Klaas Schilder on the Imago Dei

Schilder sees man’s creation as the pre-condition for the image, but not the image itself (Berkouwer 54).  The actual image lies in the officium created man receives (I don’t think this is the full picture, but there is some truth to this, especially if we connect the imago dei with man’s dominion, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism hints at).

  • Thus, the image is dynamic and is rooted in the Covenantal God’s Relation with man.
  • the word “image” implies “making visible.”
  • Schilder resists any abstracting the image.
  • The glory of the image shines forth in service to God (56).

There is much good with Schilder’s take. I have several concerns: The danger with Schilder’s approach is that it makes the image too “dynamic” with an emphasis on conformitas.  It is not a hard push from here to Arminianism, Semi-Pelagianism, and Eastern Orthodoxy.  Further, the narrative does not seem to make the distinction on pre-conditions that Schilder does.  Perhaps it could work if one argues that God’s act of creating is not itself the image of God.  That is certainly true enough.


Dichotomy and Trichotomy: on the nature of man

These are notes from various texts on Man’s essence.   A fuller essay comes later.  I advance the thesis–though I will modify it at points at another time–that man is composed of two elements: bshr (flesh) and ruach (cf. A.A. Hodge, p.299ff).

Against Trichotomism:

Definition:  man has three distinct elements–rational spirit, animal soul, and body.

Supposed biblical evidence: 1 Thess. 5:23 (I pray that your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless).

However, the NT often uses the words psyche and pneuma interchangeably.  Both are used to designate the soul as the seat of the intellectual faculties (Matt. 16:26).  Both can be used to designate the soul as the animating principle of the body (James 2:26).  Deceased persons are both called psuchai (Acts 2:27) and pneumata (Luke 24:37).

Hodge’s discussion good, but inadequate.

The above was taken from A.A. Hodge’s fine Outlines of Theology.   I agree with him that the bible doesn’t teach trichotomy, but he leaves some issues untreated.  He hasn’t fully broken with the Hellenic scheme of a scale of hierarchy with regard to man’s Soul and Body. He speaks of “higher” and “lower” principles (301).  Though to be fair to Hodge, in rejecting trichotomy he has rightly rejected the heart of Hellenism.

Image and Likeness

By eikon the Fathers understood the natural constitutional powers of man.  By homoiosis they understood the matured and developed moral perfection of man (Hodge 305; Hodge identifies this system but doesn’t address it except to indirectly suggest it is the precursor of the Roman donum superadditum,  Maybe so, but there are differences between the East and Rome on this point, though there are similarities).

Bavinck gives a more satisfactory discussion.  He notes their interchangeable usage in Genesis 1:26 and 5:4; but in 1:27 and 9:6 only the image is referred to.  In Genesis 5:1 and James 3:9 only the likeness (Bavinck II: 532).    Bavinck adds, “Image tells us that God is the archetype, man the ectype; likeness adds the notion that the image corresponds in all parts to the original” (ibid).

Earthy-ing the Imago Dei

I read Van Til, Dooyeweerd, and Rushdoony for reasons most other people don’t read them.  I couldn’t care less about specific apologetic methodologies.  Their true genius is in the fact that they–more than anyone else–allowed the Creator-creature distinction to inform their understanding of creation and imago Dei.

Any discussion of the imago-dei is better served, not by speculating on essences and accidents, but on man’s role as priest-king-prophet in creation and New Creation.  We must firmly resist any scheme that says the higher part of man is the soul while the lower part is the body (John of Damascus and Aquinas say exactly that).

Survey of Christian Epistemology (Full)

Typical van Til book.  Numerous interesting insights on Greek philosophy.  Sort of spirals out of control on Idealism as he (likely) tried to fit his dissertation into three chapters.

Medieval Epistemology

CvT is friendlier to Augustine in this volume than he was in A Christian Theory of Knowledge.   Here he emphasizes the differences between Augustine and Plato and focuses the discussion on the problem of knowledge that Plato raised in the previous chapter: what is the principle of Unity (One) and Diversity (Many)?

For CvT this solution lies in the doctrine of the Trinity.

Without a doctrine of creation, the sense world is seen as an “ultimate” (48).  And if we start with an ultimate plurality, how will we get to unity?  Plato never found unity in the Ideal world, for the Idea of the Good never acquired supremacy over the other ideas, and there remained the problem of the Idea of mud, hair, and filth.

The scholastics accepted the Greek idea of the soul, which parallels the chain of being.   At the lowest level is the vegetative part, then the appetitive, then the cognitive (this also parallels comments made by John of Damascus).

Universals and Paganism

The problem of universals is simply a restatement of the problem of the One and the Many.

Donum Superadditum

Something (image of God) received with man’s being.  The origin of this thought lies in the pagan idea of a material universe with an evil inherent in it existing independently of God (62).  It’s hard to see on this gloss how God could have created man “good” apart from endowing him with a little something extra.

Modern Epistemology: Lutheranism

Luther thought of the image of God in purely moral categories, neglecting such as the will and intellect.

Van Til analyzes the Lutheran view of the sacrament as it relates to the person of Christ, and as such to epistemology:  the human can become divine.  It is an intermingling of temporal and eternal (70).  As such, Lutheranism also finds itself facing the same difficulties that Platonism faced.

Original Sin and Representation (78)

Van Til has an illuminating discussion on original sin.  He addresses the common challenge to it:  it is illogical because we can’t be tried for someone else’s actions.   But he points out that this only works if we reject the category of representation.

He says that the principle of representation holds because the members of the Trinity are mutually representational.  That is an interesting suggestion, but I am not sure what he really means by that.  He goes on to say that God creates in representational categories (78-79).  Again, very intriguing but not really that clear.

Modern Epistemology: Arminianism

For Watson finitude involves evil (82).  “No creature can be entirely perfect because he is finite” (Watson, Theological Institutesvol 1, p. 33).  This mutes the distinction between general and special revelation. But as Van Til points out, this is paganism.  It posits a world independent of God.  If God created the world there is no reason why it can’t be perfectly good (Van Til, 82).  Van Til asks the question, “Why [on the Arminian gloss]could not God create a perfect though finite being?”   The only real answer for the Arminian is that there must be laws and conditions above God to which he must answer (90).

Van Til then employs the standard (and in my opinion, devastating) objection to Arminianism:  was it in God’s plan that man should fall into evil?  If he says yes, then he is a Calvinist.  If he says no, then he posits a Platonic man outside the plan and power of God (83).  Like Plato, this posits a world independent (to some degree, anyway) of God.

Van Til then goes on to discuss the Arminian contention that for an ethical act to be truly free, it must occur in an impersonal vacuum (Miley, Systematic Theology, I: 409, quoted in Van Til, 87).  The problem with this is given what we confess about God, and that all facts are in a God-vacuum, then on Miley’s gloss it’s hard to see how any action could occur. Van Til points out this is an anti-theistical position.  He writes, “[this] act could not occur except in the Void” (88).

Modern Epistemology: Calvinism

Van Til links Calvin’s project under the “Covenant” (96).  He notes that we see his “representation” in the Trinity as well.   The persons of the Trinity are exhaustive of one another.  This allows man to find the principles of unity and diversity within the Trinity (and hence, within eternal categories).

If the Trinity is representational, then man, too, thinks in representational categories (97).

What the image/likeness schemata isn’t

I just finished translating Genesis 1 from Hebrew this afternoon.   I had to look up the words for “image” and “likeness” because they aren’t normal Hebrew vocab nor had they yet appeared in the narrative. It reminded of an earlier theological issue:  image and likeness.

Unique to the Eastern Orthodox scheme is their insistence that we are created in the image of God but have not yet achieved his likeness.  Indeed, as one succinctly summarizes, they are not two ways of saying the same thing.  As one more scholarly venue notes, we already have the image of God but not his likeness.  The more we are deified (theosis) the more unto the likeness we pertain.  This scheme encompasses both grace and works.   We have the image by grace but we achieve the likeness by works (and so allow James 2 its full force).

What are we to make of this?  Admittedly, it’s a very nice construction.  Despite their usual antipathy to logic, it is very logical and depending on which Father you are reading, it can be very beautiful.  I have to wonder, though, if that’s what Moses is really talking about.  Hebrew poetry and idiom lives on parallelism.  One line or clause will expand or repeat the idea of the previous clause, or it will contrast it.  Such a comparison/contrast goes like this:  A/’A, or A/~A.   What Hebrew thought does not do, however, is go A/B within the same unit of thought.    Indeed, it would no longer be parallelism if it did.  This doesn’t mean the image/likeness scheme is wrong, per se, it just means that Genesis 1 doesn’t teach it.

There are other historical and theological issues with it.  It seems no different than medieval semi-Pelagianism.  Indeed, it seems a lot like the post-medieval nominalism of Gabriel Biel (which is more than ironic since many try to tag that onto Luther!).   Of course, that, too, doesn’t mean it is wrong; it is just an observation.

An extended meditation:  man’s problem is not ontological, but ethical.  It was the devil who recommended to Adam that he could transcend his current human limitations.