting in the essential qualities and powers of the human soul; and those elements which man can lose and still remain man, namely, the good ethical qualities of the soul and its powers. The image of God in this restricted sense is identical with what is called original righteousness. It is the moral perfection of the image, which could be and was, lost by sin.

2. The Lutheran Conception. The prevailing Lutheran conception of the image of God differs materially from that of the Reformed. Luther himself sometimes spoke as if he had a broad conception of it’, but in reality he had a restricted view of it. 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 restrict it to the spiritual qualities with which man was originally endowed, that is, what is called original righteousness. In doing this they do not sufficiently recognize the essential nature of mail as distinct from that of the angels on the one hand, and from that of the animals on the other hand. In the possession of this image men are like the angels, who also possess it; and in comparison with what the two have in common, their difference is of little importance. Man lost the image of God entirely through sin, and what now distinguishes him from the animals has very little religious or theological significance. The great difference between the two lay in the image of God, and this man has lost entirely. In view of this it is also natural that the Lutherans should adopt traducianism, and thus teach that the soul of man originates like that of the animal, that is, by procreation. It also accounts for the fact that the Lutherans hardly recognizes the moral unity of the human race, but emphasize strongly its physical unity and the exclusively physical propagation of sin. Barth comes closer to the Lutherans than to the Reformed position when he seeks the image of God in “a point of contact” between God and man, a certain conformity with God, and then says that this was not only ruined but even annihilated by sin.

3. The Roman Catholic View. Roman Catholics do not altogether agree in their conception of the image of God. We limit ourselves here to a statement of the prevailing view among them. They hold that God at creation endowed man with certain natural gifts, such as the spirituality of the soul, the freedom of the will, and the immortality of the body. Spirituality, freedom, and immortality, are natural endowments, and as such constitute the natural image of God. Moreover, God “attempered” (adjusted) the natural powers of man to one another, placing the lower in due subordination to the higher. The harmony thus established is called justitia-natural righteousness. But even so there remained in man a natural tendency of the lower appetites and passions to rebel against the authority of the higher powers of reason and conscience. This tendency, called concupiscence, is not itself sin, but becomes sin when it is consented to by the will and passes into voluntary action. In order to enable man to hold his lower nature in check, God added to the dona naturalia certain dona supernaturalia. These included the donum superadditum of original righteousness (the supernatural likeness to God), which was added as a foreign gift to the original constitution of man, either immediately at the time of creation, or at some later point as a reward for the proper use of the natural powers. These supernatural gifts, including the donum superadditum of original righteousness, were lost by sin, but their loss did not disrupt the essential nature of man.

4. Other Views of the Image of God. According to the Socinians and some of the earlier Arminians the image of God consists in man’s dominion over the lower creation, and in this only. Anabaptists maintained that the first man, as a finite and earthly creature, was not yet the image of God, but could become this only by regeneration. Pelagians, most of the Arminians, and Rationalists all, with little variation, find the image of God only in the free personality of man, in his rational character, his ethico-religious disposition, and his destiny to live in communion with God.”—end of quote.

Let us first attend to the Roman Catholic view. Roman Catholicism views the image of God in Adam, not as belonging to his essence (according to Rome, therefore, man is not essentially the image of God) but as added to Adam, a gift which they call “donum superadditum,” i.e., an added gift. Man, then, is a complete being without this image. He can lose it and remain man, and, what is more, a good man. Man consists, without this image, of a lower and a higher existence. The lower part of his existence is the matorial and the higher form of his existence is the spiritual. It is his calling to pursue after that which is spiritual, to live according to the spiritual aspect of his existence. However, he finds it extremely difficult to do so because he is hindered by the lower, the material aspect of his being. To aid him now in that struggle to live according to the spiritual aspect of his existence, God gave him the added gift of His image, also called original righteousness. This added gift of original righteousness is as a gold chain which has been added to and is adapted to his nature and which aids him in his struggle against the flesh. When man fell he lost this image, this added gift of original righteousness. This view, we should and do understand, is surely a serious heresy. It is nothing else than Pelagianism. Mind you, man simply lost his added gift, the added gift of original righteousness. This means, in other words, that he did not become essentially and radically corrupt. All he lost was the added help to aid him in his struggle against the flesh. This, we say, is a serious error. Scripture knows nothing of such a presentation. We are simply told that God created man in His own image and after His own likeness. Hence, man was created in that imago. This image was, therefore, not merely an incidental, something added to what Adam originally was. The image was not something given to Adam after he had been created by the Almighty. He had it from the very beginning. Besides, this is simply Pelagianism, the denial of the truth that man became wholly corrupt. And it is well that we emphasize this today because of the teaching of the Christian Reformed Churches. They teach, do they not, that the sinner, without regeneration, without the renewal of the heart, can please God, can, in fact, accept the proffered salvation which is graciously extended to him even as it is extended to all who come under the preaching of the gospel.

We also wish to say a few words about the distinction: image of God in the broader and narrower sense. Prof. Berkhof also mentions this distinction when he writes, page 207: “In connection with the question, whether the image of God belongs to the very essence of man, Reformed theology does not hesitate to say that it constitutes the essence of man. It distinguishes, however, between those elements in the image of God which man cannot lose without ceasing to be man, consisting in the essential qualities and powers of the human soul; and those elements which man can lose and still remain man, namely, the good ethical qualities of the soul and its powers. The image of God in this restricted sense is identical with what is called original righteousness. It is the moral perfection of the image, which could be, and was lost, lost by sin.” It must be granted that this distinction has been rather generally accepted as belonging to Reformed doctrine. What is meant by this distinction? The image of God in the broader or wider sense refers, then, to man’s rationality and morality and immortality. And the image of God in the narrower sense refers to his true knowledge of God, his righteousness and holiness. The former implies all that distinguishes man from the lower animals, whereas the latter is his original state of righteousness and holiness. The latter man lost through the fall whereas the former he retained. In a wider sense man still retains this image of God. However, he no longer possesses his original righteousness. What must be our judgment of this distinction? First, this distinction does not appear in our Confessions. Lord’s Day 3 simply informs us that our nature is become so corrupt that we are all conceived and born in sin, and also that we are incapable of doing any good and inclined to all wickedness except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God. In Art. 14 of our Confession of Faith we read: “But being in honor, 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.” And the same thought is expressed in the Canons of Dordrecht, III and IV, Art. 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.” Here we read that man was originally formed after the image of God, that his understanding was adorned with a true and saving knowledge of his Creator, and of spiritual things, etc., and also that he simply lost or forfeited these excellent gifts and entailed on himself horrible darkness, vanity and perverseness of judgment, etc. Secondly, we believe that this is a dangerous distinction. To be sure, as long as one maintains that the image of God in the narrower sense was completely lost very little harm will result and can occur. But the trouble is that words and terms have meanings. And it is not merely a question how I may interpret a certain term, but also how a certain term can be interpreted. Using words and terms which permit erroneous interpretations is like playing with fire. This, we firmly believe, also applies to the late discussion in our churches about “conditions.” And the fact remains that when we speak of the image of God in a wider and narrower sense, that man retained the former and lost the latter, we are speaking of a certain retaining of the image of God. The result has been that today they speak of a retention of the image of God by man, also in the narrower sense, so that man has not become wholly corrupt but has retained remnants of his original righteousness whereby he is enabled to do things which are favorable in the sight of God. Hence, we reject the distinction which is often made today with respect to the concept: image of God in man, the distinction namely of the image in the broader and narrower sense. How, then, should we conceive of this image of God in man? This question we will attempt to answer in our following article.