Thursday, April 9, 2009

Relational response to R.C. Sproul's "The Image of God"

I listened to Dr. R. C. Sproul's lecture through Ligonaire Ministries radio dated 4/7/2009 available for free through

I agree with almost everything Sproul said. However, his concept is at best anemic and falls far short of true theomorphism. This is expected because he is a classical calvinist. Recall that theomorphism is a technical word to describe "in the image of God".

After the fall, he says that the image of God in man was shattered, and this I fully agree with. However, his anemic concept is tacitly derived from his unquestioning adherence to the T of the calvinist TULIP which stands for the TOTAL Depravity of man. As a 5-point Calvinist, his concept of theomorphism being shattered after the fall is one of being completely shattered and totally depraved and therefore unable to exercise true faith in God even when enlightened but still unredeemed. I was waiting for him to articulate this.

His main point was that man is a higher being than the rest of the animal kingdom or creation for that matter. He stops short of admitting that theomorphic man has free will ordained by the creator AND NATURALLY POSSESSES the inherent (in bold) ability to express love, hope, and just as important --- FAITH, albeit in imperfect form sometimes IN HIS FALLEN STATE! If these "natural attributes and abilities endowed by God" were also shattered (or shattered completely from the viewpoint of Hyper-Calvinism) then the fall of man made humanity just a tad higher than the animals which mostly function by instinct instead of intelligence and self-will.

Calvinists are somehow tunnel-visioned in imposing upon the text of Ephesians 2:8-9 the theory that even faith is NOT of ourselves, that even faith has to be the gift of God (and I have heard RC Sproul actually say this).

Now, a reading of any English translation (except the Living Bible, which is a paraphrase bias of the verses) or any Greek translation does not even come close to hinting that faith is not of ourselves. Importantly, the passage declares that salvation is NOT of ourselves which we completely subscribe to. Yes, salvation is the gift of God. Faith, however, and the capacity to exercise it is a clear part of theomorphism, i.e., faith and the exercise of faith was a designed and ordained human attribute which was bestowed on man at the creation. It is NOT a gift of God at the point of salvation. It can be called a gift of God, yes, but imparted thousands of years ago on the first man which we today simply inherit being THE SAME theomorphic beings, BUT NEVER at the point of salvation. Nowhere in the Bible is such a theory declared, not even by "chosen from the foundation of the world" which covers another aspect of the redeemed and/or the church.

Of what use is the image of God in man if all it is about is that man has a soul or spirit which the rest of creation does not have, or that he is higher than the animals? If the image of God is limited to that, then we have an anemic God, deficient in very important characteristics of independent, autonomous beings, unless, of course, the calvinist believes that man is just a glorified robot or a robot with a spirit -- a complete degradation of the image of God!

The concept of total depravity of man should be limited only towards his ability to please God and/or gain salvation without the provisions of God. However, it should be clarified that faith (inclusive of so-called SAVING FAITH) is and was NEVER a provision of God at the point of salvation. True theomorphism proposes that faith is part of the attributes of man inherited from God (being created in His image) in the original creation and the ability to exercise faith, hope, love, though volatile was never shattered by the fall.

We reiterate: Salvation is NOT of ourselves. However, the exercise of faith in the provision of God for our salvation is ENTIRELY of ourselves and of our human wills (free will being another attribute given to man at creation) and this is what consumates true redemption and the right to be related to God as His child.

Calvinists will point out one or two isolated verses to try to disprove this but they do so at the expense of the overwhelming preponderance of the rest of Scripture supporting the Relational Theology concept of Theomorphism. They commit this EXACT same hermeutical and exegetical error when they discuss predestination and election - - citing a few isolated verses at the expense of contradicting the overwhelming preponderance of the rest of Scripture which CLEARLY declares otherwise.

Paraphrases like The Living Bible are guilty of this erroneous translation, one reason I shy away from paraphrases which normally express the opinions of the translator but I insist on translations or better yet, parallel translations for real Bible study and exegesis. It is worth restating Ephesians 2:8 again using the ESV,

8 For zby grace you have been saved athrough faith. And this is bnot your own doing; cit is the gift of God
z ver. 5
a 1 Pet. 1:5; [Rom. 4:16]
b [2 Cor. 3:5]
c [John 4:10; Heb. 6:4]
The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Eph 2:8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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