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Ars Politica - Ep13: Dignity and the Image of God

Published on: 21st January, 2021

R.C. Sproul:

“Other theologians argue that image and likeness are really synonyms in this verse, so we cannot make a neat distinction between the two. They—including most traditional Protestant theologians—explain the situation this way: There is a wider sense in which man is the image of God (imago essentialis), and also a narrow or particular sense (imago conformitas). In the wider sense, man simply is the image of God, and since that is what man is by definition, it cannot be changed or lost. As long as man is man, he is the image of God.

“In the narrow sense, however, man images God’s holiness and righteousness. Man, therefore, stopped imaging God at the Fall. He lost his conformity to God’s image. We are still the image of God, but we are distorting that image. If other people look at us to see what God is like, they will get the wrong idea, because we image Him imperfectly. Only in Jesus Christ do we see a man who is the perfect image of God in both senses.” – R.C. Sproul, Tabletalk Magazine, August 1990: Parables: Kernels of Truth, 40.

Turretin on the dignity of man:

"Fifth, the dignity of man himself [Hominis ipsius dignitas] demands the same thing [that the promise given to Adam was not only of a happy life to be continued in paradise, but of a heavenly and eternal life]. Since his noblest part is spirit (even of heavenly origin) touched with a vehement desire of heavenly goods (by which alone its infinite appetite for the highest good can be satisfied), he could not obtain on earth his full felicity, but must be gifted with it at length in heaven where he can enjoy the fullest and most perfect communion with God, in whom his highest good resides. For although on earth he could in some measure give himself to be enjoyed, it is certain that the immediate and absolute fruition of God is not to be sought apart from the beatific vision which can be looked for only in heaven." IET 8.6.8

"Although the body of Adam was in origin earthy (and as composed, so also resolvable, through the indisposition of matter), yet it could have been immortal through the dignity of original righteousness [originalis justitiae dignitatem] and the power of God’s special grace." IET 5.12.9

"We maintain that the loss of the divine image (or of original righteousness) followed the fall of Adam doubly—both meritoriously and morally (on account of the divine ordination) and efficiently and really (on account of the heaviness of that sin)."

"By the divine image, we do not understand generally whatever gifts upright man received from God (spoken of in Gen. 1:26, 27) or specially certain remains of it existing in the mind and heart of man after the fall (in which sense we understand Gen. 9:6 and Jam. 3:9). Rather we understand it strictly of the principal part of that image which consisted of holiness and wisdom."

Jonathan Edwards:

“Before I dismiss this head of the degenerating of experiences, I would mention one thing more that tends to it; and that is, persons aiming in their experience to go beyond the rule of God's Word, i.e. aiming at that which is indeed, in some respect, beyond the rule. Thus some persons have endeavoured utterly to root out and abolish all natural affection, or any special affection or respect to their near relations, under a notion that no other love ought to be allowed but spiritual love, and all that other love is to be abolished as carnal, and that it becomes Christians to love none upon the account of any thing else but the image of God; and that therefore love should go out to one and another only in that proportion in which the image of God is seen in them. They might as well argue that a man ought utterly to disallow of, and endeavor to abolish, all love or appetite to his daily food, under a notion that it is a carnal appetite, and that no other appetite should be tolerated but spiritual appetites. Why should the saints strive after that, as a high attainment in holiness, which the apostle in Rom. i. 31. mentions as one instance wherein the heathen had got to the most horrid pass in wickedness, viz. being without natural affections? ... The Creator of the world has put them in us, for the good of mankind, and because He saw they would be needful for them, as they must be united in society in the present state, and are of great use when kept in their proper place; and to endeavour totally to root them out, would be to reproach and oppose the wisdom of the Creator. Nor is the being of these natural inclinations, if well regulated, inconsistent with any part of our duty to God, or any argument of a sinful selfishness, any more than our natural abhorrence of pain, and the natural inclination to ease that was in the man Christ Jesus Himself. 

“It is the duty of parents to be more concerned and to pray more for the salvation of their children, than for the children of their neighbors; as it is the duty of a minister to be more concerned for the salvation of the souls of his flock, and to pray more for them, than those of other congregations, because they are committed to his care. So our near friends are more committed to our care than others, and our near neighbors, than those that live at a great distance; and the people of our land and nation are more, in some sense, committed to our care than the people of China, and we ought to pray more for them, and to be more concerned that the kingdom of Christ should flourish among them, than in another country, where it would be as much, and no more, for the glory of God.” – Thoughts on the Revival; part iv. section 3

Samuel Rutherford, Lex Rex:

"There is a dignity material in the people scattered they being many representations of God and his image, which is in the king also, and formally more as king, he being endued with formal magistratical and public royal authority. In the former regard, this or that man is inferior to the king, because the king hath that same remainder of the image of God that any private man hath, and something more he hath a politic resemblance of the King of heavens, being a little god, and so is above any one man."

Althusius, Politica:

"Concord is fostered and protected by fairness (aequabilitas) when right, liberty, and honor are extended to each citizen according to the order and distinction of his worth (dignitatis) and status."

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About the Podcast

Ars Politica
Politics, Culture, and Theology
A podcast on political life, culture, and Christian political theory that seeks to revitalize the Christian West and restore the strength, dignity, and self-respect of European civilization among its remnant.

About your hosts

Stephen Wolfe

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Stephen Wolfe lives in Louisiana with his wife and four children. He has a PhD in political theory and writes on Reformed political theory and early American political thought.

Thomas Achord

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Thomas Achord lives in the rural South with his wife and four children. He has an M.Div. from Southern Seminary and is the headmaster of a Christian Classical school. He has published “The Soul And The City”, an anthology on political and moral thought.