WHAT IS MAN?
The creature called man occupies a unique place in the order of creation; above him are the angels and beneath him the beasts. Ps. 8:4-5; Heb. 2:6-7.
The bringing of man into being is the result of distinct divine design. Gen. 1:26.
Each new generation faces afresh the problems of origin, vocation, and destiny. No thoughtful individual can pass through life without personal concern over questions such as: What am I? Whence came I? Whither go I? What is the purpose of my presence here?
In this section, which has to do pre-eminently with man, we purpose to take up for consideration the fact of man's existence, the problem of man's sin, and the question of man's destiny.
Man -- How Created
We shall first take up the question of man's creation. We find ourselves immediately faced with two distinct theories: the one scriptural, the other scientific.
That the scripture record and the findings of science should be felt to clash is of course to be deplored. Innumerable attempts have been made to reconcile them, but not with the happiest results, for in order to secure harmony, much in the Bible has been ingeniously explained away, and not infrequently gratuitously given away by the Christian scholar.
We need to remember that science is progressive and its findings necessarily tentative, and therefore what is regarded as authoritative today may be declared obsolete tomorrow. The scientist has his place, and within his own realm his findings are to be received with due respect; but wherein they are manifestly out of harmony with divine revelation they are to be received with reserve and courteously rejected, the Christian being assured that one day other findings will follow which will confirm rather than contradict the Word of God.
1. The Scientific Theory
The scientific theory of the origin of man may be stated in brief as follows: Man, as we know him, came into being through a process of evolution. He is to be regarded as emerging from the lower forms of life, having behind him a long animal ancestry, and being the crown of an extended process of development.
The wide acceptance of this teaching is due largely to the labors of Charles Darwin, although his particular view of things is no longer generally endorsed.
The theory of evolution may be said to divide itself into two sections:
- a. The theory of atheistic evolution. This, of course, is held only by the rankest materialists, who insist that a First Cause cannot be proved, and that the only reality is matter, which must therefore be eternal and its outworking the product of a blind force. Here, evolution is not only a method but also a cause.
- b. The theory of theistic evolution. Here a First Cause is predicated. God is held to be the Creator, and the process of evolution is the method but not the cause. Nevertheless the evolutionary process is insisted upon and man's animal ancestry is maintained.
2. The Scriptural Theory
The scriptural theory of man's creation is simple and plain, namely, that man came into being as the result of a direct divine operation.
- a. This is implicitly taught in the Bible itself. Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7, 18-25. Between these two seemingly different accounts neither clash nor contradiction need be imagined. In the one, man is seen as related to the material universe, while in the other he is seen as a responsible moral being. See also Gen. 5:1; 6:9; Ps. 8:4-6; 100:3; Matt. 19:4; Mark 10:6; Acts 17:26; I Cor. 11:7; Col. 1:16; Heb. 11:3.
- b. This is also directly implied in numerous ways outside the Bible. Here we suggest two. It is implied in the immeasurable gulf which separates man in his lowest condition from his nearest animal neighbors at their best. It is also implied in the fact revealed in scripture and realized in history that man is destined to exercise dominion.
On this question of origin the fight does not slacken, and those who dare to take a stand for the old way of putting things, as it is condescendingly called, are regarded by the intellectuals as being hopelessly out-of-date. The last word, however, has not yet been said, and God will see to it that His Word is vindicated, however long we may have to wait for it.
Meanwhile, the attitude of the believing soul should be that of restful confidence with heart and mind open to whatever light may yet break forth from the Word of God, no matter who may question or from whatever quarter criticism may come.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT
If you are reading more widely, become informed on the theories which have been advanced concerning creation and in your notebook state them in your own words.
- In what sense would it be correct to say that the creature called man occupies a unique place in the universe?
- Name the two theories of human origin, then carefully state each of them.
- Having stated the theories, go on to state which of these most appeals to you. Tell why.
MAN -- HOW CONSTITUTED
The constitution of the race of which we are a part has been a subject of wide discussion.
1. As To Racial Structure
The entire race is to be regarded as a unity. The species is one, springing from a common ancestor and belonging to a common stock. For this, numerous arguments have been advanced. We shall name five:
a. The argument from Scripture. The Scriptures plainly teach that the entire human race has descended from a single pair. Gen. 1:27-28; 2:7, 22; 3:20; 9:19; Acts 17:26.
This truth is the basis of Paul's doctrine of the organic unity of mankind, in that the entire race is declared to be involved in the consequences of the first transgression and all its members are eligible participants in the redemption of Calvary. Rom. 5:19-21; I Cor. 15:21-22; Heb. 2:16.
This truth also becomes the ground for the obligation of one man to another, for racially all men are brothers.
- b. The argument from history. It is almost generally acknowledged that the cradle of the race was central Asia, from whence, by migration, the world has been populated.
- c. The argument from language. A study of the world's languages is said to point to a common origin of all those most important, while the lesser ones are seen to be co-related.
- d. The argument from psychology. There are seen to exist in man common characteristics both mental and moral; there are tendencies and capacities, the prevalence of similar traditions, and the universal applicability of philosophy and religion, all indicating an underlying unity in the common stock.
- e. The argument from physiology. No matter what may be the race, there is an unmistakable identity in skull, bones, teeth, temperature, pulse frequency, and liability to disease; while the blood of the human is said to be distinguishable from that of the animal. Mankind racially is basically one.
2. As To Individual Structure
Having considered the race in general, we come to the individual in particular. That he is a being intellectual, moral, and spiritual, is generally agreed, the personality made up by the combination of intellect, volition, and sensibility in a self-conscious unity, the body being the servant of the personality for the gathering up of sensations, and its organs for the expression of life and action.
As a general division man may be said to be a combination of two natures, material and immaterial. Job 14:22; Zech. 12:1; Matt. 10:28; I Cor. 6:20; 7:34; II Cor. 4:16; 5:1; Phil. 1:21-24.
- a. Man is material. Through his body he is related to the earth. In Greek philosophy there was a tendency to disparage the body. The Gnostics contended that the body was the seat of sin. The Christian idea involves the entire man and therefore of necessity includes that which is physical. Rom. 6:12; 8:23; 12:1; I Cor. 6:19; I Thess. 5:23; and other passages.
- b. Man is immaterial. Through his higher nature he is related to another world. Concerning this immaterial side, two distinct views are advanced.
(1) That known as dichotomy. Literally, being of two parts -- body, and soul or spirit. According to this conception soul and spirit in man are one and the same element, but viewed in different relations. Viewed in relation to God, as coming from God, adapted to communion with God, and capable of being indwelt by God, it is spirit. Viewed as living a constituted life related to the body which it inhabits, it is soul.
It is not contended that the lower faculties constitute the soul and the higher faculties constitute the spirit, but rather that the entire non-bodily part bears one name as inhabiting the body and related to the world, and the other name as kindred to God and capable of fellowship with Him.
(2) That known as trichotomy. Literally, "being of three parts."
According to this conception, man has a tripartite or threefold nature -- spirit, soul, and body, which as component parts or substances are distinct the one from the other. The spirit is declared to be the organ of divine life and of communion with God, the seat of the divine indwelling. The soul is seen as the seat of the natural life where dwells the naturally used faculties of the conscious being. It is the intermediary between the body and the spirit, the seat of the personality.
In his appraisal of these two theories the student is not called upon to judge between Fundamentalism and Modernism, for it would seem that men of sound evangelical faith are to be found on either side. In either case, it is not a matter of questioning the Scriptures, but rather of difference of interpretation. The student must therefore seek further information concerning these theories and then personally decide between them.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT
Acquire whatever information may be available on the arguments for our common racial structure, and be prepared to answer the challenge of evolution.
Read further on the subjects of dichotomy and trichotomy. Which view most appeals to you? Be ready to state your position and to say why you take that side.
- What is to be said as to the organic unity of the human race?
- Man may be said to be a combination of two natures. What are they?
- What do you understand by dichotomy?
- What do you understand by trichotomy?
MAN -- HOW CONTINUED
We now come to what may be regarded as the thorniest of all questions concerning man, namely, the propagation of the immaterial part. Three views have been propounded, each of which has had its distinguished advocates, and for which scriptural authority has been claimed.
1. The Theory Of Pre-existence
This theory is designated by Dr. John S. Banks as "a Christianized transmigration." It was held by such thinkers as Plato, Philo, and Origen, each bringing to it his own personal point of view. Plato saw in it the apparent explanation of the possession of ideas obviously not derived from sense, and held that intuitive ideas were things learned in a previous state. Philo held that a previous existence alone could account for the soul's imprisonment with the body. Origen insisted that only the fact of a previous existence could justify the disparity of conditions under which men enter this world.
More recent advocates of this theory have been Kant, Julius Muller, and others, who have taken the position that the inborn depravity of the human will can be explained only by a personal act of self-determination in a previous or timeless state of being.
2. The Theory Of Creationism
This theory was held by Aristotle, Jerome, Pelagius, and in more recent times by the majority of Roman Catholic theologians. It regards each human being as immediately created by God, the spirit being joined to the body either at conception, birth, or sometime between the two. It regards only the body as propagated from past generations. Its advocates quote Scripture in support of their teaching, among which are the following passages: Eccles. 12:7; Isa. 57:16; Zech. 12:1; Heb. 12:9.
3. The Theory Of Traducianism
This theory was held by Tertullian, is said to have been favored by Augustine, and is held by most of the Lutheran theologians. It regards the soul, like the body, as derived from the parents, because, it is contended, it best explains inherited qualities and original sin.
The traducianist teaching is not that the soul is begotten from the soul and the body from the body, but in the wider sense, the whole man is begotten from the whole man. For this, Scripture authority is claimed, and among others the following passages are used: Gen. 2:7; 4:1; 5:3; 46:26; Acts 17:21-26; Heb. 7:10.
It is contended by the traducianist that once and only once did God breathe into man's nostrils the breath of life, and after this He rested from His creating work, having created species now capable of increasing and perpetuating through secondary agencies.
Among evangelical Christians the choice seems to lie between the last two theories, that is, if a choice must be made at all. Probably the truth lies somewhere in both; but happily these theories, accepted or rejected, do not affect our salvation, concerning which a wayfaring man, though in other matters a fool, need not err.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT
Much has been said and written concerning each of these theories. Read further and become informed. Determine in your own mind the most reasonable view, then state clearly in writing why you believe it.
- Name from memory the three views concerning man's continued existence.
- Now explain each view you have named as clearly as you are able. Write as though you were explaining to one who had never heard the theory before.