“What is man that you are mindful of him (Psalm 8:4)?” This is the question that King David, the Psalmist, asks of God. Who is man in light of the magnitude of everything else in the universe? Man is only a speck. It is incredible that God pays attention to him at all. And yet God says of man, and man alone, that he is created in His image (Genesis 1:26,27). God has crowned him with glory and honor (Psalm 8:5) as His highest and greatest creation. As the centerpiece of creation man has been given dominion and authority over all creation (Psalm 8:6-8). How amazing!
Christianity holds a high view of man. In fact, it holds a much higher view of man than any of the other religious and philosophical perspectives that are prevalent today. Because healthy living proceeds from right thinking, it is important that we maintain a truthful view of ourselves in order to be able to live healthy Christian lives. God has placed man in a high position, and we must resist views that diminish man’s significance.
If we hold a view of man that is less than what God has said is true, problems will arise. For example, if we believe that man, in his essence, is a sinner and nothing else, it can lead to low self-esteem. How can a sinner do anything good? Rather, we should believe that though all men have a sin nature, they also have innate dignity flowing from being created in God’s image. This leads to a more correct, balanced view of man. Man is both good and bad. Man is in need of a savior because of his sin and capable of doing incredible good because he is created in God’s image.
In this Pocket Principle we will be able to see the importance of holding to a high view of man as we contrast the Biblical view of man with some of the other views popular in our society today: the humanistic, supremacist and New Age views.
The Humanistic Views
Humanistic or secular views of man vary considerably but have some common themes. Their goal is to explain man’s existence and significance apart from any concept of God or creation. They do not see man as created but as having evolved from lower forms of life. Therefore, they do not see man as related to God in any way and certainly not as reflecting His image.
A humanist’s view of man is that he is basically good. This view does not say that man is incapable of doing bad things, but it sees man’s badness as caused by ignorance, not by a sin nature. They downplay man’s problem with sin and exalt his rational ability. This leads to the belief that if we can educate people sufficiently, we can remove all the badness and evil from our culture, and explains the high value that our culture and our government place on gaining and improving education. This view is in error and fails to see man as he really is. Man has a problem with sin that is out of control and is in need of internal transformation, not just education. Education, although useful, will not solve the problem man has with sin.
Christianity has some important messages for those who hold the humanistic view of man. This view of man is both too low in some respects and too high in others. It is too low in that it does not recognize that man is created in God’s image. To be created in the image of God, to be an image-bearer of God, is to be much more than a highly evolved animal. It is to be uniquely different from and superior to all animals. Thus, Christianity holds a much higher view of man than humanism does.
On the other hand, Christianity in one sense has a lower view of man than the humanist does. Christianity sees man as having a serious problem with sin and not as simply being ignorant. Change for the better can only come through the power of the Holy Spirit changing us on the inside. The necessary transformation will not take place through education, evolution, politics or any other human means.
The Supremacist View
The supremacist view considers a particular group of people as either superior to or inferior to all others. There are many people who think this way about others. The whole concept of racial profiling is based on the concept that certain types of people are more likely to be guilty of something or have something wrong with them than another group or the rest of mankind.
There have been many examples of the supremacist view through the centuries. The Aryan race was believed to be superior to all others under Hitler. As a result, the Nazis felt they had the right to eliminate whole groups of people that they considered inferior. We have a name for the horror that surrounded their ascent to power and the implementation of their philosophy. It is called “the Holocaust.”
Here in America we have been guilty of incredible cruelty in the name of slavery. At times, even the church tried to justify owning slaves. Black people from Africa, bought and sold as slaves, were not considered to be equal to white people from Europe. They were thought of as less than real people in some way and were treated as property. They were at their owner’s disposal or pleasure.
The whole issue of prejudice is tied to this view. Every culture tends to have problems with prejudice in one way or another. It is often racially based, but it can also be religiously, economically, socially or politically-based. India has its caste system. Islam’ s view of the West and all other religions falls into this category. The attitude of some who are rich and famous may reflect this dangerous form of pride.
Around the world women have suffered. Often they have been treated as second-class citizens and have been denied the right to get an education or to pursue a career. The laws of some countries give men many more rights than women. Christianity has done much to correct these views and to improve the lot of women throughout the world, but at times, it has also been guilty of denying women an equal status with men. In a similar way, those who are single or divorced have sometimes been viewed as having some kind of curse.
Abortion and euthanasia are tremendous problems, particularly in western civilization. Millions of babies are killed every year under the banner of “women’s rights.” What about the rights of the unborn child? Unwanted babies that do make it into this world alive are commonly allowed to die by being denied food and water. Another problem is that of the elderly, the disabled and the poor, all of whom can become a drain on our time and resources. Should we just eliminate them from our society? The very fact that we even consider these options shows the low value placed on human life.
The Christian also has important messages for supremacists. Because God has created all people in His image, everyone, from the moment of conception, has value and worth independent of anything else. God is the One who places value on every life, and everyone’s value is equal in His eyes. He has leveled the playing field and given everyone equal status on it.
Since all people are created in God’s image, and are capable to some degree of contributing in positive ways to this world, all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Because of the inherent worth and value God has placed on each life, He alone has the right to take a person’s life. (The only other person who has the authority to take a person’s life is a person God has placed in authority in government. The government is God’s agent of wrath (Romans 13:1-4).)
The New Age View
The New Age Movement is not a cohesive movement. It spreads a wide umbrella that many different groups can fit under: eastern mysticism, western occultism and the human potential movement. Each of these groups adheres to parts of New Age philosophy. Though the movement as a whole is not well coordinated, there are some general statements about their view of man that can be made.
The New Age view that everything that exists is God is called Pantheism. In this view, since man is part of all that exists, he is also God. There are other unusual beliefs associated with the New Age movement but for our purposes we will limit our discussion to how they see man in relation to God.
Scripture says that man is created “like “ God (bears God’s image), but is not God. Take the example of a child born of human parents. He is like his parents in many ways. He may have similar physical features to his parents. He certainly carries similar DNA, enough so that it is possible to know who his parents are. He may even act like them and believe things similar to them, but he is not his parent. The mother, the father and the child are not the same. They are unique and separate individuals.
Likewise, though we bear God’s image, we are not God. And neither is anything else that is created. The New Age movement suggests that what Christians believe is an illusion based on ignorance. Christians would answer that their beliefs are supported by the reality that we see and experience around us.
The Biblical view of man positively impacts how we think about and treat others and ourselves. We should treat everyone with dignity and respect because we all bear God’s image, and yet, we also need to see that all men are lost because of their sin and rebellion and desperately need the salvation that God offers through Jesus Christ.
• Meditate on Psalm 139:13-16
• Think about the ways that a high view of man affect the way you think about and relate to nonbelievers.