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on October 18, 2003
Anthony Hoekema does an admirable job of explaining and defending a biblical view of man by arguing that man is both a creature and a person. Man is a creature in the sense that he is totally dependent on God for everything he has and is, but man is also a person who has freedom and can make choices. Thus in Hoekema's words man is a created person and herein lies the central mystery of biblical anthropology. How can man be both a created person when supporting one aspect of man's being virtually eliminates any support for the other aspect. I think this is the primary concern that drives Hoekema's work and it is one that he think he deals with admirably in the book.
I liked how Hoekema showed from biblical exegesis that the image of God is retained in man, although damaged, and is not destroyed. This is one area of belief where most Reformed theologians are either oppossed to Hoekema or utterly inconsistent. Hoekema argues from Scripture and demonstrates how the view of Berkouwer that God's image in man is gone and is only said to be there as a possibility is wrong. Furthermore, he shows how John Calvin was inconsistent on this question at one point saying the image is destroyed and at another saying the image of God is present in man in some capacity and this is why we should love all men. Moreover, I like how Hoekema dealt with the views of other great Christian thinkers like Ireneaus, Aquinas, and Barth on the question. Furthermore, I really enjoyed Hoekema's argument that man is a psycho-psomatic unity and is composed of both a body and a soul. I think Hoekema illustrates why the view of man as trichotomy of body, soul and spirit is unwarranted. Hoekema argues that soul and spirit are virtual synonyms in the Bible and I believe he is correct. Lastly, I enjoyed Hoekema's treatment of the subject of man's self-image. I think that this was an interesting and stimulation chapter in the book.
The were a few areas where I thought the book was weak, but I think this was caused more by confusing argumentation than by poor reasoning or exegesis. I wish Hoekema would have gone deeper into the question of how God is totally sovereign in salvation, but yet man still must respond in faith. Since Hoekema lies squarely within the traditional Reformed camp and seems to espouse the view that regeneration proceeds faith, I don't see one can argue that it is man's responsibility to respond in faith since this only happens in the spiritually revived. Also, I think the doctrine of common grace is one with little scriptural support. Now, I don't deny that such grace may exist, but I think the Reformed distinction between common and irresistible or sufficient and efficient graces is one that is not directly supported by the Bible. In fact, such a notion seems to be more a necessary construct of Reformed theology than it is a valid component of Scripture.
All in all, Hoekema's book is an excellent discussion on the question of the image of God in mankind. Hoekema states his point by using, Scripture, exegesis, and some Greek word studies. Although there are few elements that detract from the overall quality of this work it is still an excellent piece of literature and an nice defense of modern Reformed scholarship on the issue.
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on April 30, 2002
I am a theology/apologetics student and this is one of the books we recently read for our Systematic Theology II class. Hoekema has a great writing style that is suitable for a wide audience. He definitely writes from the Reformed perspective but does not interpret as figuratively as Berkhof for example (but more so than Ladd). He rarely, if ever, cites confessions or creeds to support his position. He does quote other theologians extensively and fairly. Generally sound reasoning from the scriptures with minimal speculating.
The early part of the book has a useful Historical Survey of various theologians (Aquinas, Calvin, Barth, others) and their view on man in the image of God. Hoekema is fair and looks for the good points in various views as well as kindly pointing out errors.
Later in the book he shows he is his own thoelogian by critquing both the trichotomy (soul and spirit distinct) and dichotomy (soul and spirit inseparable) views of the constitution of man. Hoekema argues for man as a whole (body-soul-spirit) integrated person and encourages us to share the gospel of Christ(the perfect image bearer) in a manner respecting this proper view of our fellow man, who, though fallen like all of us, also reflects some aspects of God's image (James 3:9).
Pretty extensive bibliography, subject, name and scripture indexes; what you expect of a true theology text.
A good and edifying read. God blessed us with an excellent teacher in Hoekema (who is now with the Lord). I would like to read another of his works sometime. John 15:5
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on September 2, 2001
"Created in God's Image" is the second in a series of doctrinal studies by the late Anthony Hoekema, professor of systematic theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan. This book is a standard work dealing with Christian anthropology, or doctrine about the nature and destiny of human beings from a Biblical perspective. The theological standpoint represented in this book is that of evangelical Christianity from a Reformed or Calvinistic perspective.
I think it is a marvelous book, it is also very readable for the layman. This book gives the reader a very clear and complete view about what the Bible teaches about the image of God, the origin and spread of sin and the restoration of the image of God by the Holy Spirit. One of the strong points of this book is that it follows the Scripture so closely. The explanation of the various texts is balanced and sober.
The author takes classical Reformed positions in matters of the origin of sin (a historical fall, by a historical Adam), total depravity after the fall and the possession of a free will ("Man lost the ability to live in total obedience of God"). I had questions however about certain interpretations, e.g. Romans 7:13-26. The author presumes that Paul is dealing with the unregenerate in this passage, however the interpretation that this passage is dealing with the regenerate is very popular within Reformed Christianity, e.g. Bavinck. It appears to me that the apostle Paul in this passage includes himself in the present tense. The author could have said more about the struggle with sin within the life of the regenerate.
There are places where the author betrays a Dutch bias in dealing with various theological positions, such as were he deals with synodical discussions in the Netherlands about common grace and the speaking of the snake in Paradise. There is a very strong chapter about a typical American topic: self esteem. The author does not like this term, because satisfaction with himself without God's grace is not the relationship a Christion ought to have with himself. A believer should see himself as a new creation in Jesus Christ.
I think this book is a must-read for every student of theology and can also recommend it to every layperson with an interest in systematic theology.
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on August 8, 2014
In man there is a unique complexity compared to all other aspects of God’s creation. The dynamics of what it means to be man are stark and magnificent. As a Christian, it is vital to have a proper and biblical view of man. The lens through which man sees himself affects his vision of many other aspects of life. The way man sees and relates to God goes hand in hand with the way man sees himself. Likewise, a person’s anthropology will give either poor or good vision when relating to his fellow man. Whether we realize it or not, our anthropology either blinds or enlightens us to the excellences of God and a proper treatment of man and nature.

The mantra or backbone of Christian anthropology has always been that man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). The consensus across the landscape of Christianity on this point of doctrine is astounding. However, from this point of agreement, questions begin to be formed about the imago Dei and with them come differing answers. In Anthony Hoekema’s book, Created in God’s Image, he extensively examines these questions with the hopes of providing sound, biblical answers. Questions such as, “What does it mean to be made in the image of God?”; “Did the Fall eradicate this image?”; “Where does all of this fit into redemptive history?”; “What does the Bible say about the image of God?”; “Where did sin come from and how extensive is its effects?”; and many more are put under a microscope and probed by Hoekema with consultation from multiple theologians from history.

Anthony Hoekema (1913-1988) was professor of systematic theology at Calvin Theological Seminary and has written many other works, most notably, two books which defend the Reformed understanding of soteriology (Saved by Grace) and eschatology (The Bible and the Future).

The title of this work by Hoekema is appropriately telling of its contents. The subject matter of this book is man, who was created, in relation to God, who did the creating and is the image in which man is created. From cover to cover, the totality of a Christian anthropology is presented. In this anthropological volume, Hoekema dives into the Word of God and theological history, particularly Reformed theological history, to expose all aspects of man from his status as both creature and person (5-6) to his constitution and freedom (203-243), the imago Dei as attested to in the Bible and in theological writings (11-101), and the sin that now haunts him including its origin, transmission, and how it effects our relationship to God, others, and nature (112-202).

A noticeable, significant, and vital aspect to Hoekema’s argument is his description of man as being a “created person” (6). Hoekema bases his argument on the twofold fact that man is both a dependent creature and free person. With this biblical truth as the basis for understanding the doctrine of imago Dei, Hoekema proceeds over the next three chapters to biblically exegete, historically sketch, and theologically argue for this doctrine. Within this examination of the doctrine of the image of God is included an extensive defense for the teaching that the image of God is retained even after the Fall. Hoekema is also sure to describe the nature of the image of God (what it looks like in man).

He argues that man is in God’s likeness and this is seen in man’s dominion over creation, mental and rational capabilities, and moral character including most ultimately the ability to love. In fact, Hoekema argues, “the heart of the image of God is love” (29). This is the most vital aspect of being made in God’s image since, Hoekema argues, we are to image God functionally even as we are the image of God structurally (68-73).

After giving much attention to defining and arguing for a meaning for the doctrine of the imago Dei in chapters three through five, Hoekema then moves to discuss the origin, transmission, and nature of sin in fallen man. In this portion of the book, Hoekema argues that the reason for the distortion of the image of God, though retained, is man’s sin against God. The devastating nature of sin is therefore outlined and examined in full detail by Hoekema to highlight this perversion. Hoekema falls in the Reformed tradition of affirming original sin in Adam and inheritance of his guilt and corruption.

At the heart of Hoekema’s argument is the frame of redemptive history. The image of God is understood in light of Creation (created in God’s image), the Fall (the image of God in man distorted), the redemption of Christ (renewal of the image of God in man), and the final glorification of the saints (perfection of the image of God in man). According to Hoekema, the purpose of redemption in a real sense is the renewal of the image of God in man (27). With reference to Augustine, the thrust of Hoekema’s argument is that man has journeyed from an “able not to sin” state into a “not able not to sin” state. Through redemption through Christ Jesus, this image is being renewed and regenerate man is ushered into a state of “being able not to sin” and Christians thus have the hope of future glorification where they will perfectly image God and perfectly have his image in a state of “not able to sin”.


The purpose of Created in God’s Image is explicitly stated in the preface. Hoekema’s purpose in writing this work was to “set forth what the Bible teaches about the nature and destiny of human beings” (ix). In order to do so adequately, the author would need to provide extensive biblical evidence for the nature of man and what his ultimate destiny is. Hoekema is without fault in accomplishing this purpose. In fact, he goes above and beyond the call of duty. Not only does he set forth a biblical model of anthropology, but he also sets forth a historical model of anthropology. He then combines the two into a theological summation of whom man is in relation to God—namely his image bearer whether distorted or redeemed.

Hoekema is careful to examine both the Old and New Testament in searching what God has revealed about man, all of man—his constitution, status as image bearer, state in sin and in Christ. While it may not be a complete exhaustion of Scripture concerning the nature and destiny of human beings, it must be nearly complete. Careful exegesis is given in the handling of biblical texts and the framework of redemptive history is kept at the forefront of each argument for man’s nature. In other words, the more Hoekema reveals about the nature of man, the more adoration is given to the grace of God—both common and saving.

By faithfully exegeting both Old and New Testament texts concerning man and the image of God in man, major insights are given and gleaned concerning what the image of God in man is and how we are to function as image bearers. His use of a variety of theologians to aid in forming his anthropology (or defending the Reformed understanding of man) leads to the accomplishment of his purpose. This wide variety of theological thought provides greater understanding of the biblical teaching of man and the image of God in man.


To compile a complete list of strengths in this work would be a monstrous task. What makes this book highly commendable is its fairness and respectful handling of differing views. Hoekema presents multiple views on each aspect of the doctrine of man from multiple voices from history. He is honest where he disagrees, yet kind in his disagreement. In other defenses of a certain theological teaching it may be that the author takes on an aggressively polemic attitude. No such attitude is found in this work.

At the same time, there is a fair and extensive critique of each theologian’s view of man in relation to God. Multiple questions are asked of them and none of their teachings are just taken as truth without being probed by the Word of God and appropriate speculation. He finds aspects in each theologian that he appreciates and also those that he must disagree with. Hoekema’s commitment to Scripture in all of his arguments and teachings make this work reliable for recommendation and for reading.

His sound exegesis marks this work and leaves the reader seeking answers to the questions posed in God and not in Hoekema. Hoekema plays the role of exposing the truth found in Scripture and his use of multiple (over 250) resources gives weight to his claims. Another major strength is the author’s commitment to biblical redemptive history in his presentation of the doctrine of man. The storyline of Scripture is the basis of Hoekema’s discussion of the image of God, its distortion, renewal, and perfection.


The only task more difficult than compiling a complete list of strengths is finding many weaknesses in this work by Hoekema. It should be noted, however, that although Hoekema uses a wide range theological thought concerning the image of God and anthropology, the majority of his sources are from the Reformed tradition. At first, this would lead one to declare that he is biased by his own theological system, but it is significant to point out his own words in the preface: “The theological standpoint here is that of evangelical Christianity from a Reformed or Calvinistic perspective” (ix). Could Hoekema have provided an even more extensive volume by going deeper into different theological backgrounds and understandings of humanity? Probably.

However, that was not Hoekema’s purpose in writing this book. His purpose has in it a defense and presentation of the doctrine of man from a Reformed or Calvinistic perspective. Therefore, while this work may have been stronger with more recognition of the doctrine of man from, let’s say, Arminian theologians, this work must be judged on the basis of its author’s purpose. And with this in mind, the heavy focus on Calvinistic thought and thinkers must not be viewed as a weakness, per se.

Even in the Reformed thought that Hoekema finds himself in disagreement with; there is adequate refutation involved. He often uses these refutations to make his point all the more clear (seen primarily in chapter four).

As far as personal application is concerned, this work is full of it. The only concern or possible weakness however is that these applications are not always explicitly stated. The implications are massive however when Hoekema’s presentation of Christian Reformed anthropology is seen. Since all still retain the image of God, there is a certain dignity and uniqueness about them. Because of this, we should love our neighbor and treat them with such dignity. All attacks on humanity are thus an indirect attack on God whom humanity images. While these implications are stated sporadically throughout the work, a more direct or comprehensive chapter of application on the doctrine of man would have been very helpful. So, by way of pointing out weaknesses in this book, this would be the only substantial one that this reader has noticed.

In closing, theologian Anthony Hoekema has presented a work that is helpful to the seminary student wishing to dive deep into Christian theology as well as the pastor leading his flock along with the layman who wants a greater knowledge of himself in relation to God. It is one that covers every aspect of Christian anthropology with a Reformed flavor. Hoekema exposes Scripture and Reformed teachings on the doctrine of man and successfully sets forth what the Bible teaches about humanity. I have seen my own dignity as one being made in the image of God.

On the other hand, I have also seen my desperate sinful nature existing in this broken and distorted psychosomatic existence which has been redeemed. This book is marked by biblical saturation and theological fervor and it will lead the reader to eager and joyful doxology to the God who creates and in whose image we as Christians are being conformed.
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on September 27, 2014
This is a more basic text on the nature of man and sin than Berkouwer's works. It doesn't have the awe or hard-hittingness of Berkowuer, but it is much more accessible and more exegetical than Berkouwer's.

Hoekema gives a decent historical survey, though very incomplete. He accurately reads the theologians in question, with a particularly good section on Barth. He fails to point out, however, how Origenistic Barth's reading of the Fall is, but no matter.

Hoekema follows the typical “Man in Fourfold State.” Image as Original, Perverted, Renewed, and Perfected.” The image of God is not something man has but something man is (95).

His best sections are the ones dealing with "Sin." Sin has its source in the heart. Instead of speaking of “the will” and sin, we should see the will as “the total person in the act of making decisions” (171). “We never exercise an isolated will; what we call willing always involves other aspects of the self, like intellect and emotion.” Here he follows Dooyeweerd and the best of the Amsterdam Tradition.

He then proceeds with the standard treatments of trichotomism and dichotomism. The Bible uses the terms soul, spirit, and heart more or less interchangeably.

1. Problems with trichotomy:
a. It does violence to the unity of man.
1.a.1 Presupposes an antithesis between soul and body. The Greeks sought a mediating power between physical and material substances (usually the soul).
1.b. The distinction between spirit/soul doesn’t work in the Bible. body/soul = body/spirit (cf. Mt. 10.28 and 1 Cor. 7:34).
1.b.1 Grief is referred to both soul and spirit (1 Sm. 1:10; John 12:27)
1.b.2 Salvation is associated with both soul and spirit (Jm. 1:21)
1.b.3 Dying is described as a departure of either soul or spirit (Gen. 35:18; 1 Kgs. 17.21)

2. Dichotomism. It is certainly a more respectable position and has a venerated pedigree, yet there are problems.
2.a We should certainly reject dichotomism in its Platonic context, which often hold the soul is “higher” than the body.
2.b. Man cannot be “cut” (diche temnein) into two, but rather is a totality.

Hoekema has a particularly fine section on Human Freedom. He notes how most difficulties in viewing human freedom presuppose some form of "faculty psychology" (the will almost seems to operate independently of mind, intellect, and body). This created difficulties in the Reformed world as to whether prioritize will or intellect (cf Muller for all of the problems and non-solutions on this point). The problem, while it still remains, is lessened when we reject faculty psychology and move to a more "heart-unity" complex.

His practical applications on treating man as a whole man are interesting, if underdeveloped. I don't know if Hoekema suggests exploring "wholistic medicines" (224). I don't necessarily disagree, yet without huge restraint and discipline, this can easily become Christians' visiting New Age hippies.

He indirectly refutes the more extreme nouthetic counseling traditions by noting that depression can sometimes have physical causes rather than "your just in sin!!!!!" Of course, we don't want to say depression is "purely" a physical issue (the standard secular view today) or simply a result of sin (the more extreme nouthetic view), but rather note that depression can be seen in a complex of physical, situational, and sometimes spiritual causes (note, spiritual does not necessarily equal sinful).


Hoekema reads Berkouwer as endorsing Schilder’s interpretation that fallen man does not have God's image. I am not so sure Berkouwer is doing that. It seems that GCB is noting why Schilder said what he did (i.e., that is, the OT never speaks of man in the abstract but man in relation to God), though GCB notes problems with Schilder’s view.
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on November 30, 2015
Anthony Hoeksema offers a very competent and thorough presentation on humanity in this work. He does a great job of explaining his (i.e. Reformed) position well, contrasting it with opposing views, and supporting his view from Scripture. I especially appreciated his extended portion on what it means that man is created in God's image and likeness. This is important because sometimes there may be a tendency to think that man was created in God's image before the Fall, but that the image was lost in the Fall. Hoekema's contributions have big implications for apologetics and evangelism, since even fallen man bears the image of God, deformed as it may be. Human life still has immense dignity and value. This is perhaps the main thrust of book.

Hoekema appeals to and interacts with many scholars, using primary sources and fairly credits their individual contributions. Hoekema allows for those with whom he may disagree on some points to offer a helpful contribution to his view. Hoekema also spends a great deal of time explaining how Adam's fall affects his posterity. Traditionally, this is known as "orginal sin" and this is probably my favorite portion of the book. The chapter is entitled, "The Spread of Sin", and Hoekema does a great job defending the orthodox position against objections.

Perhaps this is only my preference, but I wish that Hoekema would have referenced historical confessional statements more often. I prefer references to creeds, confessions, catechisms, and canons to establish the school of thought of a particular group. Hoekema prefers to engage directly with contemporaries like G.C. Berkouwer. He quotes Barth more than the Three Forms of Unity. Nevertheless, this is a robust book on biblical anthropology. I heartily recommend it to all.
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on February 8, 2016
I read the reviews and bought the book. I did not know anything about this author. Good book, clearly very Calvinistic but I found myself getting tired of reading a few sections. They seemed too repetitive. Still, I recommend it.
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on March 4, 2013
This book was purchased as a textbook for a course I was taking. It is now part of my library. Great instruction on what it means for a human being to bear the image of God. Written from a biblical world view.
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on August 14, 2009
In my quest to learn more about the Reformed tradition, I have been reading (slowly it seems) books by by Reformed authors dealing with the finer points of theology from a Reformed perspective. My latest literary conquest was Anthony Hoekema's book Created in God's Image (1986 Eerdmans). This is part of a three volume set on Reformed theology by Hoekema (the other two volumes being Saved By Grace and The Bible and the Future dealing respectively with the Reformed position on the doctrines of soteriology and eschatology). This volume treats the doctrine of Biblical anthropology -- or what the Bible says about mankind.

When it comes to Christian doctrines, anthropology does not rank very high on the list. Eschatology probably tops the list due in large part to the fact that is deals with end time events. This doctrine has been so sensationalized of late with Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth and LaHaye & Jenkin's Left Behind series. People never seem to lose fascination with future events. Following close behind is soteriology, or the doctrine of salvation. This is understandable considering that it deals with the gospel and how one is saved. Anthropology is different because it carries neither the centrality of soteriology nor the appeal of eschatology, but it is an important doctrine nonetheless.

One of the central pillars of Reformed Theology is Total Depravity (the first 'petal' in TULIP, an acronym that serves as a mnemonic for the distinctive features of Reformed Theology. Total Depravity is the doctrine that man is completely incapable of earning salvation based on his good works. Moreover, it is the doctrine that teaches mankind is not even really interested in pursuing a saving relationship with God. Total Depravity is a result of the fall in which the nature of man was irrevocably changed. The image of God in which we were created (Genesis 1:27) was marred beyond recognition so much so that we do not relate to God as we ought, nor do we relate to our fallow man as we ought. Total Depravity is an essential element in a Biblical anthropology. Furthermore, a proper understanding of the perfection of God's holiness and the depth of our sinfulness is also essential to a Biblical anthropology.

In this book, the late Dr. Hoekema lays out in great detail a Biblical anthropology. He spends a bit of time laying the foundation of the importance of anthropology (the doctrine of man). He also talks about man as a created person, and what that means (chapter 2). This isn't trivial as it plays an important role in our relationship with God. The next three chapters (3, 4, & 5) discuss to some length what it means to be created in the image of God. Chapter 3 traces the Biblical teaching of this truth; whereas in chapter 4, Dr. Hoekema gives a brief historical survey of being created in God's image by discussing the views of Irenaeus, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, and G.C. Berkouwer. Chapter 5 closes the section on being created in God's image by giving a theological summary of this teaching.

Dr. Hoekema then spends a considerable amount of space in the book talking about sin: Its origin, spread, nature and restraint. Chapters on the whole person and human freedom round out the books contents.

The book has a copious amount of footnotes which are included on the pages in which they're found (I find this aids in the flow of reading as you can easily check the references without having to turn to the end of the book or chapter). There is also a subjects index, an index of proper names and a Scripture index. This is easily the most thorough treatment on Biblical anthropology that I have read. Dr. Hoekema's writing style is readable, if dry and technical in parts. He brought to light many nuances of this doctrine with which I was not aware. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about Biblical anthropology from a Reformed perspective.
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on June 29, 2015
This is a very thorough and well-written book about what it means to be created in God's image. The author endorses concepts I have never considered and does so in a biblical manner. He presents historical views on various topics and then provides his position in a solid manner. Two concepts that stood out to me were about the make-up of man and what it means to be in the image of God.

Regarding man's make-up, the author discusses Trichotomy and dichotomy. He rejects both of those and opts instead for a unified man, or psychosomatic unity. Very interesting arguments here and I think consistent with Scripture and a proper view of Jesus as the God/Man.

Second, the author writes about what it means to be made in God's image. He goes beyond just the individual value and aspects, but also includes a social/fellowship aspect and a stewardship of nature as part of that image. He ties this beautifully into the new heaven and new earth as part of redemption. This is consistent with our new, glorified bodies after the resurrection.

All in all, I really have enjoyed this book far more than I expected. It is academic in nature, but I think it's accessible for all readers.
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