Monergism, Total Depravity, Creativity, and the Imago Dei

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'The Scream' by Edvard MunchIf you’ve got grass to mow, I’ve got more—about nine acres.

Our house sits on 13.2 acres of rolling Ohio farmland. I suspect about four acres of that is wooded, but the rest is grass. Our orchard dots some of that grassland, but I still have to mow around the trees, so it counts. I’ll drop about one and a half acres of grass once we put in our vineyard. (We live in the Ohio Valley Viticultural Area, the largest wine-grape-growing region in the United States. You can put a lot of Napas in here.)

I’ve got a 35hp full-size Kubota tractor that pulls an 8′ finish mower deck. The whole grass-cutting process takes about 5 hours.

That gives me a lot of time to think. The great thing about having land is there’s nothing fast about it. Whatever you do to it takes time. Doesn’t take a lot of brainpower while you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing to it, so the mind can concentrate on other things.

Today, a question trickled through my thoughts and I had some trouble reconciling it logically. That’s why I’m opening up responses. If you’ve got some insights, please comment.

Disclaimer: What follows is NOT a teaching. It’s a question I’m posing for my own benefit so I can better understand the issue. It should in no way construe any indication of questioning orthodox Christian belief.

Now for my tractor meditations…

I was thinking about the Imago Dei, the idea that Man is made in God’s image. Not that our physical appearance is like God’s, but that our spiritual state is. We reason, create, and appreciate beauty because God has those traits in Himself and has imbued us with them.

Total Depravity is the condition of Man after the Fall, unable to connect to God because of sin and spiritual death. (See 1 Corinthians 2:14; Genesis 6:5; Romans 3:10-11)

It should follow that as a result of the Fall, Total Depravity dealt a crushing blow to Imago Dei.

The problem begins when we ask how severe that blow was.

Since Total Depravity is truly total, one would think that the Imago Dei would not so much be damaged as utterly annihilated. If it is the spiritual state of Man that is the Imago Dei, then the spiritual death wrought by the Fall should have destroyed the Imago Dei altogether. Dead is dead, not semi-alive. If the root of sin is that deep, then Man would have nothing left of the Imago Dei, or at least have nothing of the Imago Dei that could remain to produce anything sin-free.

Even considering that view, four possibilities remain:

  1. Total Depravity is total; the Imago Dei was completely annihilated.
  2. Total Depravity is total; however, some of the Imago Dei remains pure.
  3. Total Depravity is total; however, the Imago Dei remains but is tainted in such a way that nothing pure comes from any of it.
  4. Total Depravity is not total; this explains why the Imago Dei remains.

All of those positions have problems, however.

#1 is problematic because it is clearly false. I still reason. The very act of me typing this post is a sign of reason—and creativity. I linked words together creatively.

#2 is problematic because it would insist that Total Depravity does not extend to all parts of fallen Man’s being. More on this one later.

#3 is problematic because one could argue that there are things that Man creates that are perfect—or at least profoundly good—that would argue against taint. For instance, in what way is Handel’s Messiah “imperfect” as a piece of music? Or Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata? One could say that in order to be perfect, those works would have to appeal to all men at all times in all places. But is that the true test of perfection? Yes, the instruments used to play those works may not be in perfect tune, but the idea of those works as they existed in the minds of those composers would mitigate that issue.

The other problem about #3 is asking the other side of the perfection issue: In what way are those works tainted by sin? Yes, their creators are tainted by sin. There’s no reason to believe that Beethoven was ever a born-again Christian, so this muddies the water further, since the Moonlight Sonata is sublimely beautiful. There is evidence that Beethoven wrote that piece in mourning for an unrequited love affair with a married woman, so his motives for writing it are questionable. But the greater question of the purity of the work as a work unto itself remains.

Lastly on #3, one must ask if a pre-Fall Adam could have composed a piece of music more perfect than the works mentioned.

#4 is problematic because it denies Total Depravity altogether.

The title of this post brings up monergism, that Man has no ability within himself to reach out to God in order to receive forgiveness and salvation. God’s grace through the Holy Spirit is irresistible and God’s use of it alone accounts for conversion. The counterpart to monergism is synergism: Man has within him the active ability to reach out to God and effect—with the grace afforded him by God reaching down to him—conversion.

Considering #2, one could argue that if parts of the Imago Dei remain pure, then those pure parts are the source from which Man can effect synergistic salvation. Obviously, monergists would reject that idea outright.

That #3 is a struggle, though, for other reasons. If the Imago Dei is a spiritual condition and Man is totally spiritually dead to the point that monergism is the only possible outcome, how then can any of the Imago Dei remain? This takes us back to point #1, which is clearly false. Nor does it answer the question about the possible perfection of things that Man creates.

If one argues that the spiritual state of man is dual in nature (that the soul exists apart from the spirit and that this allows the spirit of the unconverted to be dead while the soul—the part that manifests the Imago Dei—is still alive), then you’re arguing for a tripartite nature of Man (body, soul, and spirit), a position that most monergists don’t support.

A person arguing that common grace explains how fallen Men who do not know Christ can still create objects of beauty confuses terms. The Imago Dei is by nature; it is innate because it reflects God’s own nature in some form in Man permanently. Common grace is not innate in that none of it ever issues from Man, only from God. If the Imago Dei persists after the Fall, then its source is of innate nature and not common grace.

Others would argue for the neutrality of created things, whether they be created by God or Man. A cliff created by God may be a neutral moral agent, but if it falls on you, you’re still dead. Music or other arts also have no innate moral agency if you follow the line of thinking that many use, but this says nothing about their beauty and whether that beauty is perfect or not, or whether there are levels of perfection that might distinguish God’s work from Man’s.

Tough questions. If we divorce the Imago Dei from the question, then everything is easily answerable. But factor it in and the logic becomes more difficult to untangle.

Which of those four possibilities above do you most believe and why?

40 thoughts on “Monergism, Total Depravity, Creativity, and the Imago Dei

  1. Hi, this is a very interesting post. I think though that you should think more about the Imago Dei. You state that Imago Dei is our spiritual state but then you go on to say that

    We reason, create, and appreciate beauty because God has those traits in Himself.

    Those two things are not the same thing though. Our spiritual state has more to do with spiritual things, while the other has to do with physical things. So yes our spiritual state was completely changed at the first sin, the other items you mentioned would not have been because they are more physical. What do you think?

      • Yes. Absolutely. That is part of what makes us human. In our fallen state we can still create (of course not as perfect as it could have been if done when unfallen.) Our fallen state doesn’t prevent that. It does however prevent us from being holy.

        • Chris,

          I’d be interested in knowing what your church background is because I’ve never heard a denomination claim that the Imago Dei is totally contained within the Body and not the Soul and/or Spirit.

  2. Caleb Woodbridge

    As I understand it, “total depravity” means that there is no area of life that is untouched by sin, no part of our being or our activities that is unaffected by our rebellion against God. What’s more, we’re totally unable to make ourselves acceptable to God.

    What it does not mean is that we are totally bad, totally unlike God, that sin has obliterated all that was once good about us. If we did not bear any of the imago dei, then we would not be capable of love, of relationships, of reason, of communication and so on. If the image of God in us was totally destroyed, we would be nothing more than brute animals.

      • Caleb Woodbridge

        Hi Dan

        I’m not sure I quite “get” (or agree with) either the question or the options. So I can’t really give a straight answer to “Which option”, I’m afraid, so you’ll have to put up with my ramblings!

        I don’t see any problem between between being in the likeness of God (having the capabilities for relationship, making moral decisions, creativity etc.) and us being totally cut off from God and in a state of sin.

        What do you mean by the image of God being “pure” or “tainted”? Capabilities in themselves aren’t a moral attribute. Being able to create, for example, is not in itself good or bad, but can be put to good or bad use.

        Total depravity, as I understand it, means that our ability to put our God-like capabilities to totally morally good use is totally damaged. But to be able to make wrong moral decisions, to be able to create in a wrong way and so on, the capability to make moral decisions and to create has to remain.

        Dan, you said:

        1. Monergism assumes utter spiritual death. This is why the drawing toward conversion is all on God and not even a tiny bit on us.
        2. The Imago Dei is spiritual. But if spiritual death is total as monergists believe, where does the Imago Dei then reside?
        3. The only answer must be the soul.

        There are a number of points where I think this is mistaken. Firstly, I don’t think you’re right to exclude the body from being part of these things. These capabilities are part of our whole being – we can’t separate off body, soul and spirit. These capabilities are dependent, in part, on physical attributes such as having a brain that is able to reason and create and so on.

        Secondly, I don’t see a problem with the image residing in our spirit even though we are spiritually dead, because this death does not mean that we have no spirit. Death is never truly the cessation of existence, as I understand Christian thought, but rather separation. Spiritual death is the separation of man from God, and physical death is the separation of body from soul, which acts as a visible warning of our spiritual death.

        I’m very much of the opinion we should view the self as a unified whole – there’s a distinction to be made between body, soul and spirit, but not a complete division. So I don’t think you can reduce the image of God to residing in one aspect of us.

        You also said:

        “The title of this post brings up monergism, that Man has no ability within himself to reach out to God in order to receive forgiveness and salvation.”

        This does not preclude man doing things that are good, even producing things that are profoundly good or perfect; it just means that even these things can’t bring us to God for forgiveness and salvation.

        So I go for option 5: “Total depravity is total; the image of God remains” – man can do some good, but total depravity remains because man is still totally unable to bring himself to God by these efforts, and the totality of man’s abilities are affected by sin.

        My capabilities are not totally affected by sin – they still continue to function, though tainted in part by sin. But this does not deny “total depravity”, because it does not mean “total” in that sense. Rather, all parts of me are affected by sin, hence “total” depravity. “Total” refers to what is effected, rather than the extent to which it is effected.

        Anyway, it’s a good subject to think through. Thanks for bringing it up – it’s certainly made me think!

        Caleb

      • “Pavel,

        That’s the whole point! We’re getting there—slowly.”

        I have had some conversations with some Calvinists (who were maybe a bit more “well read” than the average) and they claim that the phrase of “Absolute Depravity” has more to do with peoples ability to “reach God for their own salvation” apart from God. So they say they would agree with what I said earlier.

        Although what you related before does seem to reflect a common understanding of Calvinism by many Calvinists themselves.

        • Pavel,

          I linked in a comment below to Loraine Boettner’s exposition from a Calvinist viewpoint.

          I usually don’t hear from Calvinist sources as to the Why of why people cannot reach for God. If Man is totally cut-off from God and does not reach for Him, then something is missing that makes that the case, especially since God created Man with a desire for Him. That’s how all this starts opening up other concepts that come into play like tripartitism and Imago Dei. You can’t really separate total depravity from the Imago Dei, though some try. A coherent view of the Fall and its results has to take those other things into account.

          • “I usually don’t hear from Calvinist sources as to the Why of why people cannot reach for God. If Man is totally cut-off from God and does not reach for Him, then something is missing that makes that the case, especially since God created Man with a desire for Him. That’s how all this starts opening up other concepts that come into play like tripartitism and Imago Dei. You can’t really separate total depravity from the Imago Dei, though some try. A coherent view of the Fall and its results has to take those other things into account.”

            I would agree, I was just relating some bits of discussion
            I had with Jacob, jkliensten of the ooze. We actually had a pretty good discusion on this topic. talking about the EO and the Calvinistis understanding of the subject. It may be good to invite him. I may actually go back to the ooze and look for that thread and quote him.

            I also might recommend you go to “Pursuing Truths” blog.
            Not only is a good Calvinist, who is actually in Seminary right now. But also jacob does post there as well, as do I.

  3. “Even considering that view, four possibilities remain:

    1. Total Depravity is total; the Imago Dei was completely annihilated.
    2. Total Depravity is total; however, some of the Imago Dei remains pure.
    3. Total Depravity is total; however, the Imago Dei remains but is tainted in such a way that nothing pure comes from any of it.
    4. Total Depravity is not total; this explains why the Imago Dei remains.”

    Wow you really thinking of one of the big topics of big “O” Orthodoxy.

    We choose option4. And here is why. Where do you think the image of God is the most obliterated? I would hazard to guess demoniacs, the criminally insane etc. Because some people are just so warped and twisted that you really can’t find one shred of conscience, honor etc. within them.

    But that isn’t really true for most people. Even in the Bible you have for instance “Righteous Gentiles”, like the two centurions in the NT, the one that met Jesus and the one Peter met in the book of Acts. These people were not Israelites but had a sense of piety about them. You might say they were “led by the Spirit” as far as meeting Jesus etc.

    I guess if you are Calvinist you might say they were “part of the elect”.

    The problem with “Absolute depravity” it does or can imply a total warping of “created in the Image of God”. And I can actually point you to a number of situations even beyond this in the Bible where you got people who are outside of Abraham that are either believers, or at least seem to have a conscience. Think of King Cyrus, who God prophesied about. Melchizedek. or Jethro, Ruth, etc.

  4. I go for #3, sort of.

    Total Depravity is total; however, the Imago Dei remains but is tainted in such a way that nothing pure comes from any of it.

    Total depravity means that every part of our being is affected by the fall–every part is marred in some way. That would mean that the image of God within us is marred, but not obliterated.

    That means that good, even excellent products may still be produced by a human being as a function of the creativity that remains as part of our image of God. None of the products are created perfectly, however.

    I don’t think that means that we (as likewise marred human beings) will necessarily find flaws in the products, but from the vantage point of God, they are not created perfectly.

    In a similar vein, I would think that the motives for creating something play into God’s judgment of a human product, and in that sense, in his view, no human product, post-fall, can be perfect in that it was created completely, purely with God’s glory as the only motive.

    • Rebecca,

      Thanks for stopping by! I don’t recall you posting before. If you support #3, then I have a question for you below. Any insight you can lend would be appreciated!

  5. A few folks have said that total doesn’t mean what you’ve said it means… I think the word you’re confusing it with is “utter.” It we were “utterly” depraved, then absolutely nothing of the Imago Dei would remain; total means something more akin to “every part is tainted to some degree.”

    I would stake my claim on #3, and for similar reasons as you’ve given for the “Chief End of Education”; namely, no matter how seemingly beautiful we find something created by man, if it was not created to glorify God, it is a depraved work. We were created to glorify Him in all things, and (leaning heavily on Piper’s “Chief End of God”) I would have to say that this glorifying of God is itself one aspect of our being created in His image (though not unique to humans).

  6. I go for some version of #3, with qualifications:

    Total Depravity is total; however, the Imago Dei remains but is tainted in such a way that nothing pure comes from any of it.

    I don’t look at the meaning of Total Depravity or the Imago Dei in quite the same way as you do above. I’m not sure that they are linked in such a way that one could cancel out the other. After the flood, God’s prohibition of murder is based on the Imago Dei (Gen. 9:6). This is why fallen people have an intrinsic worth because they still bear God’s image. This means that the Imago Dei cannot be primarily a moral condition, because otherwise it could not be attributed to fallen people.

    This is the Biblical basis for treating every human being with dignity and respect. As long as we can reason, exercise creativity, and experience self-awareness, the Imago Dei is still very much in evidence. We can bear the Image and still be fallen, so I guess that you can say that the Image is “tainted” (although Scripture does not use that language). C.S. Lewis would say that we are “bent” (see Out of the Silent Planet). As a result of the Fall, we often use our reason and creativity for sinful purposes, but the abilities are still there.

    Total Depravity is something different. It means that we are in bondage to sin and cannot come to God or do anything that pleases Him on our own. Only His grace makes that possible. (And note that this statement is accepted by Arminians as well as Calvinists. The difference is on the question of whether or not God’s grace can be resisted.)

    Thinking with you…

    • Another Ken,

      We actually don’t disagree that Total Depravity and the Imago Dei are different things. But one definitely has an effect on the other, so they are still linked. If I start banging my fists on the keyboard, my comment becomes illegible, though my ability to comment still exists—it’s that kind of relationship.

  7. For those who support #3, here’s the dilemma…

    Most monergists will support #3 because #2 leads to synergism. However, there’s a problem with #3 that I noted in the post:

    1. Monergism assumes utter spiritual death. This is why the drawing toward conversion is all on God and not even a tiny bit on us.
    2. The Imago Dei is spiritual. But if spiritual death is total as monergists believe, where does the Imago Dei then reside?
    3. The only answer must be the soul.

    There’s the trap. Most monergists do not believe in the tripartite nature of Man, that Man is Body with a distinct Soul and distinct Spirit. They believe that Soul and Spirit are one. Wayne Grudem makes this clear in his Systematic Theology. This makes the issue of the Imago Dei very difficult for monergists because it either argues for a tripartite Man or would claim that only believers carry the Imago Dei–itself a very problematical response. In light of the Imago Dei, a monergist would be forced to accept tripartite beliefs or would have to make a concession that spiritual death is not total, paving the way to synergism.

  8. I don’t think that the Imago Dei is “spiritual.” I think that it describes the ways in which we are created to resemble God, and so it certainly includes reason and creativity. So we don’t “carry” the Imago Dei in our soul or our spirit or anywhere at all.

    Spiritual death means that we are cut off from God and unable to come to Him on our own. It does not mean that our non-material self (spirit and/or soul) is not functioning. Some non-Christians are very active in their involvement with the spiritual (demonic) realm, but they are still cut off from God. They are spiritually “dead” in that they are not in relationship with God, but that does not mean that their spirit is dormant.

    • Another Ken,

      Traditionally, the belief on the Imago Dei is that it is not carried in the body/flesh. Most Christians therefore attributed it to the soul and/or spirit. That’s not me coming up with that definition–it’s been that way for a long time. Our flesh doesn’t manifest the Imago Dei because God is spirit, therefore there is no correlation between the two.

      If you believe in a tripartite Man, then you can absolutely claim that Man’s spirit died at the Fall. Spiritual death is, after all, death. You can’t be semi-alive and be dead at the same time.

      Those with a tripartite view see Man’s flesh and soul as living, the soul carrying the Imago Dei. When a person is born again, their dead spirit is replaced by the Spirit of God just like Adam had the Spirit of God in him before the Fall.

      But if you don’t support a tripartite view, you’re stuck when you factor in all the things I noted.

  9. In the bipartite view, how do you explain the fact that we continue to think and create when we are spiritually dead? Apparently “dead” does not mean that our non-material portion is not active in any sense. In God’s command to Adam, He said “in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die,” yet Adam lived for a long time after that. So we need to think about the exact sense in which Adam died. It’s not an issue of being semi-dead, but rather of being dead in some ways but not others.

    I’m not sure about the idea that God’s Spirit “replaces” our dead spirit. Don’t we have an active, living human spirit as Christians?

  10. This makes the issue of the Imago Dei very difficult for monergists because it either argues for a tripartite Man or would claim that only believers carry the Imago Dei†“itself a very problematical response.

    I’ve always heard it argued that every way in which human beings resemble God is included in the image of God. This would include things like being able to make considered choices, being creative beings, having dominion over creation, among many other things. All of those things are marred in the fall–we don’t do them as well as we would have had we not fallen, but we still do them to some degree.

    Being spiritually dead just means that in regards to things spiritual we don’t (and can’t) respond positively We can’t do anything positive in regards to our relationship with God.

  11. One question, in order to understand exactly what you’re asking: Are you equating spiritual death with having a dead spirit?

    Just wanted to add that I don’t comment on blogs much, but I this blog regularly through bloglines.

    • Rebecca,

      That would depend on whether Man has a soul/spirit (bipartite) or a distinct soul and spirit (tripartite).

      Tripartite supporters would say that the soul is a separate entity (that would reflect the Imago Dei) and the spirit of a man is God’s own Spirit dwelling in him. Both an unconverted person and a Christian have a soul, but only the Christian has the Spirit of God dwelling in Him. For a tripartite supporter, spiritual death is equated with a complete lack of God’s Spirit inside someone. Adam lost that at the Fall; God’s Spirit was withdrawn and thus came spiritual death. In the converse, God’s Spirit restored to a person is spiritual life. A tripartite supporter would find it easier to explain monergism, since there is no living spirit within an unconverted person to reach to God for synergistic conversion. (Many tripartite supporters do not necessarily equate the spirit in a Man with the Holy Spirit per se, but claim that man’s spirit existed in its own form and was attuned with God, only to go out like a candle at the Fall. God relights that candle upon regeneration by His Holy Spirit.)

      Bipartite supporters, on the other hand, don’t equate spiritual death with the actual removal of the Spirit of God (or the demise of Man’s spirit) since they don’t believe in a distinction between the soul and spirit. But as I’m questioning, that leaves open the possibility that there is still some remnant of good in Man, or at least not total depravity.

  12. I read the post and most of the comments; those comments I did not read carefully I at least skimmed. Some thoughts that resulted:

      1. Total depravity must be looked at from God’s perspective, not ours. The post and the comments all seem to take a anthropocentric approach to the notion of depravity. Total depravity does not mean that God cannot be glorified through sinful Christians, unbelievers, or the rest of His fallen creation (i.e., mountains, sunsets, the universe, etc.). It means that none of a depraved being’s acts can in any way gain merit or standing with Him. Depravity does not mean death of the human spirit, but that from God’s perspective the human spirit is separated (the real meaning of death, biblically speaking, rather than cessation). The human spirit lives on: if not, we are dead. Physically dead. The human spirit animates us.
      2. Without doubt (cf. Jas 3.9 for starters), the Imago Dei remains in humans – albeit in distorted form, like a mirror that has been cracked still reflects but does so imperfectly.

      I don’t think dividing people up into parts, whether bi- or tripartite, is helpful or biblical. We are functional wholes: Hebrew teaching was that we do not have souls but are souls. In this life (and according to God’s original purpose), the spirit of a person cannot be removed: it is dependent on the body for expression and the body dependent on the spirit for animation. The separation of the spirit from the body at death is abnormal and unnatural. Functionally, the Imago Dei is intrinsic to our being human; remove it and we are no longer human.

    My position, with some clarification needed, would be #3. If depravity is seen from God’s perspective, then some of the objections disappear; if the Imago Dei is understood as being essential to humanness, then the rest of the objections disappear.

    Is monergism true, i.e., is salvation completely a work of God? Yes. Are human responsibility and choice necessary for salvation? Yes (if not, a lot of the imperatives in Scripture are nonsensical). We have to live with the tension or distort the full teaching of God. I cannot reconcile these two truths, but God doesn’t expect me to. He only requires me to believe and teach both.

  13. Mike,

     

    Is it the human spirit that makes us who we are or the human soul? Some people draw a distinction and I believe that distinction is important.

    The definition of total depravity you use varies a bit from the classically Reformed view—Boettner has a great exposition on total depravity which argues the spirit in Man is dead, not simply cut off. Again, that distinction is important.

    Thanks for taking the time. I appreciate your insights–they make me think.

     

  14. ct

    Eph. 4:24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

    Col. 3:10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him…

    Righteousness, true holiness, knowledge…

    This is the Bible defining the image of God.

    Also, derived from biblical doctrine one can see the image of God in the trinity of being a prophet, priest, and a king.

    Adam was all three. He lost all three at the fall, by degree, but enough of a degree to render him in a different state, certainly vis-a-vis God.

    A regenerated Christian recovers all three (becomes all three). Now, and complete at glorification…

  15. I’ve written about this in my blog (linked to above).

    Basically, I argue from Genesis 5:3 that we are no longer in God’s image – we are in Adam’s image, which is a corruption of God’s image, but still retaining some of the faculties and dignity.

    Christ is the Image of God, we as Christians are being made to conform to his image.

  16. None of the above, naturally. Where does the Bible say “total depravity”? It’s a construct to describe what the Bible says, but when questions arise it’s time to go back to the texts, not mull over the sound-bytes used to sum up those texts. If I had to pick a different sound-byte, I’d pick “fundamental depravity” — mislaid foundation — rather than “total depravity”. Our fundamental depravity, going back to the text, is self-idolatry. It affects everything we do, but this depravity is strengthened (not lessened) by the fact that we are still in the Image of God.

  17. Some of you might be interested in Calvin’s own thoughts on the subject; a while ago I collected together some of the relevant passages from his commentaries. He brings up a number of points raised in some of the comments above in favor of all three positions — e.g., he insists that the image is obliterated, but denies that it is obliterated absolutely because of Genesis 6:1 (but then downplays this as evidence by saying that the fact that God created us to have the image of God would be reason enough). Perhaps some of the ambiguity is that Calvin doesn’t seem to deal directly with the question of image of God vs. total depravity — in his mind, the image of God is always linked with its restoration in Christ, so total depravity only gets discussed indirectly.

  18. Dan,

    You said “That would depend on whether Man has a soul/spirit (bipartite) or a distinct soul and spirit (tripartite).

    I’m not sure that this distinction is essential to the discussion of Imago Dei, but since it keeps coming up let me say that I an ontological bipartist and a functional tripartist. In other words, in terms of the “substance” that makes up a human being there are really only two types of “stuff,” namely matter and spirit, not three. (What could the third substance be if it is neither matter nor spirit?) But when you examine how the human person functions it is possible to see three divisions. There is also an interesting view that the soul is the result of the interaction of the body and the spirit, but I’m not sure how that would work out in the intermediate state of the dead prior to the resurrection.

    In any case, it is important to distinguish between the human spirit (without which we would not even be alive physically), and the Holy Spirit that indwells believers. This is complicated by the fact that the Greek word “spirit” can also mean “breath.” So when James 2:26 says “the body without the spirit is dead” it could be translated “breath,” but usually it is translated “spirit” (small “s” => our human spirit, according to the translators of the NASB).

    Also, it is important to define exactly what by saying that a person without Christ is “dead.” However we understand spiritual death, it does not destroy the Imago Dei.

  19. Justin Donathan

    It was interesting to come across your post today. Just last night I began reading C.S. Lewis The Four Loves, and I think something Lewis says may speak to this. He discusses nearness to God in terms of a) likeness to God, and b) nearness of approach. In other words when we talk about being like God there is an image bearing part of that that we all retain and that isn’t destroyed in the fall because it is not something we do, but essential to what we are, and then on the other hand there is a nearness of approach, a likeness that comes through grace and the responses that men have to it. An active likeness. I can’t do the argument justice but I would highly recommend the Introduction to The Four Loves in thinking about this issue.

  20. I stand in #4…

    The spiritual is not separate from the physical. Also, unlike Gnostics, I do not view the physical as evil. So, creativity is not just a chemical thing, it is a soul-thing. There is indeed a part in us that is immortal and a part that is not. God’s fingerprint (Romans 1) is seen in His creation. So, it indeed will be in us as part of that creation. I believe that you do not need to worry about total depravity or not to see His expression in all of us.

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