Jonathan Edwards and the Image of God

Jeff Waddington speaks about Jonathan Edwards’ theological anthropology. He distinguishes Edwards’ approach from that of Thomas Aquinas and explains its significance for apologetics.

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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

Jeffrey Waddington

9 years ago

I need to correct myself. During the interview I said that Edwards’ nemesis in his treatise on original sin was Edward Taylor when it was actually the English Presbyterian John Taylor.

Jeffrey Waddington

9 years ago

The sermon I referred to by Edwards is called “East of Eden,” on Genesis 3:24 and can be found in the Yale edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, volume 17, 331-348.

Joshua Hinson

9 years ago

I read Berkhof’s chapter on Man as the Image of God this morning and then saw the topic of your discussion immediately after. Thanks, it was really helpful and flowed well with my reading.


9 years ago

I cannot ignore the problems in Van Til’s view of the image of God. It seems to me after listening to van Tilian interpret
1 Cor 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

Their view of the rational faculty in man is more than just generally fallen or corrupted. I found this conversation to lack detail on the rational faculty.

1. “The fallen reason in Romans 1”. 6:25 ish. 2. “Unbeliever has reason, but only function for sinful purposes.”
I have a question, does the Van Tilian believe that no unbeliever can understand even one verse of scripture qua unbeliever?

1 Cor 2: Verse 13 denies that true knowledge comes from man’s wisdom as a source but comes from God. This is a direct denial of natural theology. Verse 14 tells us that the natural man will not think up God’s doctrines on his own. He does have some knowledge of general revelation as he is made in God’s image but he will never think that God saves man on the basis of the work of Christ’s sacrifice because: 1. It must be revealed and 2. Such a man debasing doctrine is foolish to him. Verse 14 is a camp ground for many irrationalists but the verse offers them no refuge. The phrase, “neither can he known them” or in the NASB, “he cannot understand them” is best translated “neither can he know them.” It seems from what i have read from the Van Tilians unless man knows everything he cannot know anything at all. I want a Van Tilian to explain this and how it relates to the fallen man and the image of God.

The neutral view is Pelagian. Eo make the arg. that Reformed Pre-lap man is Pelagian. The EO analysis is again shown to be a mistaken. So how does the Reformed view differ from the Pelagian in reference to pre-lapsarian man? 1. The Reformed say that man was born with original righteousness and inclined to it while the Pelagian system must have man neutral from his creation so that he can choose to be righteous or not righteous himself, thus they deny that man can be created with a CONCRETED MORAL CHARACTER. 2. The Reformed teach that man was created immortal, while the Pelagians believed that Adam was going to die from the natural state he was created. 3. The Reformed believe concupiscence to be sin and a consequence of sin, the Pelagians believed concupiscence to be natural and good. These are not simply accidental differences. These are two different systems right from the start not just post-fall.

“Fall is ethical, not metaphysical.” Great point. Thus no need of Eastern Theosis, nor the view of Christus Victor which is an “ontological rescue” in Aulen’s words. If you ever hear an Eastern Ortho apolgete complain that Reformed posits nature as grace, what they mean is that Reformed posits man’s original state as righteous or what he means is that righteousness is an essential element of the image of God.

A good quote from Charles Hodge on this issue,

“While, therefore, the Scriptures make the original moral perfection of man the most prominent element of that likeness to God in which he was created, it is no less true that they recognize man as a child of God in virtue of his rational nature. He is the image of God, and bears and reflects the divine likeness among the inhabitants of the earth, because he is a spirit, an intelligent, voluntary agent; and as such he is rightfully invested with universal dominion. This is what the Reformed theologians were accustomed to call the essential image of God, as distinguished from the accidental. The one consisting in the very nature of the soul, the other in its accidental endowments, that is, such as might be lost without the loss of humanity itself.” Systematic Theology Vol 2 pg. 99

The rational faculty in Scholastic and Scripturalist philosophy is very different than Van Tilian. I want more detail from the Van Tilians on what this entails. The Scholastics and Scripturalists admitt hat man is fallen and this fall has effected his intellect. This simply means that man makes logical blunders SOMETIMES. It does not mean that in a general category (such as scripture) he has no more faculty left.


9 years ago

On page 536 of Bahnsen’s Van Til’s Apologetic he says, “The lost condition of the unbeliever is not fully recognized, since he is not seen to be one whose mind is vain and darkened with ignorance (cf. Eph 4:17-18), who is unable to know the things of the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 2:14), and whose reasoning has been rendered futile.”

The context here on th Van Tilian view, reveals that the barrier between unbelieving man and divine knowledge is not that God has not revealed knowledge about himself to man, because it is the Van Tilians position that there is revelation everywhere he goes in the trees and the clouds, etc. but the barrier is that he has no faculty or aparatus to perceive it. That’s the whole point. On the Scripturalist view man does have the faculty/aparatus to perceive it and when God does reveal knowldge to him he can know it. The context of 1 Cor 2 is the unbelieving man’s attempt to find knowledge on his on means and terms and he cannot know these things because he needs divine revelation.

I so say then, that the Van Tilian view posits a loss of the rational faculty in man at the fall and posits a loss of humanity altogether in the fall.

Jeff Downs

9 years ago

For critiques of Scripturalism go here and here

Does the Van Tilian System Posit a Loss of Humanity in the Fall? by Drake

9 years ago

[…] […]


9 years ago

So Jeff,
Instead of actually dealing with my argument as the other guy on the PB failed to do as well you just post arguments against scripturalism: Ok I can play this game, here are my arguments against Van Tilism:

Top Ten Reasons to Reject the “Van Tillian Package”

1. The Van Tillian Philosophy Posits a Loss of Humanity in the Fall

2. Van Tilism Has Only Created Light.

3. Van Til’s Denial of Occasionalism/immediate revelation/immediate Knowledge Leaves Infants Dying in Infancy with No Hope of Salvation

4. Van Til’s Paradoxes Leave the Door Open for Every other Religion to do the Same Thing

5. Van Tilism is a Denial of the Protestant Doctrine of Sola Scriptura and the Sufficiency of Scripture or a Denial of the Trinity and the Hypostatic Union

6. An Infallible Assurance of Salvation is a Denial of Cessationism and Posits Extra- Scriptural Revelation, ergo, a Denial of Sola Scriptura.

7. Van Til’s Infinitude Predication of God is Eastern Irrationalism that Posits a Denial of Omniscience

8. Van Tilism Fails to Provide Objective Proof for Reformed Christianity

9. Van Tilism is Marketed as a Presuppositional Christian Apologetic Yet Posits Proofs for God’s existence. This is Inconsistent

10. Van Tilism is a Denial of Revelation.


reading Scripture » Jonathan Edwards and the Image of God

9 years ago

[…] the Reformed Forum’s Christ the Center podcast, Jeff Waddington speaks about Jonathan Edwards’ theological anthropology. He distinguishes Edwards’ approach from that of Thomas Aquinas and explains its significance for […]


7 years ago

Mr. Waddington, when are you planning to publish your work on Edwards’ Anthropology? I have been reading Edwards, and I would like to read a study about his anthropology, specially in reference to men like Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin and Turretin.


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