Total Depravity and the Image of God

I saw on twitter recently a picture that said “we are dust this is true, but we are God’s dust.  The dust of glory.”  I have noticed a slightly disturbing trend in my wonderful world of Reformdum lately.  We do a great job at emphasizing human depravity (which is good and necessary) but a poor job at emphasizing human dignity and the image of God.  Joe Rigney has discovered the deadly “New Calvinist” syndrome, which symptoms include “a fanatical commitment to swallow any reductio, so long as it makes God big and man small.”  God is big and man is small and we must try to paint a picture of a big God, but what if we have belittled man so much that it has actually made God smaller?  We are wretched, depraved, god-hating, evil sinners, yes, but at the same time we are also beautifully created image bearers of the only holy and intimate God ,worthy of dignity.  Emphasizing one side without the other is only a half truth.  We are totally depraved (which means by the way that we are depraved in every area, not that we are as depraved as we possibly could be.  We could be worse.  That’s called ultimate depravity.)  By belittling God’s creation we inevitably belittle God.  We must hate sin, yes, but not God’s wonderful creation of humanity.  The worst sinner bears the image of the same God as the greatest saint.  What if we looked at our neighbors as not just sinners but image bearers.   Our gay neighbor, our Muslim neighbor, our redneck neighbor, our drunk neighbor and so on.  The are all of intimate value because they are made in the image of the same God as me and you.  John Stott captured the tension of totally depraved image bearers in The Cross of Christ:

“I am a Jekyll and Hyde, a mixed-up kid, having dignity because I was created and have been recreated in the image of God, deprived because I still have a  fallen and rebellious nature.  I am both noble and ignoble, beautiful and ugly, good and bad, upright and twisted image and child of God.”

Jesus didn’t die on the cross for a pile of dirt, but a beautiful humanity.  Wayward yes, but beautiful  and valuable none the less.


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