20200504 After the fall, did Adam’s image replace the image of God in us?

Monday Musings for May 04, 2020

Good morning, Musers,

Included in the Christian vocabulary are many words, phrases and concepts that the Bible doesn’t say much about, and I am continually amazed at the ideas I thought had solid biblical support which turned out to be doctrinal constructs more so than scriptural edifices.

For example, what is God’s relationship to time? The Bible doesn’t tell us. Is he atemporal? Omnitemporal? ... or is time itself eternal… and God simply coexists with it? All we can do is postulate using natural theology, philosophy — and whatever else we can get our hands on! — to find plausible answers that will not contradict the things we know very well from Scripture.

When the Bible is stingy about the details of a topic, we say that it is “biblically underdetermined” — and there are many more of these than people realize. Take today’s topic. The Bible clearly states that we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Nevertheless, the concept underlying this phrase is biblically underdetermined. I know it doesn’t feel that way, but that’s today’s point: biblically underdetermined doctrines are often sleepers.

Let’s look at three parallel cases to get a clearer picture of what I’m talking about. (Just note that these are for illustration purposes; they are not the topics of today’s question.)

To the surprise of many people who are just starting their Christian journeys, the words Trinity, Rapture and Millennium are not found in the Bible. Yet, the fact that God exists as a Trinity is one of Christianity’s most important doctrines. In fact, it’s a flagship doctrine — one that sets us apart from the other monotheistic religions — and it would be a shame to lose it!

But here’s the thing: even though the word Trinity is not found in the Bible, the New Testament reveals God in three persons — the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit... although I admit that it takes some assembling to come up with this scheme. But when we sing “God in three persons, blessed Trinity” we are not crazy. The Trinity is amply supported in Scripture.

By way of contrast, the Rapture and the Millennium are biblically underdetermined — and that leaves a lot of room to make stuff up! For people like me, the idea of having a millennial temple and sacrifices after Christ returns is a bridge too far. This is the main (but far from the only) reason I switched to an amillennial view about 25 years ago... but back to the topic at hand.

Today’s seeker wants to know if we traded in God’s image for Adam’s image at the fall. This is a great question — and I want to do it justice! ... but how can I tell if something changed if I can’t define it — and defining what it means to be made in the image of God is like nailing Jell-O to a wall!

But as it turns out, that was a self-imposed roadblock. You don’t have to define something to determine if it can change… which makes me happy. You see, I’m fond of the idea that I was made in the image of God, and I was afraid that such a notion might be ad hoc — like the Rapture or the Millennium — and I’d have to settle for being in Adam’s image instead of God’s.

I found my way through to a defensible version of the truth, and since these weekly postings are all about sharing the journey, consider joining me today as we explore what it means for us to be made in the image of God.

(Click here to read the article referenced above. For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)