The Discarded Image of God

There was a time not long ago when John 3:16 was said to epitomize scripture.  Nowadays one more often hears Genesis 1:27 advanced as the pith and soul of the gospel.  This is, of course, the astonishing declaration that,

“God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Vox Day for instance quotes one Joseph Cohen, spokesman for the Salvation Army, who is hotly denying that, in adopting the language of social justice, the organization has abandoned its Christian roots.  Says Mr. Cohen:

“Our beliefs have always been rooted in scripture, and they still are. That includes our complete rejection of racism, which is in stark contrast to the biblical principle that we’re all created in the image of God.”

On his Linked-in page, Mr. Cohen tells us that he has “developed a deep and wide set of communications skills that make me the go-to problem solver.”  One of those communications skills is evidently dissembling equivocation that allows him to solve the problem of undeniable entryism and convergence.  The beliefs of the new Salvation Army are still rooted in scripture, but they are now rooted in the prologue to scripture and not its conclusion.

If Mr. Cohen had pursued his scripture studies beyond the first chapter of the first book of scripture, he would have discovered that the image in which mankind (not “we’re all”) was (not is) created very soon after suffered a profound, grievous and all but inexpugnable deformation.  It suffers this deformation precisely because Eve succumbs to Satan’s promise that, if she only eats the apple of sin, she “will be like God.”

From this we may infer that to be “created in the image of God” does not mean to be “like God,” since Satan would otherwise be offering Eve that which she already possessed.  Whatever that image may be, however, scripture clearly states that it was profoundly, grievously and all but inexpugnably deformed when Eve chose to believe the promise of Satan rather than the promise of God.  Stated with the utmost simplicity, by aspiring to be “like God,” Eve became instead like Satan.

She, her husband, every one of their progeny, and all the universe thereby fell from their created state into the deformed and cursed state in which we actually find them today.  And that is now the image that we bear.

John 3:16 was once said to epitomize scripture because it explains the only means by which men and women could recover from this disaster and expunge this deformation.  It explains the only means of salvation, which would seem a matter of some importance to an outfit that bills itself as the Salvation Army.  Mankind was, indeed, created in the image of God, but you, and I, and Mr. Cohen were born, not created.  And when we were born, we were all of us born in sin.

Against Genesis 1:27 it is always well to place Psalms 51.5.

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

This is telling us that those of us who are born and not created are in some very substantial degree born in the image of Satan.  Here is how the situation was described by an old and uncucked Christian who did not nod off, complacent smile on his face, after pushing his way half way through the first chapter of the first book of scripture.

“Man was made upright after the Image of God . . . This uprightness and integrity wherein Man was first created is now lost . . . the Image of God is not only raced out, but the image of the Devil is engraven upon our Souls; all Men, and all of Men, being now quite out of order.”*

I believe Bishop Beveridge went too far when he wrote that the Image of God is “raced out,” since we may by grace and humility discern traces of resemblance that suggest God is our true Father.  But these traces of resemblance are so muddied and mixed with traces of resemblance to our infernal “father” that they are easily overlooked.  Spiritual life, as I understand it, is an individual’s effort to “race out” either his traces of resemblance to God or his traces of resemblance to Satan; and John 3:16 epitomizes the gospel because it says he can erase neither of these images without supernatural aid.

That our primitive ancestors were created in the “image of God” is properly grounds for profoundest shame, not pride, since this is not the image that any of us bear today.  We are like children who were dressed by their mother in clean white clothes, and who immediately went outside to fight, rend each other’s garments, and roll screaming in the mud.  These naughty, bruised and filthy children cannot boast that they were once dressed in clean white clothes.  They can only feel shame, confess their wickedness, and ask mother to show them the uses of needle, thread, and laundry tub.

*) William Beveridge, Thesaurus Theologious (1710-1711)

11 thoughts on “The Discarded Image of God

  1. People like that Salvation Army spokesman, and there are so many in the churches, have no understanding of the spiritual reality that is God and they translate it into purely worldly terms that suit the smallness of their minds and the sentimentality of their hearts. We surely are made in the image of God but that image has been desecrated and can only be restored through Christ, and the real Christ not some made-up facsimile that loves us for our fallen nature instead of in spite of it.

  2. Valuable post — though it pains me to read that the Salvation Army has allowed this decay. I always nurse the hope (fantasy?) that the religious underclass — the Chorgewänderproletariat — would remain immune to our current university-born idiocies. Besides, didn’t those folks learn anything after Chick-fil-A ceased funding them owing to their “hateful” insistence on biblical sexual morality?

    • The proles have changed since Orwell said the only hope lay in the proles. I’m not sure what he said was true even then. Into the nineteenth century there were large numbers of proles, mostly rural, whom the revolutionary propaganda could not reach. But the proles of today are entirely tuned in to mass media. On the other hand, the Boy Scout brand does not seem to have saved the Boy Scouts, so the Salvation Army brand may not save the Salvation Army. Of course destruction of the Salvation Army may be one goal of Salvation Army leadership, since socialists have a natural hatred of charity. The point is to redefine all charity as reparations, so the giver is not allowed to feel benevolence and the receiver is not required to feel gratitude.

  3. There’s another aspect to Cohen’s error. Even without the Fall, people would have had a duty to render special piety toward their own particular ancestors and homeland. That is, all of these sinless people would have been “racist”.

    • The word “fathers” appears several hundred times in the Old Testament, every time clearly indicating a people’s “own particular ancestors,” and not always referring to the special promises made to the fathers of the Jews. Proverbs 17:6, for instance, tells us that particular lineage is not unimportant: “Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.” Or Malachi 4:6–“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

      • It also goes to show the emphasis on Patrilineal Heritage. The fact that the 12 Tribes of Israel are descended directly and Patrilineally from the 12 Sons of Israel who provide the names for those Tribes.

  4. Some of the Church Fathers made a distinction between the ‘image’ and the ‘likeness’, with the ‘image’ being the potential of theosis, the ‘likeness’ being the realisation of theosis. Obviously, we very much lack the likeness, but we still have the image, and it is what makes us human, not merely brutes. Father Ted Bobosh of Dayton, Ohio, wrote a series of blog posts on how this distinction is understood in the Orthodox Church:

    https://frted.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/in-the-image-of-god/

    One might start there to find original sources.

  5. This decay has been progressing in the SA for a while. I stopped giving to them (a decade ago, maybe?) in the wake of a previous flare-up in which the SA hotly denied that it engaged in euthanasia while also enthusiastically affirming that it engaged in all the euthanasia permitted by Canadian law (which is a lot).

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