03 July 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

This image of God in man is something which is not absolutely lost, but is fearfully marred. -- Krauth, *The Conservative Reformation* p. 371


Rev. Christopher S. Esget said...

Do you agree with Krauth's statement, Pr. Weedon? The LCMS explanation of the Small Catechism, for example, says: "Do people still have the image of God? No, this image was lost when our first parents disobeyed God and fell into sin." (Q107)

William Weedon said...

I do agree with Krauth, and think the Synodical Catechism overstates the case. Krauth gives these passages to explain his point:

1 Cor. xi. 7; James iii. 9; Eph. iv. 24; and Col. iii. 10.

BUT Krauth goes on to explicate the depths of original sin in such a way as to leave ZERO possibility for Pelagian or semi-Pelagian understanding. He explcitily acknowledges the Greek fathers' understanding of a distinction between image and likeness and holds this to be incorrect. Have you read the work, Christopher? I'd love your thoughts on the whole of it. I'm flabbergasted that it was not required reading at St. Louis. Just working through the depths of his treatment of original sin, I am left with the sad conclusion that I have neither been taught nor studied on my own this subject as I should! Kyrie, eleison! [I thus add the lack of studying this work to the lack of studying Preuss on Justification as the two huge ommissions in my seminary education].

William Weedon said...

By the way, when the work preparatory 1986 Catechism was sent out for review, I protested then that the way the Catechism dealt with the subject of image was not entirely faithful to the way Scripture itself speaks, but I never got an answer and the matter remained unchanged.

It is thus one of three problem areas in the explanation: 1. image of God. 2. prayers for the dead (the Explanation forbids and our Symbols state we do NOT forbid). 3. the mess located under the Office of the Keys where the words of the Catechism itself are consistently ignored.

wm cwirla said...

Yes, fortunately we subscribed to the Lutheran Confessions, not a parochial explanation of them. I too share those same objections to the synodical explanations, and a few more.

I believe that the "image of God" continues to be exhibited by us in human creativity, especially the arts and crafts, wherein we are driven to create something out of "nothing," or at least near-nothing. As you say, sin has so hopelessly tarnished the image of God in us that it is not recognizable, nor do the works of our hands reflect our Creator with any degree of fidelity.

I think it's a misstep to speak of the image of God being "lost" rather than hopeless tarnished and covered over, until washed clean by the blood of the Lamb.

Krauth rocks, no question about it. His is a refreshing kind of confessional Lutheranism that doesn't have the baggage to which we have grown accustomed. He's a reminder that confessional orthodoxy is much more lively and much less monolithic than many realize.

William Weedon said...

William, right out *Mind of the Maker*! A glorious book, indeed. Amen and Amen.

BUT if you knew about Krauth before WHY didn't you tell me I had to read him??? I think of the tribulations of the last several years and how utterly DIFFERENT they would have been if someone had put this book in my hand. Did you read him in seminary? Or did Korby or Nagel point you his way?

Rev. Christopher S. Esget said...

Thanks for your fine explanation. I haven't read it through as you are doing, although I have looked at it.

I've thought a little about this topic, and am troubled by equating "image of God" exclusively with "original righteousness." I am very taken with the notion of "tselem" as the statue of the king, indicating his rule in that place. Man still is called to dominion, even if he is now so enfeebled that he is frightened by insects, the dark, and his own shadow.

In a few Sundays we will sing All Mankind Fell in Adam's Fall, which says in the third stanza, "From hearts depraved, to evil prone, Flow thoughts and deeds of sin alone; God's image lost, the darkened soul Seeks not nor finds its heav'nly goal." I have a great affection for that hymn, as I think it imperative people be taught clearly about original sin - but singing that line always gives me pause. Yet, so did the statement of the pastor at Park Street Church (Congregational), which I attended in Boston before I became a Lutheran: Whenever they had a baby dedication, he would hold the child high and say, "Behold, the Image of God!"

The one thing I am confident of is this: Christ is the Image of God, and man is made and remade in Him.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Since of course the Orthodox do NOT believe the image of God in man was totally lost in the Fall, I was very excited to see the Scriptures you posted allegedly in support of that position.

But reading the actual texts, I'm disappointed because I don't see how any of them does. They refer to CHRISTIANS, in whom the Image IS restored. The argument does not pertain to Christians, but to unbelievers: what is the status of the Image in them?

The James verse perhaps speaks of unbelievers, but it only says they were made in God's image, with nothing about whether, or to what extent, they retain it.

I feel odd disputing the verses offered to support my position, but such is life...

with sighs,

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

To add some thoughts in - I think I understand why there is some desire to equate the image of God with righteousness (as opposed to human creativity). Let us assume that creative, intellectual, and authoritative powers which man holds even after the fall pertain to the image of God. Then the following questions arise:

1. Would someone who is retarded be less of the image of God? Those powers which are referred to as part of the image are lessened there.
2. My parents have wiener dogs. They can be very creative in causing their mischief in the house. Are they in the image of God (yes, a silly question, but see the logic behind it)?

I am very hesitant to tie in any fashion God's image to the various and diverse talents he gives to men - and a lot of that is because such ideas were part of the arugments behind the ideas that group "X" is subhuman.

However, if we do treat the image of God proper as being Righteousness - being a Spiritual being who truly loves, fears, and trusts in God - when we have what follows:
1 - An image that is exclusively tied to mankind.
2 - An image that does not call into question or be dependent upon a person's own reason, strength, or talents.

That being said - to be man is to have been made in the image of God. The thing is - to err is not human - we as human beings by nature are tarnished and not what we should be.

It can work either way you define image - I'm not quite sure which way I lean. I'm on a big "massive devastation of sin" kick, so I lean toward LOST at the moment - and I think one can make such a statement without denying the wonderful first article gifts that God gives. Image deals with Christ - and that's a second article thing.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Hi, Eric,

Fr. John Romanides (The Ancestral Sin) says it is NOT permissible to compare any human attributes to any divine attributes, period, much less then say these are aspects of the Divine Image. (This appears to tie in with your very salient observation about the retarded.) Romanides says the Divine Image is the Holy Spirit. He says the Holy Spirit is what God breathed into Adam to make him a living soul. He says Adam and Eve LOST the image because they lost the Holy Spirit. Christians regain the Image in regaining the Holy Spirit.

He can quote a Father or too to back him up, too.

All of which has me wondering. This does not appear to be mainstream Orthodoxy. Most O. writers have said the Image can be summarized as all that distinguishes human beings from animals. Some say it has to do with the structure of mankind; for example: body, mind, soul, or will, cognition, and desire. My husband says the "soul" has to be distinguished functionally, not sructurally...

As for tying the Image to righteousness, that's what those Fathers were doing who distinguished between the Image and the Likeness. The Likeness, which they say is totally lost, is righteousness. But while the likeness is moral, the Image is ontological, thus not dependent upon behavior. Image has to do with who we are, likeness with what we do.


William Weedon said...


Of course, all the citations being from the NT were written TO Christians, but Paul's point in 1 Cor. 11 and James' in James 3 are founded upon the "image" belonging to the first article (creation) rather than the second article (redemption). The passages from Ephesians and Colossians speak of the image as being restored through the second article. Thus Krauth's point that something about the image was not entirely lost, but that it is universally horrifically damaged and distorted and in need of a restoration that only Christ can accomplish through the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Brown,

I hear you on not wanting to go easy on the damage of original sin, but that is the amazing thing! After Krauth says this, he goes on for something over a hundred pages I believe to explicate the AC on original sin in a depth and breadth that I've never heard anyone come close to before! He CRUSHES any Pelagian (or even semi-P) reading of image.

As to the point about the mentally retarded, I think if we speak of the image remaining, but being highly damaged, we are not saying that it is damaged in the same way in all of us. As regards to original righteousness, yes, it is lost to all of us absolutely. All of us lack by nature the ability to have true fear of God and true trust in God, and all of us by nature have within us the presence of concupiscence which goes beyond the negation, pushing us toward active evil.

But I think Krauth's point is that while original righteousness is the heart and core of the image, it is not its sole content. And so we have vestigages of its other content remaining that, detatched from the original righteousness which was its heart, are variously damaged, broken and abused, and yet which vary from person to person in the extent to which they still show up.

The picture I carry from Krauth, and I may be wrong, because he didn't use this (pardon the pun!) image, is that the image is like a beautiful china cup, that has been smashed. Each of us inherit pieces of the cup, they come down to us as precious heirlooms, but none of us have the ability to reassemble the cup and put its pieces all together so that the cup can do that for which it was created - to hold water to our lips for us to drink. Consequently, we end up doing other things with the fragments we hold. But they are still real fragments of the original. So, in the most vital sense, the image is lost in the sense of being able to do what it was given us to do; in a very real sense, the image remains in broken pieces in our human experience. Both together account for the sad story of our fallen race, where we see such heights and such depths intrinsically interwoven together. Pardon the too long reply, but Krauth (and you) have got me thinking!

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Apologize not - for you have gotten me thinking and I enjoy that. It's interesting, because I end up using the idea of not being what we were meant to be - and how best to describe that. We were meant to be living beings - how much did sin tarnish/destroy that.

I always liked the phrase "A shadow of your former self" - just as an artistic turn of phrase. I think it might apply - we can see an outline of what we were created to be and what indeed we shall be and see in full in heaven - but it's now a shape, an outline, fleeting and insubstatial. Even reason and logic -- these faculties are but a glimmer of what they were.

But still - with image I'd rather jump straight to Christology than anthropology per se. It's a strange place - and good for thoughts.

William Weedon said...

I think you can't go wrong with that - as Pr. Esget pointed out above: Our Lord Jesus Christ IS the Image of God in whom we were made. To quote again from our dear Dr. Nagel:

"You cannot from your experience determine what it is to be a true human being; He alone knows; He alone is."

We're all fragments, shadows next to Him.

William Weedon said...

And, you know, the Christological route points us the same direction too. Thinking of St. Gregory's "what He did not assume, He did not heal." If the image of God is what constitutes a human AS a human (as distinct from an animal), he obviously assumed this image from His mother's womb and did so that He might heal its brokenness, its fragmentation, in the rest of us. But there was something there for Him to assume; damaged as it was in us, we see it whole in Him and through union with Him by faith He begins the process of healing, restoring, cleansing it within us too - making us to be REAL humans again.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

But Christian anthropology, like all things Christian, begins (and ends) with Christ and is Christ through and through. He is the Image; we are the image of the Image.

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or princi¬palities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence." (Colossians 1:15-18)

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

But who disputes that man was CREATED in the Image of God? Or who disputes that the Image is regained in Christians? Isn't the whole argument about whether any vestige of the Image remains in *unbelievers*?

Is Krauth's point supposed to be that since the Image is restored in Christians, it cannot have been entirely lost in the first place? On the theory that you can't "restore" what isn't there?

If so, I find that a rather flimsy argument, resting as it does upon the word "restored" which (without double-checking) I don't recall having seen in those verses.

The china cup analogy works for me!

Oh, I should mention that St. Irenaeus appears to make the reverse(or inverse) argument from Krauth. He says the image is LOST -- yet he vigorously defends the teaching that even the unbelievers have free (albeit compromised) will. Conclusion: he doesn't regard such things as free will, creativity, reflexive consciousness, etc. as facets of the Image in the first place.


William Weedon said...


I'm sorry. I think I set you wrong with Lutheran jargon. First article in Lutheran use refers not merely to God's original creation, but to the fact that He sustains what He first created, so that we can confess: "I believe that God made ME and (more exactly, together with) all creatures." Immediately, He made Adam and Eve; mediately, through other human beings, He has made me. Thus, when I said that it is was a first article explanation, I meant not merely humanity as it was created, but as it has been sustained by God, despite the ruination of sin.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Thanks for the clarification. I like that. He sustains what He creates. Clearly so. Otherwise Adam and Eve would have died on the spot, with the first bite. Yet they lived hundreds of years.

How does it relate, in Lutheran thinking, to being "dead in your sins"?


Bryce P Wandrey said...

I just thought that I would add that on my blog I recently raised the question of human nature in relation to Psuedo-Dionysius' understanding of "the Good" in human beings. It might be of interest in this image and likeness discussion. If you are interested you can find the post at: http://theologicalinquiries.blogspot.com/2007/06/human-nature.html

William Weedon said...


If you like the cup analogy, being dead in your sins means that the cup is broken beyond our ability to repair it by any means we possess by nature - it can only happen by the grace of God, the Holy Spirit at work!


I'll check it out. Thanks. You might also find of interest what Jacob's wrote about this - he operates with the same idea as the image/likeness distinction without at all buying into that Scripture is actually indicating two separate things. I wrote about it early on the blog under Jacobs. I was also pleased to note that Krauth shows himself familiar with the Greek distinction, even though he disagrees with it exegetically.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

A lot of this might very well be an argument over semantics that is unnecessary here (semantics can be vital, and in another context might be on this very topic).

The three phrases that have popped up of interest are "lost" "broken" and "healed". They actually go very well together.

Let us go to the china up image. If it shatters, it is broken - but one can also speak of it as being lost. One might have fragments - but you can't drink out of a fragment, you can't serve guests with fragments - it is in terms of pratical usage (I cannot by my own reason or strength. . .) lost. Now, it could thus be repaired - that is healed and thus restored. All three of those words fit together with the image.

Likewise the image of God. Do some fragments remain - sure. I'll grant that. But can we use the image we were given rightly by nature? No. So in all practicallity it is lost. I use of "lost" versus "broken/weakened" language is based upon which you wish to focus on. If you are placing a focus on the fact that we were created in God's image and that we still have many great and wonderful gifts from God - broken, diminished. If you wish to focus on what we have lost - the ability to be righteous - then it is LOST.

I'd be tempted to quote Obi-wan here on our point of view, but people might smack me, so I won't =o)

William Weedon said...

Pastor Brown,

LOL. You are man of my own era. ;)

Yes, I AGREE that there is semantics involved in this one, and it's one reason that I have disagreed with those who *simply* make a categorical statement that the image is lost and mean by that there are not even fragments left. I don't think Paul's words in 1 Cor. 11 or James' words in James 3 can be made sense of in that sort of a scenario. So irretrievably (to us) broken and needing divine healing/restoration, yes, indeed!

By the bye, last night finished up Krauth's 100 pages on original sin. Now I need to go back and reread it again - he's so deep. It's like when you read Lossky and you read a paragraph three or four times to just make sure you're "getting" what the man is saying!!!

wm cwirla said...

"1. Would someone who is retarded be less of the image of God? Those powers which are referred to as part of the image are lessened there."

I wouldn't quantify and fractionalize here. The shattered china cup is more like a hologram in which every piece contains the whole. The mentally handicapped folks I know are quite creative people, much more so than I am, limited by my self-consciousness. This is why I focused on creativity, not on man's will to power or his intellectual ability, but the impulse to create out of nothing for its own sake. Animals also use tools as we do, but they do not create art for its own sake. Art requires the ability to conceive of things outside of one's experience and perspective, to think "extra nos." (Note that sin does the opposite to us.)

I see this as a "1st article" aspect of the image of God that may be hopelessly broken and warped by sin, but not entirely lost.

2. My parents have wiener dogs. They can be very creative in causing their mischief in the house. Are they in the image of God (yes, a silly question, but see the logic behind it)?

The logic is an argumentum ad absurdum, but fails on a false analogy because wiener dogs, and animals in general, are not creative. That is an anthropomorphism we ascribe to them. They are simply acting out the "doginess" in what we perceive as creative ways. We may say "bad dog," when they chew up the sofa, but they aren't being "bad," they were just being dogs. For this reason, animals can't sin, and "bad dogs" aren't sinning.

We have also not explored what being made "male and female" has to do with being made in the "image of God," since these run in poetic parallel in the Genesis text:

"So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. "

So many wonderful things to think about.