Have you heard this before? Adam and Eve weren’t created in God’s image?

I am sorry that my little blog here can’t drive more traffic to Jason Micheli’s “Tamed Cynic” blog. According to his most recent post, not a single entry in his “Top Ten Reasons Christmas Doesn’t Need the Cross” (he’s posted eight of ten so far) made his Top 5 most popular of the year, despite my linking to them here and here. What can I say? I’m no Scot McKnight.

I’m not recommending that you read his blog for your edification. In fact, almost every week I find something new to get under my skin (which is a credit to his skill as a writer)—and I comment to the sound of crickets. He did tell me that he doesn’t have much time to respond to blog comments, so it’s nothing personal.

But I would love for someone to read yesterday’s post in his Christmas series, and tell me what, if anything, is wrong with the following two statements:

“But according to scripture, Jesus not Adam and Eve constitute the imago” (by which he means imago Dei, “image of God”).

“Rather we only know what ‘sin’ means and the extent to which it defines us because God has come in Jesus.”

On his side, he’s using Colossians 1:15-16 to make his case (which is a lot of weight for those verses to bear). Doesn’t Genesis 1 tell us that God created male and female in his image? Micheli might allow himself some wiggle room by using the word “constitute” (emphasis mine): “Implicit in this logic is the assumption that Adam and Eve were fine before they fell, that they already constituted what God initiated when God declared ‘let us make humankind in our image‘”—as if, perhaps, there’s some difference between God creating in God’s image and the two being so “constituted” in that image? Who knows? I’ve never heard this before.

For the sake of my monthly student loan bills, I’m hoping that my Emory education didn’t fail to teach me something so blindingly obvious that Micheli need not explain himself.

What he is saying is that God initiated but did not complete the process of making humanity in his image. That only happened in the incarnation. I guess there’s no sense pointing out to a Methodist pastor like himself that John Wesley would contradict him, not to mention the plain meaning of Genesis 1. “Let us make,” God says… and so they were made.

Doesn’t Paul, in Romans 7, contradict the idea that we only know what sin is because of the incarnation of Christ? Specifically, we have Paul saying the following:

“What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’… Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.”

4 thoughts on “Have you heard this before? Adam and Eve weren’t created in God’s image?”

  1. Find and read “TRUE IMAGE: The Origin and Destiny of Man in Christ” by Phillip E. Hughes. The ‘Tamed Cynic’ is on to something here, but he’s got it all wrong.

    There is a distinction between “in the image” (Genesis) and “the image” (Colossians).

    Adam, Eve and the rest of us are all created IN the image of God. Creation in the image is what makes us unique in our potentiality.

    Jesus IS the image of the invisible God. Hughes goes to great length to make the case that when the scriptures describe Jesus as “the image,” the meaning and idea conveyed is one of identity. To say that Jesus is the image of God is to say that He is one and the same as God.

    What the ‘Tamed Cynic’ is trying to capture is the Orthodox notion of Theosis. In Orthodoxy, salvation is more ontological than forensic. Our destiny is to become God. We are destined to be conformed to the Image (Jesus).

    Without the fall the incarnation would have encompassed the whole of humanity. Humans were (and still are) destined to go from glory to glory until we were somehow finally incorporated into the Image, who is Jesus. When Mr. Cynic claims that the incarnation (the enfleshment of the Image) would have been necessary without the fall, he is misguided. Without our disobedience, the natural result of perfect obedience would have perfected the image in which we were created.

    When sin entered in, man died spiritually. That is, the perfect communion and life of God within man that would have been the agent for our ultimate deification left us.
    The glory departed. So, it was necessary for God, in and through Jesus the image, to enter into our death so that we could receive His life. When we believe Jesus died for sin and was raised from that death to life, it happens in us. We enter into Jesus’s victory over death and are born again into new life, to begin again the process of sanctification (deification) that was and is our destiny in Christ.

    It’s all far too complicated, but the essential thing is not to confuse the One who is the Image of the uncreated with our creation in the Image.

    1. Genuinely insightful. Thank you. Sin disrupted something that would have happened. Humanity was on its way to becoming something before the Fall occurred. What I like about the theology you describe (even though, not being Eastern Orthodox, I’m not sure to what extent I agree with all of it) is that it takes seriously the problem of sin: there is an important distinction between being made “in the Image” and being “the Image.”

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