Wednesday, February 01, 2006

More on Man or Beast

At the end of my last post I mentioned about the doctrine of the image of God as being the central feature distinguishing man from the beasts.

In Gen. 1:26-30 and Job 7:17, the Lord clearly distinguishes man from the animals, and it is rooted in the fact that man is God’s image-bearer, while the plants and animals are not. It is for this reason that the plants and animals need mankind to have dominion over them.

Because the fall did not change the fact of our humanity, it did not change the fact that man is the image-bearer of God. In the covenant with Noah and throughout the Old and New Testaments, the doctrine of the image of God is still affirmed, despite sin. But although the responsibility to take dominion as God’s image-bearers remains, human beings are now partially defaced images.
After the account of the fall we read about the enmity that was placed between the serpent and the seed of man. A consequence of this enmity is that Satan hates anything that is truly human. He hates what is truly human is becausDe humanity is the image-bearer of God. Therefore, the devil will try to twist everything that makes us uniquely human, everything that contributes to what it means to be a true man or woman. His goal is to mock God’s images by making people resemble the beasts. The fact that there are human beings at all is a threat to the devil, for he knows we were made to take dominion as God’s images. The best the devil can do, therefore, is to cause us to forget that we are human, to causes us to start thinking of ourselves and treating ourselves like beasts.

Of course, the lunatic asylums are filled with numerous individuals who think they are beasts. But that’s not the sort of things I’m thinking about. I want us to think of the more subtle ways the enemy manipulates intelligent people to behave or think like animals.

Perhaps the most obvious thing that comes to mind is the way many people have begun to think of themselves as beasts. It is has become accepted in many intelligent circles that the only difference between man and the animals is one of complexity. When the theory of evolution first began to be accepted, many critics were worried that it would remove our human dignity, that people would begin to think of themselves like animals, even that people would begin to behave like their animal forefathers. These fears have, to a large extent, been realized.

Central to the doctrine of the image of God is the fact that the creation of man was distinct from the creation of the animals. It happened on different days and by different means. All this is, of course, undercut by evolutionary theory. Further, evolution renders the image of God unnecessary, for it shows that there were thousands of years where the earth and animals existed perfectly well apart from the dominion of man.

It is bad enough that we have begun thinking of ourselves no more than beasts.But at least a beast does have some significance and value. Yet even this limited value is now being challenged. Someone once asked George Wall, a professor of Harvard University, who Shakespeare was in his view. Wall replied that Shakespeare was a random collection of molecules that existed four hundred years ago. Other philosophers have concluded that man did not arise out of the ape, but out of language, that “persons are no more than the points at which the meaning-giving structures of our language intersect and become concretised.” Don’t ask me to explain what that means. The point is that many people are no longer thinking of themselves as being people. Of course, the average ‘man on the street’ does not think in these terms, and for most this shift remains largely unconscious. Yet unconscious or not, the people of today have imbibed a whole network of dehumanising assumptions about ourselves. The result is that we are becoming incapable of acting truly human. The dehumanising influences of our era, seen everywhere from brutality towards the unborn to the loss of a sense of wonder, are merely symptoms of this shift.
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