Religious views; So how does the image of God exist in us?


So how does the image of God exist in us?

1.     In the essence of our humanity: with soul and body as substrate.

2.     In the capacities and abilities of that essence: knowing, feeling, willing and acting.

3.     In the properties and gifts of that essence and their capabilities; holiness knowledge and righteousness. Page 36

So we have three bullet points from Bavincks ethics.  At first I was confused with ‘body as substrate’ but now I understand that the soul and body coexist.  The conundrum seemed to be that the soul has a ‘forever’ dimension and the ‘body’ has a mortal dimension.  Bavinck touches on substrate in Bavinck Review 9 (2018) John Bolt translated Bavinck here and I am grateful that I was able to download it;

I knocked the https:// off the front of the address so it won’t pickup in the html but that is the address.

So what of our human essence and what do scholars think about it?  This is an important question and Bavinck starts from religious perspectives not his own.

He says about the Flacians;

The Flacians say the image of God (thus also its properties, original

righteousness) belongs to the essence, the nature of human beings.

Bavinck refutes this;

This cannot be correct, because then humanity, on losing its original righteousness, would have lost and changed its essence.

So in layman’s terms what does that mean.  Simply put at the Fall human essence changed into an alien essence, something not human.  As you can see Bavinck’s mind is very sharp.

He then turns to Roman Catholic theology;

The Roman Catholics say that human beings were created with an unblemished nature’’—hence neither righteous nor unrighteous by nature—and that original righteousness was added as a “superadded gift” to curb the naturally existing disharmony between flesh and spirit”


Bavinck doesn’t agree with this either;

But this also cannot be correct because then the struggle between flesh and spirit would be natural and good, coming directly from God who would then be the cause of sin.

Obviously, Bavinck is right here as well.  It goes against theological principles of the Bible to say that God is the cause of sin.  One needs to remember that God for a moment allowed his Son to take on sin at the cross to save us.  Sin separates from God. Even the Son in his humanity. I still have to think about this moment, but Jesus did cry out “…Why have you forsaken me!”

As with Bavinck I also have problems with Roman Catholic theology with their use of Aristotelian Logic which in the Institutes of the Christian Religion has been dumped by John Calvin. If I am wrong, please feel free to contact me and correct me but I have checked Calvin’s Institutes.  Bavinck in the next paragraph explains there are two senses

Rather, Reformed theology understands the image of God in a broad sense to include the essence and capabilities of a human being, while a narrower sense of the image involves is

knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, as original righteousness it belongs naturally to a human being, so that human essence or nature can no longer be complete and right without it. The image of God therefore belongs to the essence of human beings, although not in the Flacian sense. (Bavincks ethics page 37)


Bavinck finishes above off with a Reformed view.  This is closer to my view as well. There was a Fall Man fell into sin and regeneration is now only possible through Jesus Christ.  This to me has Scriptural backing and Aristotle or other philosophies are not needed.  Let the Bible speak for itself.  Next time we are going to look at how Bavinck interprets modern notions of the human essence Such as  G. Fichte (1762-1814), Schleiermacher, Rother and so on et al.

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