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What is man?

Biblical anthropology is nothing if it is not God-centered.

Psa 115:1 Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake.

Man is the creature of God alone and can never be understood apart from this fact. The central questions of anthropology are:

  • What is man?
  • Where did man come from?
  • Where is man going? - Is there a purpose for man?
  • What is good for man in life?
  • Is man's will free and in what sense?
  • What value does man have?
  • What is man's place in the world?
  • What is man's relation to God?
  • What is man's relation to the other creatures?
  • What is man's relation to other men- Sociology, Culture

Humanism and Materialism

Humanism in its current form views man as a product of time, matter and random events along with natural selection. Man is the latest animal to arise out of the evolutionary process. The scientific view taught in the public educational system is based on this evolutionary scheme. From the fact that man is solely a particular arrangement of matter brought about by evolution, science concludes that man is not what the common person thinks he is. Man, it is said, does not actually have what we call mind, he simply has differing states of neurons and other brain configurations. He has no beliefs or desires. These are merely brain states which give rise to internal experiences.

The main competing system with Christianity in modern times is materialism. Materialism is the doctrine taught in every secular educational institution by law. Materialism is by definition atheistic or at best absolutely agnostic. Man finds himself in this universe with all of its order and beauty and asks "what am I in all of this"? Materialism answers "you are nothing but matter". Christianity answers "You are the image and glory of God".

Man has no soul, because souls are immaterial and cannot be measured or detected by any scientific instrument and therefore we have no scientific proof of their existence. Since all that exists is matter and energy, there is no Creator and no purpose. There is no reason for any of this great universe or any particular being in it. Each creature is simply one selected for by natural selection. There is no end for which the universe was made nor anything which gives anything any particular value. Because of these beliefs, secular anthropology focuses on the evolutionary development of man. Evolution is the dominant paradigm both for physical, linguistic and cultural anthropology.

Physical anthropology

Physical anthropology with its related paleoanthropology, is the study of how man evolved from lower life forms, migrated from region to region and developed through mutation and natural selection.

Linguistic anthropology

Linguistic anthropology seeks to explain the development of human language in terms of its evolutionary function.

Cultural anthropology

Cultural anthropology focuses on the life contexts of people groups and the social developments in what is commonly called culture. This encompasses both ethnological and archaeological studies.

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. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. (Gen 1:26-31)

God has made us like himself. Think of this: if God is good and goodness is a propensity to seek the highest good of others, then God would seek the highest good of others. What then is the highest good? God knows what the highest good is. God has from all eternity been in the full enjoyment of the greatest good, namely himself. He knows that the greatest state of being or experience is his own state of being God enjoying God. Now, if God's propensity to seek that others should have the highest good is to be exercised, then he must seek a similar situation to his own. Thus God creates beings like himself to enjoy himself as he enjoys himself. Because it is not just any experience of God that God is enjoying, but it is his own experience of God enjoying God.

God then, in overflowing goodness creates beings like himself, in order that they may have similar faculties to himself to the end that their enjoyment and experience of God may be as his is. This is why he made man in his image and in his likeness. That we may experience God as God experiences God.

Since God knows all of God's perfections perfectly and his own eternal enjoyment of himself is in his fullness, so God has sought that man should know God in his fullness. Thus he conceived of a universe in which, according to his eternal plan, the fullness of God's perfections would be maximally displayed and manifested. The goodness of God is his desire that this enjoyment of God should be multiplied and magnified beyond himself to creatures like himself. This is his bride, made as it were from his side and in his likeness in order to become one flesh with him and enjoy him forever.

We are by no means YHWH, nor "gods" in the definitive sense of the word, but "he calls them gods to whom the word of God came" John 10:34-35. This is an expression of our likeness to him and our exalted destiny of enjoying God as God enjoys God forever and ever. We are the image and glory of God 1 Corinthians 11:7, and are predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son Romans 8:29.

Negatively, we will never be infinite, omnipotent, omniscient etc... Being like God does not mean, nor will it ever mean being God. God has what theologians classify as communicable and incommunicable attributes. That is there are things which it is possible for Him to share with us and there are other things which are His alone. In addition to those already mentioned are God's uncreated-ness, his self-sufficiency, his right to worship, his due glory. These things will never be given to man.

However the magnitude of what it means to be made in God's image must not be undervalued. We don't merely have the image of God in us we are the image of God 1 Cor. 11:7. We are a marred image since the fall of man, but the image has not been eradicated from us.

The origin of man

God is the absolute source of man. Man is God's man in God's world, made for God's purposes in God's image, under God's rule. Man is God's in design. There is nothing about man that is not the handiwork of God. The Psalmist says,
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. Psalm 139:14
So much of modern anthropology and human anatomy and physiology attributes the excellencies of man to chance evolutionary processes. The wisdom seen in the design and well adaptedness of man is overlooked and attributed to natural selection. However, we give the glory which is due to God, to God.
Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psa 100:3

As was seen in Genesis, God made man in one act and not over millions of years. If a modern materialist objects to Eve being created from a rib taken from Adam's side as sounding mythological, we remind them that they believe that all life came from lifeless material by chance. Moreover, the scientific act of cloning would seem just as mythological if man had not seen it himself.

Purpose and End

Man's good

Man's will: freedom and bondage


Man's place


Man and the environment