Over the last several months, we’ve taken a brief look at what the Scriptures say about what it means to be a human being. We’ve seen how human beings were originally made in the image of God, which was lost in the fall but is restored in Christ to those who are baptized into him. We’ve discussed the nature of human will, both before and after conversion. We learned that, outside of Christ, our will is corrupted by sin and unable to choose to love and obey God. We’ve talked about the composite nature of human begins. We are composed not only of bodies, but also of souls, joined together by God. Christ has redeemed both soul and body, so we have not only the promise of heaven for our souls, but also when Christ returns the resurrection of the body and the reuniting of our souls with our bodies. All this and more does Scripture teach us about what it means to be a human being.
Naturally, the question “What does it mean to be human?” is one that all people are trying to answer, even those outside the Christian faith. Answers have been given to that question, therefore, that are not in harmony with what the Scriptures teach. Using fallen human reason and speculation, man has crafted his own answers to what he thinks man should be.
Blaise Pascal, a Christian philosopher from the 17th century, observed that man is neither an angel nor a brute. His observation is useful as a way to categorize the types of wrong answers man has given to the question “What does it mean to be human?” Some of those answers are forms of “angelism,” seeing man as a type of benevolent demi-god, for whom physical existence in secondary and non-essential next to man’s spiritual or psychological existence. A few examples of “angelism” which we see around us today include forms of Gnosticism and transhumanism, which we will discuss next month.
On the other hand, some of the answers that fallen man has offered are forms of “brutism,” seeing man as nothing more than his physical and physiological needs, desires, and urges. Examples of “brutism” include Darwinism, and Freudianism. This month I’d like to take a brief look at each of these false “brutish” views of man and compare them with what we’ve learned about man from the Scriptures.
Charles Darwin is most famous for his 1859 books, The Origin of Species. In his book, Darwin first proposed a theory of evolution on the basis of natural selection. Darwinism or evolution is an obviously “brutish” answer to the question of human nature, because evolution teaches that man is literally just another animal that evolved from a lower order of life over time. Man is not unique from the animals in any way other than that his brain and social behavior have evolved in a different way from most other animals. According to Darwinism, man certainly doesn’t have a soul or any spiritual side to him.
The problems with a Darwinist view of man are many, but one of the most problematic is that it destroys any special relationship of man with God. While Darwin taught that man is no different than any other species of animal, the Scriptures teach that God made man in his own image, unique from all other creatures, gave him a soul, and set him as the crown of all creation in order to rule over it and use it for the glory of God.
Darwin’s view of man also destroys the concept of natural law. If man is just another creature, he has no obligation to care for creation, contrary to God’s command to Adam in Genesis 1:28. Man also would have no obligation to morality even to other men, since no individual human life really matters, but only the propagation and evolutionary advance of the species. In fact, individuals have to be sacrificed on the altar of evolution for it to work. The species doesn’t improve and get stronger until unwanted and inferior genetic traits are destroyed. It is totally consistent with Darwinism to engage in radical eugenic programs such as Adolf Hitler attempted in Nazi Germany, killing those with disabilities and genetic abnormalities.
Darwinism is alive and well in our land today in our medical treatment of the unborn. By law, doctors have to offer screening for Down syndrome and a whole host of other genetic abnormalities, so that parents have enough time to abort the “defected” baby. Countries like Iceland have boasted about nearly “eliminating” Down syndrome, but the truth is that they haven’t eliminated Down syndrome at all. They’ve simply eliminated most all of the people who have Down syndrome, through cruel murder of innocent babies in the womb.
Freudianism is another “brutish” look at the nature of man. Sigmund Freud was a neurologist and the founder of psychotherapy. Freud has had a profound influence on our understanding of the psychology of the human brain. While some of psychology’s insights have positively impacted our understanding of mental health, many of Freud’s specific contributions have given a picture of man as a creature enslaved by his own psychological impulses.
Freud divided the human mind into three components, the id, the superego, and the ego. The id is the part of your mind that tells you to satisfy all of your urges. The superego is the part of your mind that tells you to only do what is pure and noble and suppress urges that go against those ideals. The ego is the part of the mind that uses reason to negotiate between the id and the superego, trying to satisfy the id’s desire for pleasure while balancing the superego’s demand for ideals.
The problem with a Freudian view of man is that it weakens and in many cases destroys any concept of sin and personal guilt and responsibility. If we see ourselves as simply our (sinful) desires and impulses, it becomes easy to make the excuse that we are not really responsible for our evil thoughts and behaviors. After all, we are only acting on our impulses.
It becomes easy to see how this Freudian view of human psychology has led to the concession that people cannot change who they really are. Whatever your innate desires, whether seen as good or bad by the outside world, you cannot change them. Therefore, it would be inhumane (in the Freudian view) to expect complete restraint of those desires.
This idea has led to things like society’s acceptance of rampant sexual immorality in the form of homosexuality and countless other perversions. We have adopted a “brutish” view of human beings by accepting that those who suffer from these evil desires should not fight “who they are” but simply embrace them and act on them.
This only scratches the surface of how mankind in his fallen reason has tried to answer the question “What does it mean to be human?” and gone in the wrong direction. In many cases, man has seen only the “brutish” animal nature of man and forgotten that God has also made us with souls, and that we were originally made in his image and are unique from all other creation.
Next month, we will look at how fallen man has also given an account of human nature that borders on “angelism,” seeing the nature of man only as spiritual and psychological and denying the physical and embodied nature of mankind.