ETS 2023 Paper Proposal
The Imago Dei Language in Romans 8:29 and its Connection to Romans 1:3–4 in View of Deification, with Implications for Theological Education
* The same proposal was also submitted as part of the session proposal of “Deification”.
Brian Siu Kit Chiu
Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
The theological-anthropological idea of Imago Dei is an important idea that makes theological education distinctively “theological” in terms of its content of instruction and its approach toward education. The aim of this paper is to provide a biblical argument in support of the implications of the “image” (eikon) language in Rom. 8:29 and 2 Cor. 3:18 for theological education in the framework of human deification. The doctrine of deification is not only a core teaching in Orthodox theology but also a biblically rooted teaching in the Pauline epistles. Pazmiño (2002) examined the educational implications of 2 Cor. 3:18 in terms of transformation, and Litwa (2008) argued that Paul’s teaching on the “image” in 2 Cor. 3:18 is both “anthropological” and “soteriological,” which present a Christian version of deification, a divine life ordained by God as the telos for believers. Keating (2007) connected Paul’s teaching in 2 Cor. 3:18 and Romans 8:29, which provides further evidence of a Christian version of deification in Rom. 8:29: “Rom 8:29–30 points to the goal of our sonship in Christ: we are to be ‘conformed to the image of his Son.’ God’s purpose in sending the Son is that we be made like the Son. This notion is reinforced in 2 Corinthians 3:18, where Paul speaks about our being transformed into his ‘image’ from one degree of glory to another.”
Based on the literature above, the paper argues that the “image” in Romans 8:29 is contextually and theologically closely connected with Rom. 1:3–4, resulting in a fuller understanding of Paul’s soteriology of the “image” and his view of deification with profound educational implications. Delving into the reception history of Rom. 1:3–4, a passage often used to support an early Adoptionist Christology in modern theology, Jipp (2009) discovered that the ancient interpretations used the text primarily to support the real humanity of Christ. Bird (2017) further showed that the passage claims the resurrection is the transition from Jesus’ messianic and earthly mode to a display of his divine sonship and heavenly position. Thus, early Christology was, in fact, incarnational, not Adoptionist.
The first part of this paper discusses the interpretative challenges pertinent to Rom. 1:3–4 in light of recent scholarship. Then, in the second part, the paper develops the idea that the incarnate and resurrected Christ is presented as a “prototype” for believers in Christ in Paul’s view of deification, grounded in Rom. 8:29, that believers “be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brothers.” Finally, the paper concludes with a few educational implications stemming from Paul’s vision of human deification. As evangelical theological educators pursue a more formational approach to theological education to promote believers’ spiritual growth in Christ, this study can offer educators a fuller comprehension of Romans in light of the framework of Paul’s view of deification and the evolving implications for theological education, contributing to the renewal of evangelical theological education in the twenty-first century.