WHAT IS MAN, ANYWAY?

 

Insp-SecretGarden

Last year, we studied Theology (God) and Angelology (Angels). Now we will turn our attention to Man, Anthropology.

1. The creation of man

Man is not an animal. Some men behave like animals, but he is not an animal. Of the creation of animals, we read this in Genesis:

God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:25)

Animals were created “after their kinds.” In other words, God created the various species of every animal on Earth and then simply left them to grow, reproduce, and develop according to the laws of their species. However man’s creation was different:

So God created man in his own image,in the image of God he created him;male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

Man’s creation was special for man was created “in the image of God.” That is what separates man from the rest of creation. What does “the image of God” mean? The Hebrew word behind “image” or “likeness” in some translations means “the shadow or outline of a figure.”

So in what ways is man, as opposed to animals, a “shadow or outline” of God?

It does not refer to a physical likeness

God is 100% Spirit and does not have a body or body parts like man. Some religions teach that God is simply a superhuman man-like being or a man who evolved to a state of perfection. But there is more science fiction in these views than serious Biblical theology.

It is true that there are verses of Scripture that speak of God walking with man or sitting on His throne or holding things in His hands. But these verses are often poetic, not necessarily meant to be taken literally. There are verses that speak of God’s wings and His feathers, but that doesn’t mean He is a gigantic bird or chicken. Sometimes in the Old Testament God condescended to appear to a man as a man in the form of “the angel of the Lord” or appeared like a man in visions.

Theologians are quick to point out that man was created to walk upright, not to crawl along like an animal. He was created healthy in every way, with no physical defects of any kind and man was originally created not subject to death. In those senses, man was created more “like” God and different from animals.

Man was created to have fellowship with God

Unlike any animal, man was made to commune with his Creator. This makes him like his Creator because we see the members of the Trinity having fellowship with one another. Animals, however, were given instincts by God to obey. Even though man was made from “the dust of the earth,” God breathed into him the breath of life. While animals are alive, only man has “the breath of life in him,” meaning only man is capable of knowing, loving, and serving God by choice and not instinct.

Because the image of God is in man by creation, all men are, by creation, children of God. However, since that image has been spoiled by sin, man must be born again in order to be true children of God:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Man has a moral character

Man, like God, has morality; he has the ability to recognize wrong from right. An animal may be taught to do certain things, even very good things, but they have no inherent sense of right and wrong and they do not have any sense of morality.

Hodge wrote:

He is the image of God, and bears and reflects the divine likeness among the inhabitants of the earth, because he is a spirit, an intelligent, voluntary agent; and as such he is rightfully invested with universal dominion [of the earth].

Man, not the animals, was given dominion over the earth. When man sinned, man’s dominion over the Earth suffered. The planet is still his, but now he has to contend with wild animals (and radical environmentalists). Man, by virtue of his likeness to God, was originally created to be lord of his planet, and was commanded by God to populate it. Obviously, a lord must have his subjects. By virtue of his God-likeness, all living creatures on the Earth, including human beings, have been given to man to subject and care for, not to abuse. Man, as originally created, was to be God’s visible representative on Earth. We can see how sin has ruined this, with the rise of tyrants and wars, murders and crime, and things like that.

God and man have similar mental capacities

God is a Spirit, man has a spirit and a soul. The essential attributes of a spirit are things like reason, the will, and conscience. This is why man is capable of thinking rationally and is a free moral agent. This distinguishes human beings from any other living being on Earth: he can chose right from wrong based on a sense of morality within him. This obviously does not mean man will always make the right choice, only that he is capable of it.

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:9, 10)

The renewal spoken of in Colossians begins with regeneration – a fallen man being born again.

Man, like God, is immortal

Man’s body will eventually wear out and die, returning to the ground from which it came. But the immaterial side of man, his soul and spirit, is immortal. Man will live forever, with or without a relationship with Jesus Christ. Without Christ in his life, a man will live forever separated from God and goodness. With Christ as Savior, man will spend eternity in Heaven, with God and in peace.

2. The nature of man

Tri-unity

God is a Trinity; He is triune – He is made up of three distinct Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three Persons, yet one God. Man, though, is not a Trinity; he is a tri-unity.

In the Old Testament, we read this:

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

The OT confirms that man has both a material and an immaterial side. However, in the New Testament, we read this:

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

In the NT, man is said to have not two (material and immaterial) parts, but three: body, soul, and spirit. To this day, scholars are divided on this, some see man with two parts, others three. Both sides of this argument are correct. The spirit and soul are just two sides of man’s immaterial side. The soul and spirit are just two modes in which man’s spiritual nature operates. The soul and the spirit are so closely linked, though they are separate, they cannot be separated. Because of this, the terms “soul” and “spirit” are often used interchangeably in the Bible.

Though used interchangeably, we can see that the soul and the spirit have distinct meanings. For example, a man’s “soul” is used in reference to his present life and seems to refer to his mental and emotional capacities and “spirit” is the part of man that passes to the other side at death. The spirit-side of man makes up his “higher character”; it is responsible for the quality of his character. The soul is different. The soul is seat of a man’s intellect and emotions. The soul uses the senses as it moves the body through the material world.

It is, admittedly, very difficult to separate soul and spirit for the purposes of definition. Those who believe that man is a tri-unity, often called “trichotomists” (as opposed to those who see man with just two parts are known as “dichotomists”), often cite the universe to support their belief. God Himself is triune—Father, Son, Holy Spirit—One being yet a Trinity. The material universe is a triad—energy, motion, and phenomena. Time is also a triad—future, present, and past. Even a man’s personality is a triad—intellect, sensibilities, and will. Therefore, man is essentially made up of three parts, perfectly integrated. A common way to look at the spirit/soul/body tri-unity is this:

Man is a spirit, he has a soul, and he lives in a body.

The soul

Animals, like men, have souls, though they don’t have spirits. At death, the soul of an animal, also like that of a man, leaves its body. Where it goes is a discussion for another day. But the soul of an animal is different from that of a man.

When God created all living creatures, there is no indication that God called them to a higher plane of living. They have no laws, for example. They have no Savior. Animals are never seen sinning. Animals are, in every way, inferior to man, and that’s where the difference comes in. Man’s soul is as far from the soul of an animal as his intellect is from that of an ant. Because of that inferiority, animals were made to be used by man as food, for example:

Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. (Genesis 9:3)

Animals were further made to serve man and even to provide sacrifices in substitution for man:

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. (Genesis 8:20)

But, while a man could kill an animal, the taking of a human life was punishable by death:

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man. (Genesis 9:6)

So, while God created many kinds of living creatures on Earth, only man was made in God’s image and given Godlike qualities, like an understanding of morality and spirituality and especially the ability to have fellowship with his Creator. It was God the Creator and the great Architect of the Universe who put these qualities in man, not evolution and not chance. Man is, therefore, nothing like the animals around him. When God made man, there were all kinds of animals roaming the Earth, yet God said this:

So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. (Genesis 2:20)

They say that a dog is “man’s best friend.” Obviously that can’t be true in light of Genesis 2:20.

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