Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Nature of Man

by James M. Bramblet

In the last chapter, we talked about the non-rational creation of God and how it reflects or “declares” the glory of God. We come now to the rational creation of God, or mankind. Man is sometimes spoken of as the “crown” of God’s creation because of the exalted position he was given. Man alone was given dominion over the rest of creation (Gen. 1:26, 28). Man alone is capable of fellowship with God (Gen, 3:0). Man will some day be called upon to judge the angels (I Cor. 6:3). Man will some day reign with Christ (Rev. 20:6). But the most outstanding statement concerning man in all of Scripture is that he is created in the image of God.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:26-27).

The importance of this belief that man is created in the image of God can be pointed up by the almost frantic efforts of the secularists to dissuade people from believing it. The “man is an animal” theme has become almost a religious chant in secular textbooks and among evolutionary materialists. It is necessary to the basic doctrine of evolution that man be seen as simply a highly developed animal. This necessity explains the long but fruitless search for the “missing link” between animals and men.

The question of whether being created in the image of God includes man’s body has been debated for centuries. Views have ranged all the way from believing that God and man are of the same essence, only God is more highly developed, to the belief that man’s body evolved from the lower animals and then God injected a soul and spirit to create man. Obviously, both of these extreme views are contrary to Scripture. Scripture teaches that God is Spirit (John 4:24). We infer from this that God does not have a body and that references to His head, heart, etc. are symbolic.

Having said this, however, we must hasten to note the high regard Scripture holds for the human body (Gen. 9:6; I Cor. 6:19-20; John 2: 21; Rom. 12:1). The human body was formed by God as a special creation to contain the image of God. At the time He created Adam, He patterned his body after the body He would create for the indwelling of Jesus Christ at His incarnation (Heb. 10:5). The resurrection body of Jesus Christ is presently at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1:3). The resurrection bodies of Christians will be forever with the Lord in heaven (I Thess. 4:16-17). The human body cannot be equated with the body of an animal.

It makes a great deal of difference to the individual whether he believes he evolved up from the animals or whether he came down from the hand of God. The teachings of evolution, and particularly the idea that man is an animal, are in conflict with the Bible doctrine concerning the fall of man and the need for salvation. When the idea that “man is an animal” first came into vogue, many people believed it intellectually, but it did not have a drastic effect on their lifestyles because of their childhood teachings. Now, however, this doctrine has been taught in our schools for several generations and many people are conducting themselves as though they, indeed, are animals. Some would even appear to prefer to look like animals.

The Bible makes it clear that there is a basic difference between man and the animals. Man was given dominion over the animals. When Adam sought a helpmeet from among the animals, none was fit for him (Gen. 2:20), so God created Eve. Man, created in the image of God, is, like God, able to make moral decisions and to usurp authority. The animals, on the other hand, conduct themselves according to God-given instincts rather than by making rational, moral judgments.

Because of the confusion regarding the nature of man, people are often misled regarding many areas of human life. For instance, in the area of romantic love, people often talk about “falling” in love as though it happened accidentally, like falling over a cliff. Two young people who are very unsuited for marriage answer all questions with the simple answer that they are “in love.” Later, when they are seeking a divorce, they explain that they no longer love each other. In the Bible, God gives us commands that show that He sees us not as animals that simply follow our instincts but as men who are able and expected to control our emotions. Christians are told not to intermarry with unsaved people (II Cor. 6:14). Husbands are told to “love your wives” (Eph. 5:25). Wives are told to love their husbands and children (Titus 2:4). God would not give us these commands if we were incapable of carrying them out. We do not “fall” in and out of love, but when a husband and wife say they no longer love each other they really mean that they have decided not to love each other any more. They should be instructed that this decision is in disobedience to an explicit command of God.

Another area where we are often misled is in the matter of human endeavor. A person’s “success” in this life is often judged by how large his salary is, and the quality of his home, car, and other possessions. If we were only animals, this would be an accurate assessment, for all the animals need is food, shelter, and the meeting of their material needs. But the Lord Jesus Christ quoted the Scriptures as saying, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). In another place, He told the story of a man who amassed great wealth and decided he could then take his ease and eat, drink and be merry. God called this man a “fool” saying, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be, which thou has provided?” (Luke 12:20). Later He explained to His disciples that “Life is more than food and the body is more than raiment” (Luke 12:23). Obviously, the Bible teaches that man is not an animal but that he is created in the image of God and owes allegiance to his Creator.

The idea that man is an animal is carried to its extreme in the minds of the Communists. When the Communists take over a country, they round up all those whose religious or political views they cannot change and have them put to death. They do not do this out of hatred but like a farmer who has animals with an infectious disease. He destroys them to protect his herds. If man is only an animal, then killing a few is not such a serious matter since it protects the others. This practice is misusing governmental authority. God gave permission for government to take human life only if human life had been taken. This provision was made because man is created in the image of God, and to take a human life is to strike at God Himself (Gen. 9:6).

Excerpted from Chapter 3 of An Introduction to the Christian School by James M. Bramblet, Copyright © 1985 by James M. Bramblet

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