Fallen Images by Robert P. George

Fallen Images

Robert P. George on Sin & Psychology

Both the ancient Hebrews and the ancient Greeks saw the distance between man and the divine, but they described it in very different ways. The Greeks lowered their deities by ascribing to them human passions and failings. The Hebrews articulated an elevated view of man, as sharing, to some extent, in the powers of a transcendent, omnipotent, and benevolent God.

Of course, the biblical view of man is that, while he is made in God’s image, he is, unlike God, highly imperfect. Indeed, he is fallen. His passions are, to a greater or lesser degree, disordered by sin. But sin does not obliterate his God-like powers of freedom and reason. “Man is said to be made in God’s image,” St. Thomas Aquinas explained, “insofar as the image implies an intelligent being endowed with free-will and self-movement.” Human beings can, by God’s grace, understand what is good and choose to do what is right. Indeed, the powers of freedom and reason are conditions for the possibility of sin. Lacking freedom and reason, men would no more be capable of sinning than, say, sharks or cobras are capable of sinning.

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Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University (web.princeton.edu/sites/jmadison). His books include In Defense of Natural Law (Oxford University Press) and Conscience and Its Enemies (ISI Books). He has served as chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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