The Fall Revisited and the Image of God

Kurt Dahlin May 20, 2003

Imago Dei

It is important for our lives with God to have the proper image of God. We each have a mental picture or image of God that was formed early in life and carried into adulthoodOften God is thought to be a mean old ogre whose only joy in life is to punish people. The mention of God as Father often conjures up the human image of the mean and abusive father. Yet, God is love. Does love abandon, cut off, alienate and oppress or does love seek, restore, redeem and bless? What does love do? Certainly, God must punish evil. If God is good he must arrest evil. If your mother was brutally murdered you would want the killer arrested and brought to justice. Our innate sense of justice requires that goodness triumphs over evil. Make no mistake, God will terminate and triumph over evil. Yet, is God gracious, long suffering, not willing that any should perish. It is good to examine our image of God to see if it is biblical.A manmade or human centered image of God that conflicts with church history, the attributes of God and biblical revelation should be reconsidered.


If your image of God is the abandoning, rejecting, cut off and disowning father—this could spill over into how you treat people. If your image of God is the loving, seeking, healing, redeeming, going the extra mile servant father—this could spill over into how you treat people. We have a choice between two very different father models. Jesus said be like the Father,

Matt 5:48

48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


Which father will we emulate? Who’s your daddy? Our image of God will be heavily influenced by our understanding of the fall of Adam and Eve. As we seek foundations for living, it is vital to get a more balanced view of Adam and Eve.

There are two very different views of the fall of Adam and Eve to choose from: the most popular one in America is The Rejection Model; the second is The Redemption Model.


  1. God came to condemn, punish, reject and abandon Adam and Eve. God left them depraved, corrupt, alienated, forsaken, spiritually dead, powerless against evil and cursed. Their seed is a corrupt seed. As a result, the whole human race is a mass of corruption inheriting death and damnation from our damaged and vitiated parents.


  1. God came to set free, restore, redeem, help and give hope to Adam and Eve. God left them better, hopeful, blessed, encouraged, and empowered with the knowledge of good and evil, his promise to deliver, new clothes and his presence. They were disciplined and sent out from the Garden. There were repercussions for sin and disobedience; yet within the context of the redeeming love of God.

The first view of the fall is the Roman Catholic or western tradition. The second view is the Orthodox or eastern tradition. You are free to choose any view you want. Yet, you should know there is a choice. Choice means that we have the opportunity and the ability to select between different things. We have the power to make a decision from the range of various possibilities.

I am going to tell you my reasons for choosing view #2. If the reasons are biblical and the evidence is valid—I would hope to persuade you to be open to view #2. I am going to discuss with you 3 areas that should always be considered in making an informed interpretation of the Bible:

1. Early Church History to about AD 350

2. The Attributes of God

3. The Bible

If you live in the United States or Europe, you probably don’t know that there is a second view of the fall of Adam and Eve.

However, there is a second opinion. In reality, the second opinion or the eastern tradition was the first and most original representation of the fall in church history. The eastern tradition or The Redemption Model is the most ancient view of the fall. 

Church History is on the Side of View #2

Historically, view #2 The Redemption Model was the first and only option in the united church. View #2 was held unanimously by the universal church until the 5th century AD. Augustine ofHippo (A.D. 354-430), a Latin speaking bishop in North Africa, packaged and popularized view #1 The Rejection Model. Augustine is considered by Rome to be the greatest of the Latin fathers.  However, Augustine was only one voice and his teaching only found soil in the Western Roman Empire. For these reasons, The Rejection Model only took root in the western, Latin-speaking part of the church. The universal church already had a well-established view of the fall for 400 years, why should they change for something new? In AD 1054, the western Latin-speaking part of the church broke away from the larger union of universal Christianity and formed the Roman Catholic Church. Anyone raised as a Roman Catholic would immediately recognize view #1.

In 1517 Father Martin Luther, a Catholic priest, protested abuses in the medieval church. He began an attempt to reform Roman Catholicism, which lead to the Protestant movement. Since Protestants are the offspring of Roman Catholicism—most Protestants immediately identify with view #1 the Rejection Model. View #1 is central to Reformation theology.

For this reason, you have probably never heard a positive sermon about Adam and Eve. In all your years of education and church attendance, you have never heard an entire sermon dedicated to Eve like you did on Mother’s Day 2003. Even though the earliest Church Fathers in the post-apostolic period unanimously held view #2 The Redemption Model—it is very likely that few in American pews would ever know this important historical fact. Most American Christians don’t know there is another more ancient option.

We are convinced in the west that God came to heap more guilt, more shame, more fear, more condemnation, more rejection on our already wounded parents. View #1 states that Adam and Eve were so corrupt that every person ever born shares not only there mortality but also their depravity, condemnation and guilt. There is only one seed and that seed is completely given to evil. Adam and Eve are the corporate heads of all wickedness and damnation.

The western view of the fall uses a host of negative words to describe the final condition of Adam and Eve. Western theologians heap guilt, shame and condemnation on Adam and Eve like high school hazers.


Our devotion must be to the faith as delivered to the saints by Jesus and the apostles. Godly teachers pass down sound doctrine from generation to generation. No one, no matter how great, has the authority to change apostolic doctrine.

Acts 2:41-42

41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.


42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.



Jude 3

3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. NIV


1 Tim 4:16

16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. NIV


2 Tim 4:3

3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. NIV


Titus 2:1

You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. NIV

Apostolic doctrine originates with the apostles. How can view #1 be apostolic if it originated with Augustine? If view #1 began with Augustine around AD 400, as unanimously agreed by scholars, it cannot be apostolic tradition. Augustine is the father of the western view. How could the western view be the theology of Jesus and the apostles if it originated with Augustine? How then can the western view be the hermeneutical foundation for understanding the epistle to the Romans or the New Testament? View #2 was the universal position in the church without any competing doctrine or any post-apostolic source. No apostle ever preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of Adam’s sin. No apostle ever taught on or required infant baptism. It wasn’t necessary. No apostle ever taught or even implied that Adam and Eve were forsaken by God. The western view is a cultural paradigm placed over scripture not one rising out of scripture.


Alienated from God

Abandoned by God

Cut off from God

Deprived of sonship

Deprived of grace


Under the power and dominion of the Devil





Tossed from evil to evil

Unbridled lust





Wrath of God

Romans 5:12

Joined with the fallen angels

Not able to experience God


No right to heaven

Rebellion against God



  • All the descendants of Adam and Eve are born in sin

  • All descendants are born through carnal lust

  • Sin is contracted by generation or procreation

  • All descendants of Adam and Eve are deprived of sonship

  • The entire human race is a mass of corruption subject to death and disease

  • The whole human race is under condemnation and the wrath of God

  • The whole human race inherit from Adam and Eve punishment and the wrath of God

  • The whole human race is under the power of the Devil

  • All descendants are cut off from God, unredeemed and corrupt


  • Adam fell from a state of undeveloped simplicity

  • Subject to pain, sorrow, disease and death

  • Pain in childbirth

  • Division between men, men and nature, men and God

  • Internal conflict between good and evil

  • Weakened will

  • Not total depravity

  • Free will restricted not destroyed

  • Mankind is capable of good and evil

  • The image of God is obscured not obliterated


  •  The guilt of Adam is not transmitted through procreation

  • All descendants are subject to physical death and moral weakness

  • The image of God is distorted by sin but not destroyed

  • Mankind is capable of good and evil

  • We are guilty and punishable for our own inevitable sins

  • Sin is always a personal act

  • Darkened and impaired will is easy to do evil and hard to do good

  • No one is saved without grace

  • Grace was not entirely removed from the world

  • Unbaptized infants are not guilty of condemnation for Adam’s sin

  • Death, disease, sorrow, pain

  • In the world sins pervades, dominates and prevails


  • Jesus is the exact and full image of God on earth. He is God in person, alive and visible.

Imago Dei


                         Son of God                                                    Mk. 1:1; Mt. 16:16; Acts 9:20

                         Lamb of God                                                 John 1:29

 God with us                                                   Mt. 1:23

Fullness of God                                              Col. 2:9

Glory of God                                                  John 1:14

Word of God                                                  John 1:1

Exact representation of God                           Heb. 1:3

Equal to God                                                  John 5:18

Form of God                                                   Phil. 2:6

God our Savior                                               Titus 1:3

            Image of God                                                 Col. 1:15        


John 5:23

23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. NIV

John 5:36

36 "I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doingtestifies that the Father has sent me. NIV

John 6:46

46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. NIV

John 8:28-30

28 So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [the one I claim to be] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him."  30 Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. NIV

John 10:37-38

37 Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. NIV

 John 14:9-12

9 Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. NIV

John 14:31

31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. NIV

Jesus is the exact representation of God on Earth. He only does what the Father has given him to do. When we see Jesus, we have seen the Father. Today, we see Jesus at work as recorded in the NT.  Jesus’ response to people in need is the response of the Father. How does Jesus respond to those in need? The Pharisees and religious leaders were in direct opposition to Jesus in their response to people in need. I have thirteen test questions for your deliberation.

  1. The Rich Man and Lazarus

What was the response of the Rich Man to Lazarus?  He ignored him?

What response would Jesus approve? To help him mercifully

  1. The Weeping Woman

What was the response of the Pharisees? They despised her.

What was the response of Jesus? He forgave her and gave her peace.

  1. The Gadarene Demoniac

What was the response of the local people? Fear, hate, exclusion.

What was the response of Jesus? He set him free from the demons.

  1. The Roadside Victim and the Good Samaritan

What was the response of the religious leaders? Ignore him.

What was the response approved by Jesus? To help him.

  1. The Blind Man

What was the response of the Pharisees? They despised him.

What was the response of Jesus? He healed him and gave him hope and the promise of salvation.

  1. Matthew the Tax Collector

What was the response of the Pharisees? They despised him,

What was the response of Jesus? He forgave him and gave him the ministry of an apostle.

  1. The Little Children

What was the response of the people? Send them away.

What was the response of Jesus? He blessed them.

  1. Mary Magdalene Possessed with Seven Demons

What was the response of the people? They despised her.

What was the response of Jesus? She set her free from the demons, gave her hope and eternal life.

  1. The Man with Leprosy

What was the response of the religious leaders? They despised him.

What was the response of Jesus? He healed him and gave him hope and a new life.

  1. The Lame Man Lowered Through the Roof

What was the response of the people? Disgust.

What was the response of Jesus? He healed him and forgave his sins.

  1. The Woman Caught in Adultery

What was the response of the Pharisees? They wanted to stone her.

What was the response of Jesus? He forgave her and gave her hope.

  1. The Sick and Demonized

What was the response of Jesus to every real need? Hope and healing.

Mark 1:32-34

32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. NIV

  1.  Eve

What was the response of the people? Despise her, stone her, and abandon her. What would be the response of Jesus to Eve? Even if Eve were demon possessed and in bondage to the devil and sin—what would Jesus do for her? He would set her free, forgive her, give her hope and a new life.  The image of God that would stone her and despise her, abandon her, reject her and scorn her looks more like the Pharisee than Jesus.

There are not two Gods:

  1. A mean OT God
  2. A nice NT God

The God that walked in the Garden of Eden is the same God that walked on water in the Sea of Galilee. It is entirely likely that Jesus walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. Jesus is the exact visible image of God on earth. Jesus acts as the divine liaison between heaven and earth. Every visitation of God on earth is Jesus. I suggest that Jesus as the image of God should inform our understanding of the fall of Adam and Eve. We should extrapolate the image of God in Christ and apply it to the God in the Garden. If Adam and Eve came to God and came to them—what would you expect God to do? What would God do for his favorite creatures that he loved so much? If we understood God even just a little—what would we expect from God in the Garden in his response to the fall? We would expect God:

  1. To seek them out.
  2. To reason with them about their sin.
  3. To draw them to repentance.
  4. To initiate a plan of redemption.
  5. To explain the consequences of disobedience.
  6. To clothe their nakedness.
  7. To go with them outside the Garden.
  8. To bless them.

The first view of the fall that leaves Adam and Eve broken, beaten, naked, punished and condemned is very reminiscent of the Pharisees. This image of God looks like the stone wielding Pharisees with the woman caught in adultery.

The second view of the fall that leaves Adam and Eve disciplined yet restored, redeemed, hopeful and joyful in the presence of God is very reminiscent of Jesus.

 The choice between view #1 and #2 should be influenced by the biblical image of God as abounding in grace and mercy, slow to anger and compassionate. Jonah said,

Jonah 4:2

I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. NIV

God would not leave Adam and Eve beaten and bloodied by the side of the road. A biblical image of God is important because it forms the foundation for life. Do you have a redemptive philosophy of life? Do you despise the weak, the poor, the sick, the culturally or racially diverse? Do you cut off and abandon those who fail or are you willing to work with them mercifully. God would have gone the extra mile for Adam and Eve. How much did God love Adam and Eve? God would have gone to the cross for them. Why can’t we love Adam and Eve? God would not abandon anyone for one sin. It is time to move on and that moving on requires a biblical image of God. A biblical image of God means that we go the extra mile to redeem, reconcile and restore people to their creator. Like God, we should be gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love