What is Man?

O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! (Psalms 8:1-9)

The Mystery of Man

How perplexing and yet how relevant and important. This subject, as to what is man, is in the centre of theological and philosophical concerns today. It is rather interesting that man can ignore God, but he cannot ignore man. Anyone, who thinks in the twentieth century, has to think about man. He may seek the most deviant of ways to avoid thinking of God but he cannot avoid think about himself. The perplexity of the problem is seen in a variety of the answers that have been given to the question, “what is man?”

▪ Man is that nature that is able to will.

▪ Man is that animated being that experiences.

▪ Man is a depraved animal.

▪ Man is the suppressor of instincts.

▪ Man is that person that bores himself.

Why should the question of what man is be a problem to us? Is there anything in our human experience that is more known to us than man? Why do we have difficulties with this question? Who does not know man? However, we see the amazing knowledge man has, in relations to other things on the earth—his knowledge of machines, electronics, space, and DNA, which so have called the molecule and master of life.

Man even thinks that he can control the process of evolution, slowing it down or speeding it up, but particularly slowing it down as he may wish. It is amazing how much man knows about life, yet astonishing how little he knows about himself. If there is one thing we could learn through the study of man, it is that though we may have learnt to harness the materials and physical world, we have not learnt to harness the spiritual or moral world at all. So, we are in the crises of Anthropology, the study of man. Anthropos in Greek means “man”; logos means “reason, utterance, discourse”, and that is what we are going to study.

This crisis is part of modern man’s predicament, man is adrift at sea, largely unaware of the debt of his situation. Through the mist and fog of his own making, he strains to find a deliverance that is not there; because he does not look above and it is only from above that man can discover who he is and why he is here. John Calvin suggested this when he wrote that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, refrains from contemplating Him, and begins scrutinising himself.

The Bible tells us that man was created in the image of God. Therefore, it should be obvious to us that one of the ways we learn of ourselves is to learn of God. So, the answer to the question as to what is man, is related to the question, who is God?

Categories: Theology

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