Reformation Views of Man

The Reformers made a radical break with Aquinas’s nature and grace dichotomy. They would turn to the Biblical pattern of creation of sin and redemption by grace, returning to Augustinismover and against Semi-Pelagianism.

Views of Martin Luther

Luther viewed the image of God within the whole man—body and soul—completely lost after the fall. Luther, when speaking about the capacities for man, said that Adam’s eyes were sharper and clearer to those of the links in the eagle prior to the fall. He believed Adam was stronger than the lion or the bear, which he handled and commanded like trained dogs. That was Luther’s imagination of man in the image of God. Luther believed that this was completely lost because of the fall. Therefore, today, one cannot say that man is in the image of God. He did believe that through the redemption that Jesus Christ accomplished, it is possible for man to be restored to the image of God. We can see where he referred to this in passages such as Colossians 3:10: “And have put on the new [man], which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him”.To Luther, man was created in the image of God, but in the fall he completely lost it. However, through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ we are being restored in the image of God.

Views of John Calvin

Calvin, one of the greatest theologians of the Reformation period, contended that philosophers had gone astray because they overlooked the fall when discussing the nature of man. He said that men who overlooked the nature of the fall were like men seeking a building amongst ruins. They are like men who are looking amongst scattered fragments for a well-formed structure. This is a good picture for modern philosophers who are looking for man, and fortunately modern philosophy finds the building amid the rubble. His idea is that man is still essentially good. Calvin agreed with Luther in that through the work of Jesus Christ man can be restored to the image of God. However, Calvin did not agree with Luther and his belief that the image of God was completely lost in the fall.

For a man indeed ought not to cover [his] head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. (1Corinthians 11:7)

In this verse, we see Paul clearly stated that man was in the image and glory of God, even in his fallen state.

Calvin and Luther, both agreed that man was created in the image of God. Luther believed that man lost the image completely in his fall, and Calvin said no, that man did not lose the image of God completely. However, what Calvin believed to remain is a frightful deformity; he believed that man was mutilated and disease ridden. In addition, he further agreed with Luther, believing that it was the Word of God through the saving work of Christ to restore man to the image of God in sanctification. Calvin felt that man was still in the image of God, though deformed, disease ridden, and mutilated. These two Reformers agreed in everything except for the loss of the image of God at the fall.

Categories: Theology

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