1C What is Humanity?

What does it mean to be human? This is the question at the core of the Christian treatment of all people and, hopefully, the core of interpersonal ethics for Christians that attempt to remain true to their beliefs. Indeed it is this vision of what it means to be human that characterizes the importance of living a life that shows a heart of charity towards all people and because we are all human, it is important to understand a Christian perspective of humanity as a whole.  I think that the state of humanity can be divided into two parts, within the Christian worldview: (1) How people should be viewed and (2) what is the current state of humanity. It is the interplay of these two parts that form the foundation of all Christian ethics and is guided by the principles we gather by studying the Holy Scriptures and through reason and philosophy of thought.

What does it mean to be human? Christianity has the most powerful and positive vision of the answer to this question, an answer it has inherited from Judaism. People, all people, are created in the image of God. The Bible tells us “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” This statement has, within Christian philosophy and ethics, profound implications. Because each and every person was created by God, we are connected to him, and because we have his image, we are imbued with an eternal soul, a rational mind, a will, and with a knowledge of good written in our hearts. But more than that, the implication that we are all in God’s image gives to every person intrinsic worth and dignity in all functional circumstances. This means to say that no matter what we have done, or how we have lived life, we are all of equal worth. The person with a mental disability is thus equal to the person who leads a nation in worth and dignity, deserving of life, and able to receive the love of God. This vision of the equal dignity of all people is a great equalizer, destroying the foundation for racism [1].

Christianity records God as making all things, and though there is some large measure of debate within the Christian community, it is universally acknowledged that all things were created good. And how can we not marvel at the universe at large. It’s beautiful, from the incomprehensible size of the universe filled with stars and nebulae, to the opening of a flower every day, to the intricate webs of life that surround us invisible, to the smallest atom being made of more than the sum of its parts. It’s. all. beautiful. But, people, having been made in the image of God, are the most beautiful of all. The sum of the diversity of thought and action, of expression in art and word, and of form and colour reflects the creative aspect of God, and it is both amazing and a daily struggle to recognize this in every person. After all, it is far often too easy to say “my best friend is beautiful” but difficult that “my greatest enemy (or constant annoyance) is equally as beautiful and filled intrinsic worth.” It is this very approach to humanity that should lead all Christians to value all people, no matter how they may disagree, no matter what they may do, and to always treat people with respect, and love.

So we were made in the image of God, a beautiful and not always appreciated image, but something intrinsically beautiful and worthy of love and dignity, yet for what end? The answer to this is that humanity has been made to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever [2]. This answer is what should provide the Christian with a profound sense of meaning and significance because in this, no matter what we do, we are more than our mere function in human terms. Indeed, it has certainly given me much peace in that no matter what may happen to me, my life means more than the failure I encounter daily. Our lives have significance in the light of eternity, beyond the mere shortness of this life. However, while it is amazing that all people have been and are created in the image of God, it is also visible that the image of God has been marred and deformed. By this I mean that, while it was intended that people act in the fullness of good, people often act in evil and depraved ways. We need only to look at the news to see that evil exists, and that people often carry out that evil. Indeed every person, at some point, has knowingly gone against the natural law, fighting against their conscience to do wrong. This is what, in Christian theology, is called sin. It is, at its very core, saying that though we have been created to glorify God, we have instead chosen to put our own desires and wants as the first priority in our life, destroying the order wanted by God to exist, causing evil and harming others — all within the scope of the will and personhood God has granted to all people. This wrong that we have all done, has harmed our eternal souls in that it has destroyed our fellowship with God and predisposed all people towards seeking our own interests over God.

So this is the state of humanity. We are all intrinsically worthy of dignity and respect, no matter our present state because we are all made in the image of God with a rational mind, an eternal soul [3], and with the knowledge of right in our hearts [4]. However, being left to the liberty of the will, we have chosen to deviate from the designed purpose of humanity – to glorify God and enjoy him forever – for our own purposes, driving us away from God. This low state of humanity, a state of estrangement from God and the purpose of all people, must be overcome and Christianity boldly proclaims that we all can find reconciliation with God in Jesus Christ, finally bringing us to part two of this series, “who was Jesus Christ, the man that started the whole of Christianity.”

Post 3 of a series on basic christian theology

References

[1] Though I note that Christianity has used the Bible to sometimes justify slavery in the past, I don’t understand how anyone can, within the scope of a proper understanding of the image of God, be racist. Indeed this very idea has helped

[2] Romans 11.36, John 17.21-23, Westminster Greater Catechism Question 1

[3] Genesis 2.7

[4] Romans 2.14-15

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