Distortion, Grace, the Holy Spirit and the Answer to A Final Question

On my Essentials of Christian Theology Final I was asked the following question: Discuss the issue of humanity’s creation and subsequent fall. How was the image of God affected? Discuss the concept of the deprivation of the Holy Spirit and the depravity of human character. How will these issues be overcome through grace?

Theologically speaking, the image of God within us is a reflection of our relationship with God. In the fall we turned away from God and began to reflect different images. In the fall we lost our ability to focus our reflection on God with our own effort. Even when we do attempt to reflect God’s image through our relationship with God, the distortion of having our focus on other things mars our ability to perfectly reflect God’s image as we did before the fall. The effects of this loss of access to the divine relationship are manifested in relational chaos with self, others, nature, and God. The life bearing aspect of God to us is the Holy Spirit and losing that source of our self-life, or deprivation of that life, atrophies the self.

As our self atrophies we become vessels of death whose actions are no longer coming from the source of life. Our ability to relate healthily deteriorates and is all but annihilated, which manifests in destructive relationships that elevate the self and the desires of the self at the expense of others. We destroy the environment so that we can have a tiny convenience, we stab co-workers in the back to get promotions or raises, we exploit those we perceive to be weaker than us, we indulge in addictive behaviors that serve only temporary satisfactions, and we look on all creation as a collection of resources to be used for the sole benefit of me. This state of existence is a living death from which only the grace-full intervention of the Holy Spirit gives us true life.

The vehicle of this grace is the new covenant inaugurated by the sacrifice of Jesus. In living as a human being Jesus sacrificed self-directed power, relying solely on the grace of the Holy Spirit for everything. In the cross and resurrection Jesus sacrificed the divine life so that we might have a new life that is not subject to the death that comes from losing our focus on reflecting the divine image. In the ascension Jesus sacrificed his relationship with his disciples so that they (and we) could be reconnected with the source of life the Holy Spirit.

My answer reflects a multitude of influences, but most of the nuances come from my experience among Friends and the understandings that even though the reflections of God are imperfect they are still present in every person.

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2 responses to “Distortion, Grace, the Holy Spirit and the Answer to A Final Question

  1. Your last sentence says, “the understandings that even though the reflections of God are imperfect they are still present in every person.” What do you mean “every person”? Do you mean every person on earth for all time? Do you mean every person who has Jesus as their personal Savior?

  2. I mean that every human being that has ever been born and ever will be born bears the image of God. No exceptions. If we deny this all kinds of abuse, exploitation, and oppression become justifiable. My line in the sand is that there is nothing any person can do, no matter how hard they may try, to fully erase the image of God that they bear.

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