image of the image of the image: Dei, Christi, Nos

Here is a good quote from Greek Orthodox theologian Khaled Anatolios on the vicarious humanity of Christ and Incarnation:

A helpful way to synthesize the argument of Against the Greeks—On the Incarnation and to integrate it with Athanasius’s later and more explicitly polemical work is to focus on the trintarian-christological-athanasiusanthropological nexus that forms the guiding motif of the work: only the One who is true Image can renew humanity’s being according to the image (kat’ eikona). The trinitarian ground of this nexus is the immediate relation (though we do not find the later technical vocabulary of “relation” in this treatise) whereby the Son is the Image of the Father. The soteriological consequence of this immediacy is that the Son is uniquely able to grant direct and immediate access to the Father. The statement that humanity was created according to the Image is simultaneously anthropological and christological: to be created according to the Image is to be granted a participation in the one who is the true and full Image of the Father. When humanity lost its stability, which depended on remaining in the state of being according to the Image, the incarnate Word repaired the image of God in humanity by reuniting it with his own divine imaging of the Father. Jesus Christ is therefore both eternal divine Image and restored human image. The saving union of divine and human image in Christ is characterized by immediacy. One foundational principle of Athanasius’s theological vision is this stress on the continuity of immediate connections between God and humanity and a corresponding abhorrence of obstacles and opaque mediations. As perfect Image, the Son is immediately united to the Father and transparently reflects knowledge of the Father; anything short of this immediate and transparent relation would deconstruct our immediate connection with the Father through the Son from the divine side. Through his incarnation, the Son repairs our human participation in his imaging of the Father from within the human constitution; anything short of a full incarnation would leave humans disconnected from both Father and Son. Thus, incarnation and the full divinity of the Son are both integral to the immediacy of our contact with the Father. Far from indicating inferior divinity, the human life and death of Jesus Christ extend the efficacy of is divine imaging of the Father in the face of humanity’s loss of the state of being according to the image. It is a wonderful display of the loving-kindness that belongs to the divine nature as such, the philanthrōpia that is equally shared by Father and Son. [Khaled Anatolios,Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine,(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011), 107-8.]

So we are images of the Image in the Son as we participate from His life for us. He is the Image of God, and the recreated image of the image that was originally created in the garden in Adam and Eve. So Christ was the human image of God whom Adam and Eve reflected as the image of the image first. It is only as this image is recreated and restored through the ‘firstborn status’ of the Son (Col. 1.15ff) that salvation and reconciliation is realized for us in Christ. This fits well with Thomas Torrance’s understanding of Theosis, and his ontological theory of the atonement; and something that is central to what Myk Habets and I consider to be the grist of evangelical Calvinist soteriology.

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5 Responses to image of the image of the image: Dei, Christi, Nos

  1. Bill Ford says:

    I am especially fond of the way Athanasius puts it: “So the Word of God himself came in order that he who is the image of the Father might be able to renew the creation of the humanity which is in the image. But this could not have been done apart from the destruction of death and corruption. Therefore, it was fitting that he took a mortal body, in order that henceforth death could be destroyed in it and humanity might be renewed in the image. (Inc. 13)” (Athanasius, 45. Khaled Anatolios cites Robert W. Thomson, Contra Gentes and De Incarnatione). The “gist,” indeed!


  2. Steve says:

    Though Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, they were peccable. Unless you are going to hold that at the incarnation Christ was peccable, you can equate the two only so far. I believe, with Torrance and those before him, that the scripture teaches that the Lord took upon Himself our sinful humanity and sanctified it in Himself in the days of His flesh. However, that is a different thing than saying He was therefore peccable – though some could say this and maintain his sinlessness. It is a debatable question as to whether Adam and Eve would have eventually achieved the glory due us if they had not sinned. But our future is bound up with Christ, in His glorified body, which seems to be something far greater than Adam and Eve’s original creation because, at the least, we will be impeccable as He is.


  3. Bobby Grow says:


    I don’t think that is a necessary correlation at all. To be human is not by definition to be peccable, that is an Augustinian imposition upon how we conceive of the imago Dei, not a biblical one. If I start with where the Bible starts with the imago Dei (in Christ Col 1.15), and work from there, then peccability or impeccability are not necessary categories whatsoever. So I would argue, from Christ, that the imago Dei which Adam and Eve were created in was in the image of Christ Deus incarnandus, ‘the God to be incarnate’, and that what it means, then, to be a human is to be in right relation to God. I don’t hold to the position that Adam and Eve or humanity simpliciter would have ever arrived at the point and purpose of creation w/o Christ and the Incarnation; because I see Christ Jesus as that point. And so I agree our future is something far greater, and always already has been, that what Adam and Eve had; but I don’t agree with your chronological or soteriological reading of that which appears to start with Genesis 1:1. I prefer to start with John 1:1, and read Genesis 1:1 in light of the Christ, and humanity and conditioned by his primacy over and for creation. And I of course agree with TFT on the kind of humanity Jesus assumed in Incarnation.


    Yeah, Athanasius’ ‘Incarnation’ is a good one!


  4. Steve says:

    I agree that being “in Christ” is true and intended humanity. So then, how would you explain, in your system of thought, Adam’s sin if he was not peccable. Do you think that the Lord was peccable but lived a perfect human existence in loving obedience to the Father? Thanks for being able to talk about such high and holy subjects.


  5. Bobby Grow says:

    Hi Steve,

    Not surprisingly I follow TFT and some fathers on the kind of humanity Jesus assumed:

    I simply do not believe that using peccability or impeccability is the best way in to establishing a theological anthropology or on how to frame the imago Dei; it is too negative.

    For EC, we press into the reality that sin is a surd, and trying to explain its why is inexplicable; which would make it even harder to use as a category for constructing a theo-anthropology. It is thinking in abstraction and not from Christ; i.e. Adam sinned, so based on that inference what does it tell us about human nature? And of course to employ such methodology engages in the kind of natural theology that I reject as viable. It is engagement of natural theology and analytical theology because it is placing nature, and our reflection upon it as the grounds by which we fabricate our philosophical/theological categories (this is what, more specifically is called the analogy of being). If someone follows revealed theology (and sees Christ as the Revelation of God), then trying to get at this issue in the way you are–or at least the way of peccability does–won’t work.


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