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Friday, May 14, 2010

Becoming Truly Human

One of the more important questions we can ask ourselves is “Am I truly being human?” Now some would simply say, using a biologically based worldview, because of their genetic makeup they are human. Others, coming from an existentialist mindset, would simply say, “yes” because they think, there for they are. Many Christians would wonder why the question is being asked. Unfortunately, while acknowledging they are “human” because the Bible says so (not necessarily misguided), they will not go deeper into the actually theological ramifications of what being “human” actually means.
It is the Christian I wish to address in this particular blog. Not to neglect the existentialist, the moralist, the atheist, the spiritualist, the environmentalist, or any other person. It is just that my perspective on life and living is being established (and continuing to be established/transformed) through a biblical worldview.
This biblical worldview doesn’t make God the center of my life. It doesn’t even make Christ the center of my life. The very idea is a distinctly western in its perspective. It works for the westerner because we think categorically and, most often, in a linear fashion. Like most cultural perspectives, it is not necessarily wrong, it is just gives us an incomplete picture of how God actually works through our lives and in the daily issues of life itself.
My understanding of Scripture, and the continued development of my biblical worldview, is teaching me that God cannot be “centered” into my life. The renewing of my mind is actually confronting this thought process. My theology is teaching me that God is transcendent. Thus, I can’t “center” God/Christ/Holy Spirit (yes, I’m strongly Trinitarian which is a whole other discussion which feeds this human issue). What is required is that I seek to “center” myself in God/Christ/Holy Spirit. If I can’t place a thought, action, or attitude “in” God/Christ/Holy Spirit I must seek to have it removed from my existence. And that leads me into the direct discussion of being truly “human.”
As a Christian you know the Scripture from Genesis which states, “…’Let us make man (word is actually human in Hebrew) in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man (human) in his own image, in the image of God he created him (them); male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:26-28, NIV)
The foundation of “being truly human” is found right here. The creation of the human race was orchestrated different than the rest of creation. The first humans were not spoken into existence. Unlike the rest of creation, we were formed out of that which was already created. Male was formed from the dirt (feminists love that!), female was formed out the substance of the man (feminists hate this!). This is discovered in Genesis chapter two. The reason we are in God’s image, is stated in Genesis 2:7. We discover that God breathed into Adam His essence. Adam was brought to life through the work of God being imputed into Adam (direct parallel to salvation itself, yet again another discussion). To be truly human is to take hold of the specialness of our existence. We have a purposeful, specific life designed for us. The rest of Genesis 1:26-28 spells this out for us.
What we discover, and what is so heatedly disputed among many, even those who hold to a belief in the Christian faith, is that creation was created for HUMANS! Everything that was created before the human race is for our benefit. The benefits are multi-faceted. And if held in the proper tension, means we have an incredible world in which to live. Here are the benefits in their relative order of importance.
First benefit, creation keeps us mindful that God exists. The wonder of the universe, the ecosystems of our planet, plants and animals, and the molecular and atomic discoveries we continue to make keep us enthralled and mindful that we can’t grasp it all. Paul refers to this issue when he wrote, “…since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine authority—have been clearly seen, being understood from what was been made, so that men (and women!) are without excuse (Romans 1:20).” This first benefit, if acknowledged, keeps us humble and should generate the desire to use what God has created for us well. It should be our chief motivation toward stewarding, caring for creation. It doesn’t just exist for our immediate needs, it exists for the needs of those who will follow us. That brings us to the second benefit.
The second benefit is that we have a stated purpose in our daily existence. Because we are created in God’s image, we have an innate drive to care for and cultivate what was created for our benefit. We have a “role” to act out in our everyday life. We have “authority” over that which was created for us. But that role must be used wisely, and with selflessness. You may ask, “How does he reach that conclusion?” I believe it is found in the third benefit.
The third benefit is that we have been granted the privilege of being able to “create” ourselves. God decided that we could “be fruitful and increase in number.” Like the first two humans, we create out of substance which already exists. And because Adam and Eve were created in the image of God every human afterwards is also an image bearer of God. Our “value” isn’t measured by our accomplishments, achievements or accolades. We have an intrinsic value. This also means we cannot “devalue” any other human. Someone’s lack of accomplishments, achievements, or accolades has no bearing on God’s love for that person. Likewise, those who sharply oppose our viewpoints have to be looked at as people created in the image of God. That person may be failing miserably in being an image bearer of God yet we are still to protect their dignity, and remember their intrinsic value. We cannot cheapen their life under the guise of protecting other lives. This is why abortion, torture, genocide, racism, sexism, chauvinism, feminism (surely there are more categories) are abhorrent. They are accomplished out of a misguided worldview that it is better for other humans if we disregard this one human’s intrinsic value.
This high regard for the intrinsic value of human life creates helps us to steward resources properly. This biblical worldview means that we don’t practice good stewardship of resources for our daily existence. Instead, we practice the good stewardship of resources as a way to honor God for providing for us so well, and insuring we are providing for those who will follow after us. Honoring the intrinsic value of being human leads us to make decisions that are consistently “other” oriented. We seek to preserve what God has created and seek to insure that others will benefit as we have benefitted. It is terribly misguided to discount “environmentalism” because the “environmentalist” has a worldview may be skewed. At the core of Christian theology is the notion that humans were created to “rule” in order for future generations to know and honor God because Creation is wondrous and inspires awe.
This brings me to the conclusion of this blog. Thank you for reading. The stereotypical environmentalist is operating from a worldview that “creation” is equal to the value of “humanity.” A biblical worldview stands in direct opposition to this notion. I am called to “rule” over the whale, the dolphin, the delta smelt (might have to be a Californian to get that one), and how the land gets used and what is constructed and invented and implemented into the lifestyle of this world.
To “rule” does not mean I can discount any of these issues though. If I am to “rule” like God (I’m created in His image so I must seek to “rule” like Him) I must see the world in its totality. I must seek to measure all the possible consequences. With this perspective it is quite possible that a supposedly “good” invention may need to be put aside because the consequences can’t, at the current time, be mitigated in such a way as to prevent the possible destruction of another part of creation.
Ultimately, and this is my conclusion. To be truly human is to understand our proper place in creation. The very word “human” helps drive this home. Our English word for “human” is derived from a Latin root word which communicates humility. It means “knowing your place.” We, humans, live lives which are between God and all the other things God created. It is important to understand that creation can exist without us! God’s created a system which can self-exist. We have the privilege of being placed within a system which benefits us and we are allowed to utilize it for our communities (present and future) and we are given the privilege to accomplish this in such a way that we can bring honor to the Creator. To be truly human is to live out the totality of our lives in a way which honors God and serves the rest of the human race. Many Christians are falling short of being truly human. Seek Christ’s example “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing (human if you miss that subtly) taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness…” To truly be human is to seek to serve the needs of others and to do so with a firm eye and pleasing the God Who created ALL of us. Make it so!