Anthropology is the study of Man. This post tells us about anthropology.
The Bible refers man as the best of all God’s creation. Man is social and reasonable. Animals too are social. Computers and robots are reasonable (logical) as well. However, having a conscience and the ability to introspect self, makes man superior. Unlike animals, man is aware of his existence. Man knows that he is a man.
Self of Man
Man is related to himself this is why we use the word “I” to indicate ourselves. This relationship that man has with himself is called the selfhood of man. The selfhood of man is impredictable. Selfhood is always incomplete, because it can never be fully understood what any man will do next.
In traditional Indian thought, man is a five-fold being:
(1) physical – this pertains to physical needs of man,
(2) vital – this pertains to breathing and other life-critical functions in man,
(3) mental – man has a mind,
(4) intellectual – this pertains to the understanding of man, and
(5) spiritual – this pertains to inner happiness and peace in man.
The first two, physical and vital, correspond to the bodily part. The last three, mental, intellectual and spiritual, correspond to man’s non-bodily part, which is termed his soul.
Even though the body and the soul can be differentiated, they cannot be sharply divided. The Bible considers man as a unity. The Bible does not give the idea that soul is living in the body. The soul and the body are in unity. God has created the whole man in his image and likeness.
In Greek, soul is psyche. In Hebrew, soul is nephesh.
The self of man has polarities. There is always a tension within man due to these polarities. The four polarities in man are: –
1) Possibility and Facticity
2) Rationality and Irrationality
3) Community and Individuality
4) Responsibility and Impotency
Possibility and Facticity
Man has the freedom to do anything with his capabilities. So, man has the possibility to achieve great things in life. On the other hand, man cannot do everything as he is constrained by various limitations, like the limitations in intelligence, socio-economic condition and personality. These limitations are called facticity, or the facts of life. These are not the result of the choices someone makes, but are handed down to them. Therefore, there is always a tension between possibility and facticity.
Rationality and Irrationality
Rationality is the quality of man to be able to think sensibly and logically. This differentiates man from other creatures. Man has the ability to judge, discern, understand, interpret, etc. However, when man thinks irrationally, no sensible discussion can be carried out with him.
Man has the freedom to think and act in the way he chooses. Man likes to be systematic, disciplined, honest. The condition and the quality of life improves with rationality. However, sometimes man can be disorderly, undisciplined, dishonest. Our minds move in the light of truth. However, at the same they also move in lies, error and deception.
Therefore, there is always a tension between rationality and irrationality in man.
Community and Individuality
Man is a social being who cannot live without a community. Even biologically man is communal. The biological needs of man bring individuals together and make them interdependent. Living as a community becomes healthy, happy and peaceful, when it functions in interdependency. Language brings communication.
On the other hand, man has a tendency to seek privacy. Man has an element of privacy within him. Not even the closest friend can know everything that is in the heart of a man.
Therefore, there is always a tension in man due to his need to live in a community, but also wanting to have privacy.
Responsibility and Impotency
Responsibility takes decisions with openness according to the need. Being responsible is a part of being rational.
On the other hand, inactivity and irrationality make us incapable of doing anything, making us impotent. We are unable to take an effective action.
Therefore, there is always a tension between responsibility and impotency.
Man does whatever his will commands. This is why we use the phrase free-will. Man is free, but due to the polarities in him he has to always choose to act and do everything responsibly.
Whatever a man does, is called an action. Actions can be consciously done or unconsciously done. Breathing is an example of unconsciously done action. We naturally breathe. Writing this assignment is a conscious action. I have decided to finish and submit all my assignments in a timely manner.
Man has to always take decisions. Decision can be taken in a responsible manner or an irresponsible manner. Several factors influence our decision making. These are past experiences, habits, upbringing, and the need of the situation.
Our conscience also plays a part in taking decisions.
Images of Man
There are three prevalent images of man.
The first image of man is that of a machine. It means humans are recognized by what they can do. The problem with this image is that people are regarded as things. They are important as long as they are useful. Also, they are manipulated to make them work for others gain. Such image of humans is prevalent in the workplace.
The second image of man is that they are regarded as animals. People consider human beings to be animals only a little smarter. Both animals and humans are considered to have the same end, death. Humans are exploited the same way as animals are exploited using rewards and punishments.
The third image of man is that they are controlled by the universe. This is a sad view of humans because it pictures humans as being controlled by the world around them which is either uncaring or hostile to them. The result is that people feel helpless, purposeless and manipulated.
Christianity offers a better image of humanity. Christian view is that
- Humans are created by God
- Humans are created in the image of God
- Humans are created for the purposes of God
- God has given humans the freedom to choose to serve his purpose
- God has created us for a relationship with him that we may adore and worship him, as any child does to his earthly father
- God has created man to have dominion over all the non-human creatures on earth.
- God has commanded man to multiply on earth. Jesus too has commanded us to go into all the earth and make disciples of all nations, teaching them all the commandments of Jesus.
Because humans are God’s creation, they cannot discover their real meaning of existence until they choose to fulfill the purpose of God for them.
Biblical view versus scientific view of the Creation of Man
There are three popular Christian views on creation:
- Young earth creationism
- Old earth creationism
- Theistic evolution
All three views consider God to be the creator of man. All three views consider man to be the best of God’s creation. All three views agree that man was created last. However, they differ regarding timing of creation and mechanism of creation.
The young earth creationism and old earth creationism believe that man is a separately created special creation. However, the theistic evolution considers the creation, which includes man, to have evolved but the process was initiated by God. Also, young earth creationism believes that everything including man was created in 6 days. Whereas, the old earth creationism and theistic evolution believes that everything including man were created in billions of years.
The scientific view does not believe in a creator. They believe in the Big Bang theory where creation came into being through cosmic, chemical, biological processes and environmental adaptations. They believe that man is the result of this process like every other thing, and this process took billions of years. They believe creation of man happened by chance and not with any specific purpose.
Both Big Bang theory and Christian views agree that the universe had the beginning.
Theological meaning of Human Creation
Since we are created by God, there are several points that need to be understood about man.
- Humans do not exist independently of God. It is by the will of God man was created. Only a part of us does not belong to God. We wholly belong to God. So, we should always focus on things that God has built for us to do instead of running after our pleasure and our comfort. God knows that we have to be comfortable and provided for. A laborer in the Lord is worthy of his wages.
- Humans are part of the creation. This means that we are to live in harmony with the rest of the creatures that God has created. We have to take care of this planet.
- Humanity has the unique place in the creation. Animals were made according to their kind. But man was created in the image and likeness of God. So, man cannot behave like animals, fulfilling only his fleshly needs.
- All humans are bound to one-another in brotherhood. God has created all humankind from two people, Adam and Eve. So, we are related to one-another. Due to the fall of Adam and Eve, we all inherit the rebellious nature against God. This is why we have to always fight with ourselves to maintain our good nature.
- Humans have limitations. Humans are created beings; they are not God. Also, humans have fixed life-span. Even if they desire, they cannot know and learn everything.
- Human limitation is good. It keeps us humble and dependent on God.
- Humans are wonderful. Human success and achievements glorify God. If the created is so capable how much more his Creator!
Composition of Human
There are three traditional views of human composition. These are
- Trichotonism – In this view, humans are considered to be composed of three elements: body, soul and spirit. Body is the physical body which is similar to what animals and plants have. Soul is mind, will and emotions. This is human’s psychological element. Spirit, on the other hand is what distinguishes humans from animals and plants. It is a religious element that enables humans to understand spiritual matters and to appropriately respond to them. A bible reference for this is 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
- Dichotonism – This is the most widely held view in the history of Christianity. According to this view, humans are composed of two elements: body and soul (or spirit). Body is the physical part which grows old and dies. Soul lives even after the body dies. A bible reference for this is Matthew 10:28.
- Monism – In this view, humans are not to be thought of as composed of parts. It is simply to be a self. To be a human one must have a body. When man dies, he no longer exists. This view does not seem to be correct if we consider the story of Lazarus and Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31)
An alternate view of conditional unity teaches us to take as good care of our body as we take care of our soul. Yes, this body will grow old and die one day but at the second coming of Christ, we will again get a body. Your body is as much you as your spirit.
What is being the Image Of God?
The image of God distinguishes humans from all other creatures. There are three common ways of viewing this image:
- The substantive view considers the image of God to be an aspect of our human body or its constituents. This has been the most dominant view in the history of Christianity. The confusion is may be due to the use of the Hebrew word “selem,” which means statue or form. Some people associate image of God to the psychological or spiritual quality of humans. In-particular, they associate image of God to reasoning. But they are only focusing on one aspect of God’s nature. However, all those who believe in substantive view agree that image of God is located in humans.
- The relational view considers that the image of God is in having a relationship with God. It does not believe that the image of God is located in humans. For them image of God is the experience of a relationship with God. The basic tenets of this view are
- The image of God is best understood by studying the person of Jesus.
- A divine revelation is needed to understand the image of God.
- The image of God is not something humans have.
- The image of God is in the relationship with God.
- There is always a relationship with God, either positive or negative. Therefore, the image of God is found in all humans.
- The quality in humans which lets them have this relationship with God is not to be found.
- The functional view considers the image of God to be something that we do, which for most people is to have dominion over the creation. It is not something that we have in our physical or psychological self, nor it is in our relationship with God. Image of God is what we do.
Image of God is not totally a relational matter. There may be people who may be living in total in-difference to God or be in rebellion against God. Will this be an image of God? Also, there must be something in humans that gives them the ability to have a relationship with God.
Before God gave the charge to man to have dominion, He had already created man in His own image. Evidently, image of God is not the same as what the human does.
When we say that the image of God is human’s physical or psychological self, then how do we understand the image of God in disabled people. Image of God cannot vary from person to person, because someone is more intelligent.
Therefore, image of God seems to be all three considered together. Image of God is original righteousness and holiness of man. It has intellectual power, natural affections and moral freedom. Image of God includes spirituality because God has breathed His Spirit into us. Image of God is having the sense of immortality, which is living forever. Image of God is maintaining human dominion over the creation.
Importance of the Human Body
Traditional Indian thought about body is that body is sinful and the spirit or soul has come from God; the spirit is trapped in the body. So, there is always a fight between spirit and body where the spirit wants to free itself from the body and go and reunite with God.
According to the Bible, even though the human body is mortal and human spirit is immortal, the body and spirit are in unity. Due to traditional Indian influence, Christians do not care well of their bodies.
Service of God requires that we have a healthy spirit and also a healthy body. Moses was able to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt to the border of Canaan only because he had good physical health throughout. Even at the time of his dying, his strength was not diminished and his eyesight was not weakened. Joshua and Caleb led Israel to possess the promise land in good physical health.
We must give importance to the body for the following reasons
- God himself took a human form.
- Body cannot be sinful because Jesus in flesh was without sin.
- Body has to enjoy all things of this life.
- Jesus healed so many people and restored their bodies to good health. So, the body must be important.
Sex of Man
God created humans as male and female. The command God gave to Adam and Eve and later also to Noah was to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with humans. Therefore, sex in marriage is not a bad thing. It is not sin as traditional Indian thought suggests. God gave sex to man.
So, when Children ask questions regarding sex at a young age, they should be answered freely, frankly and truthfully. Not doing so created the impression that it is something bad.
Sex is biological, physiological and psychological. It is biological because man and woman complete each other. It is physiological because men and women either are attracted to each other or they repel each other. It is psychological because man is a social being.
Sex in man is not the same as sex in animals. In animal, sex is mechanical, a matter of stimulus and response. In man, it is linked with mystery and freedom and occurs by the free-will of man.
Basic Christian Doctrines by C.S.E. Ross
Introducing Christian Doctrines by Millard J. Erickson