1 Corinthians 15:45: “So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.'”
The underlying premise of any self-respecting Christian anthropology is found in this maxim: Christology is anthropology. That is, if you want to understand the essence of humanity you should not look back to the pre-Lapsarian Adam but rather to our future conformity to Jesus Christ. The theologian understands the essence of humanity to consist in the divine image, and Christ is that image. Consequently, our destiny is to be conformed to the image of God in Christ (Rom. 8:29) and thereby to become fully human.
But there is a problem with this picture which arises when we incorporate a standard theodicy. That theodicy begins with a question: why does God allow human beings to suffer and why does he grant them the ability to choose evil? If we will one day be unable to sin, why did God not create us as unable to sin from the outset?
The answer that this theodicy (which I call the “value in achievement theodicy”) provides is that there is inherent value in the acquisition of moral virtues. Think of the distinction between the mountain climber lowered onto the summit via a helicopter vs. the climber who gradually climbs up the slopes. There is intrinsic value in being the climber who fought to reach the top. And there is intrinsic value in acquiring the moral virtues of the image of God over-against having them infused from birth. (For further discussion see my essay “Heaven and the Value in Achievement Thesis.”)
With the value in achievement theodicy in place, we can now turn to the problem it presents. Our anthropology insists that we are most fully human when we are like Christ. And yet, our theodicy insists that we differ from Christ in this fundamental respect: while his virtues are innate, ours are acquired.
In short, the value in achievement theodicy commits us to the view that the value of acquiring moral virtue trumps the value of possessing innate virtue, despite the fact that this status of having a history of moral development renders us less like Christ than we would be if we had indeed possessed innate virtue and with it no history of moral development.
Even worse, if the image of God entails the possession of innate and essential virtues without moral development, then it does not consist of acquired and accidental virtues with moral development. And if that is the case then it follows that you cannot acquire the virtues of the image of God through the accidental rigors of a moral history. Rather, they can only be infused as part of one’s ineradicable essence sans a history of moral development.