I don't understand how Lutheran theologians reconcile James 3:9 and Gen 9:6 with the idea the image of God is completely lost in the fall. It makes more sense to me that the image became corrupted, as opposed to completely lost. How do WELS pastors interpret James 3:9 and Genesis 9:6?
Being created in the image of God meant that Adam and Eve were holy, they had perfect knowledge of God’s will, and their wills were entirely aligned with God’s will. After the fall into sin, the Bible tells us Adam had a child in his likeness and image, not God’s (Genesis 5:1-3). Since the fall into sin, human beings born of sinful people have entered this world as sinners (Psalm 51:5), enemies of God (Romans 8:7) and people whose natural will is opposed to God’s will (Romans 7:7-23). Despite this natural sinful condition, people still have a natural knowledge of God from creation and their conscience, and they naturally know the basics of God’s law (Psalm 19:1-4; Hebrews 3:4; Romans 2:14-15). While there are some Lutheran theologians who speak of people still being made, in a limited sense, in the image of God insofar as they have intellect and will, it is more consistent with Scripture to say that the image of God was lost through the fall into sin and is restored in Christians.
Ephesians 4:24 instructs us to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Colossians 3:10 has a similar directive: “…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Genesis 9:6 and James 3:9 are passages that some theologians cite to indicate that after the fall into sin people are born in the image of God in a limited sense. When we understand the image of God especially denoting holiness and loving only that which God loves, then we see those particular passages speaking of the original condition of people, which is no longer the case because of sin.
Certainly, each person receives life from God (Acts 17:25) and each person is the object of God’s love in Christ (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2). Beyond those blessings is the working of the Holy Spirit in people’s hearts through the gospel, connecting them to Jesus Christ and the salvation he won. In Christians the image of God is being restored (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10), and it will be fully restored when Christians leave this world of sin (Psalm 17:15; 1 Corinthians 13:9-12; 1 John 3:2)