An Ember Still Glowing: Humankind as the Image of God

Written by Harry R. Boer Reviewed By R. Ward Wilson

Professor Boer is a Reformed theologian and retired missionary who reinterprets the classic Reformed views of total depravity, common and special grace, predestination, election, mercy, justice, and time and eternity. He stresses that each person does not constitute an image of God, but rather participates, as part of the human race, in the imago Dei. Wherever the Reformed creeds and theologians like Calvin used Scripture about these topics, he examines the contextual meaning of the terms and/or Greek meanings (e.g. charis, ‘grace’ or ‘favour’). So humanity’s fall did not destroy God’s image, but reduced its functional dynamic. And biblical calls to repent and do good works are not a facade for God’s predestination—free will is a reality. Boer thinks predestination teachings have subconsciously excused Reformed people from personal evangelism. Also, our redemption in Christ is the redemption of the imago Dei, whose quality is personhood and interpersonal—Boer supports Karl Barth’s Genesis 1:27 view of maleness and femaleness. His 30 years as a missionary in Nigeria, where there is considerable ancestor worship, forced him to re-evaluate passages like Genesis 18, Acts 10 and 11, and Romans 2, and to conclude the salvation of some outside God’s family. Although Boer disclaims a universal salvation, he implies its possibility. Also, his concept of the ad hoc God, where God changes his mind due to circumstances (see passages where God repents), is questionable—he even includes humanity’s redemption as an ad hoc decision. But Dr Boer writes well with a provocative and thoughtful style. Indices would have improved the book’s value.

R. Ward Wilson

King College, Bristol, TN