Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Constitution (nature, make up, essence, so on and so forth) of Man

Last Sunday we came across a question asking did God create man sinful.  This is a fair question since we had just discussed that man is not righteous and cannot meet the demands of a righteous God.  As custom would have it, whenever active minds come together to discuss matters with each other rabbit trails often follow as we attempt to make logical connections to already held beliefs.  Rabbit trails aren’t necessarily bad, in fact most of the time they are beneficial not only for the individual but for the group as a whole. 
So the question that was raised by Vanessa as a result of the question at hand was, what is man’s nature?  That is a good and relevant question since we often hear that man has a “sin nature.”  What do we mean when we say this?  Are we saying that man in his most fundamental, ontological, existence is sin?  This creates quite the paradox since we know from Scripture that we are created in the image of God (Gen. 1.26-27).

So what of the “nature” of man?  Well on Sunday night I said something to the effect that man is material with a spiritual aspect to his being.  If this seems rather cryptic or abstract to you that is because it is.  How do we come to this belief?  When we read the creation passage in Genesis (1.1-2.25) we read that first God created the material world ex nihilo (from nothing).  One other thing to note in this passage, once God created the material world He said it was “very good” (Gen. 1.31).  We also know that man has an immaterial aspect to his being that we call a soul (Matt. 10.28).  Thus man is both material and immaterial what we describe as a duality of being.  This means there are two parts to our existence.  Do not confuse this with Greek dualism. 

The ancient Greeks believed that man was at odds between himself with both faculties warring against each other both body and soul.  The two are completely incompatible and since the body is associated with matter and the material world it is viewed as imperfect, sinful, a prison house for the immaterial perfect soul.  For the ancient Greeks the hope was in the death of the body and the liberation of the soul.  This Greek view of man did not vanish with the passing of time but has been inculcated into the Western mind. 

The 1980s pop singer Sting even tells us that we are "sparits" in a material world.  As a singer Sting was great, as a spokesman for "Jaguah" fantastic, as a philosopher he stinketh.  We find this view of Greek dualism even among those who have a disdain or hatred for the study of Philosophy.  In some Christian circles this view of Greek dualism is misappropriated with one simple twist, the addition of spirit.  This is the trichotomist view.  It still maintains Greek dualism in that it views man as body (evil) soul (good) and the spirit as a buffer to bridge the chasm between body and soul. 

If you recall from above the Bible does teach a duality of being with body and soul.  While God created man “very good” we understand that there is no inherent evil in man nor in the body or soul of man.  This seems to follow as man is created in the image of God.  However, both body and soul suffer from corruption by the fall.  Thus human beings are sinful in body and soul awaiting for their final redemption of not just the soul but body and soul.   

As I finish this post I am already anticipating your questions.