Friday, January 8, 2010

The restoration of the divine image in the Church

Another section of an article I'm writing.

The God-Man Christ Jesus is the restoration and completion of the true image of God in humanity. We are to be "conformed the image of his [God's] Son" (Rom. 8:29) as "lord of all" and "servant of all." One gains this by faith in the gospel, given to us in Word and sacrament. The Gospel of John makes this clear in the most dramatic fashions by highlighting the fact that we Jesus lay dead on the cross and was pierced by the spear of the Centurion out of his side came water and blood (Jon. 19:34-5). As several scholars have noted, the water would indicate the sacraments of Baptism and blood the Lord's Supper. To bolster this, we should note that John observes in his first epistle that the water and the blood with the Spirit are that which witnesses to Jesus (1 Jon. 5:6). In this, we can see that the reception of justification arises from Jesus' death mediated through the means of grace.
The gospel not only justifies us, but sanctifies and restores the image of God within us (Col. 3:10). Several scholars have also noted that Jesus lays incapacitated in a similar manner to Adam as Eve came out his side. We might also note the parallel to the story of creation in that this event occurs on the sixth day (Friday), the day of the creation of humanity and therefore presumably the day that Eve was taken from the side of Adam.
Christ's self-giving in the form of the gospel therefore recapitulates the relationship between male and female, therefore the relationship between the Father and the Son. He restores humanity to its original life by giving the same promises of life and freedom that our first parents received. In the gospel, Christ gives us freedom from the law and therefore the restoration of dominion (Eph. 2:6 paralleling Gen. 1:28b) and the promise of eternal life by the power of his resurrection (Rom. 6:5 paralleling Gen. 1:28a). By his self-giving in the form of the gospel's promise, we receive ourselves as justified sinner via Word and sacrament, just as Eve received herself from Adam's self-giving, and as the Son in eternity received himself from the Father's infinite being. In this, we can come to recognize why the New Testament uses the metaphor of the bride of Christ as well as the body of Christ, for the Church. The Church is the possessor of God's full self-donation in the gospel, just as the Son possesses all that is the Father's, and the woman is derived from and receives the man's own body as her own in marriage. The Church therefore possesses the restored divine image of righteousness not as an abstract quality, but rather as a relationship to the Son's own full self-giving that continues until the last day in the form of Word and sacrament. Such a relationship in turn expresses itself in the freedom for self-giving in the form of vocation within the world. The Church therefore receives all from the Son, so that it can give all in the world. In this, the Church also engages in an act kenosis until the end of time when it receives God's own glory much like Christ in his resurrection (Dan. 12:3, Rom. 8:14-7, 30, 1 Pt. 4:9-11). By this, it displays the narrative image of the Son which it has received, that is, the image of death, resurrection and glorification.


  1. You are one smart cookie. I was drooling (metaphorically, of course) over this article. It looks like it is going to be GORGEOUS!

    By the way- where are you getting all this stuff about kenosis?

  2. Tim, I appreciate your interest. The article itself is about the problem of kenosis in Lutheran theology and its relationship to the doctrine of vocation. My starting point is the Lutheran doctrine of the genus maistaticum, which teaches that Christ's human nature receives the fullness of divine glory within itself accidentally when considered in the abstract (rather than the just the concrete). This leads to a discussion in the early 17th century regarding whether kenosis means the concealment of that glory and secret use of it (Swabian-Cryptocist position) or a real, temporary partial restraint of it (Saxon-Kenoticist position). Though I accept the Saxon view, I figure out a way of reconciling them (I'm not going to put that part of the article up, you have to read it if they decided to publish it).

    Where do I get my ideas? Well, from the Bible- which is where I would hope any theologian would get them. I follow Luther's practice and read the whole Bible through every 6 months (give or take).

    When approaching the Bible, I understand it Chistocentrically. Nevertheless, I think it's important to understand how the Bible functions on a literary level. The Biblical authors minds work intertextually, analogically and typologically. Everything in the Bible echoes something earlier or anticipates something later. Use of even very insignificant words often have some interesting meaning.

    I would refer you to my earlier post "No protology or eschatology?"

    Thanks again for reading!

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