Devotions: Bearing the Image of God (2)

Blake, William, 1757-1827. The Temptation and Fall of Eve (Illustration for Paradise Lost, by John Milton), from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. (retrieved April 7, 2014). Original source:

Genesis 3 tells the tragic story of the famous (or infamous) fall of the first humans into sin and corruption. Because of a choice that took them out of their assigned place in creation, under God but like God, their insistence on being “gods” distorted the image of God in them. Instead of derivative, yet creative knowledge, they disobeyed their “prime directive.” The penalty was not merely final physical death, but painful, hard-won work, struggling with creation instead of working with God’s created order. Their created image was not destroyed, but it was marred and distorted. James 3:9 affirms that humans are still “made in the likeness of God.” What have been the consequences of a distorted, yet not lost, image of God?

A fellow seminarian of mine, Wayne Grudem, writes in his Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994):

His moral purity has been lost and his sinful character certainly does not reflect God’s holiness. His intellect is corrupted by falsehood and misunderstanding; his speech no longer continually glorifies God; his relationships are often governed by selfishness rather than love, and so forth. Though man is still in the image of God, in every aspect of life some parts of that image have been distorted or lost (444).

This distortion affects humankind’s creative exploration and efforts. Things don’t come easily anymore; they are painfully difficult and rather confusing to attain. Instead of “thinking God’s thoughts after Him,” we think God’s thoughts for Him! It’s like a stain that cannot be washed away, a compass used in a magnetic field that never points true north. Rules and theorems and discoveries are made with universal truthfulness, yet some aspects of them are “off” and thus, newer rules and theorems and discoveries need to be made.

Rather than being depressed or sidelined by such a truth, there are two hopeful notes. First, redemption of that original image can be found in Christ (next devotional), and then creative work, though hard and painful at times, will result in blessing and enhancement of creation. We must remember and celebrate the fact that even in the most inveterate unbeliever, God’s image still operates to some degree. That makes study and work and living worthwhile, and joint God-honoring work and discovery still possible.

Lord, today while I mourn the distortion of being like You, I am thankful that You have not totally or finally abandoned me. I am thankful there is hope provided by Your Son, Jesus Christ, for my life and thought and study. I am also grateful that You will still be glorified in honest and hard work.

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Carl Shank

A Christ-follower and mentor of leaders and churches whose life plan is to make an eternal difference in lives for Jesus Christ. Carl currently serves as the Executive Pastor of Cross Roads Brethren in Christ Church (Mount Joy, PA), President of Carl Shank Consulting, and as a Board Member of the Mount Joy Chamber of Commerce. B. S. in Mathematics from Dickinson College. M. Div. and Th. M. from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia Campus). Carl's insights have been a great encouragement to Thomas B. Grosh IV, Associate Director, Emerging Scholars Network. To God be the glory!

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