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What Is Humanity – Doctrine 202

This post is a part of a series intended to help new believers grow in their faith and life as believers. This post will look at humanity. What are we? What is God’s purpose in creating us? And what does the future hold for us?

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

What is Humanity?

There are two primary views on who and what humans are.

A Naturalist Origin

A view that is becoming more popular today is that we came to be via entirely naturalistic processes. That life and consciousness are merely byproducts of the way the universe works. A universe that itself came into existence through purely natural means. This view would argue that humanity, along with all we experience around us, is nothing more than a highly unlikely fluke.

The implication of this view is that humanity is nothing special. We are here today and gone tomorrow. Nothing we do or don’t do will have any lasting impact on the universe. Our whole existence or nonexistence is of no consequence. In this view, humanity has no ultimate value or purpose. And nothing we do matters.

An Intentional Creation

In contrast to that is the view that humanity is the intentional product of a purposeful creator. This view is not unique to Christianity. But it is the traditional Christian view. That God created this universe and all that it contains. And that he did so for a purpose. A purpose that is not entirely clear to us. But a purpose that does include humanity and our future.

There is a diversity of opinions as to how God created both the universe and humanity. They range in scope from a six-day creation a few thousand years ago, to a slow gradual process that has taken billions of years. A discussion of the mechanism he used is beyond the scope of this article. What does matter here is that God is our creator. We are not accidental byproducts of a mindless universe.

The consequences of having an intentional creator are significant. There is the possibility that there is more to our existence that the few years we have on earth. Because we are an intentional creation by a purposeful creator, it is not far-fetched to believe that we have value and purpose beyond what we assign ourselves. And that what we do in this life matters and has significance.

Christianity affirms all of those things to be true. We can have eternal existence, at least going forward. We do have intrinsic value and purpose. And what we do in this life has eternal consequences.

Why Did God Create Humanity?

God did not have to create humanity. But he did. Which raises the logical question of why? For what purpose did God create us? There are two different correct answers that can be given to this question.

Image-bearers

The first chapter of Genesis provides us with a reason for God’s creation of humanity. In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” We were created as God’s image-bearers. And were tasked with ruling over the rest of animate life on earth.

This idea of ruling over the rest of the creation is reiterated in Psalm 8. In Psalm 8:6, David says of mankind, “You made them rulers over the works of your hands; / you put everything under their feet.” Ruling over the creation does not give us free license to do whatever we wish with it. It actually tasks us with caring for our environment and the other life that shares it with us. We are stewards of the creation. This is reflected in Genesis 2:15 where God takes Adam, puts him into the garden, and tells him “to work it and take care of it.

A Covenant Relationship

But God’s purpose for humanity extends beyond just being his caretakers for the rest of the creation. He created us to know him and to walk with him in an intimate fashion. Genesis pictures Adam and Eve as originally being naked and walking with God. It is hard to picture something more personal and intimate in a relationship between God and humanity. That condition did not last, but it does picture God’s design for us.

Throughout the Scripture we find God entering into a covenant with people. Sometimes it is with individuals. But the primary covenant was with the nation of Israel. In this covenant, God called Israel to be in a special relationship with him. He would be their God and they would be his chosen people. Israel failed to live up to its part of that covenant, but God established a new covenant that includes all who will come to him. It is clear that God wants to have a special relationship with the humanity he created and made his image-bearer.

The Nature of Humanity

What are we as humans? Are we, as the naturalists would say, purely physical beings with no element of the supernatural? Or is there more to us than that? The Bible teaches us that, although we are physical creatures, there is more to us than that.

Formed from the Dust of the Earth

Genesis 2:7 tells us that God formed man out of the dust of the earth. And Genesis 3:19 repeats that claim when God tells Adam that he was taken from the dust and he would ultimately return to the dust. There is nothing that goes into the makeup of our physical bodies that is not common on earth. And, when we die, our bodies decompose completely back into the stuff of the earth.

Embued with the Breath of God

But Genesis 2:7 tells us we are more than just dust. After God formed man from the dust he “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Elsewhere in Genesis, all living things are said to have the breath of life (Gen. 7:22). But in this creation account, it is only man who receives this breath of life. God simply forms the other animals out of the ground (Gen. 2:19).

In all living things, there is something that goes beyond physical existence. Life itself is not a physical thing. There is nothing physically missing from a person, or any other living thing, when they die that had been present shortly before. Our very life force is non-physical.

Among many living things there is something beyond life itself. Something that we identify as consciousness. The ability to think, learn, and make decisions. While this ability is dependent on the proper operation of our brains, our brains alone are not enough to be able to explain it. Our minds manifest themselves in our physical beings but are not themselves physical. Much like the software of a computer is distinct from the computer itself.

But there is one additional aspect of our non-physical being that seems unique to humanity. An awareness of the divine and a hunger to connect with it. Our history is replete with religious expression, attempting to reach the divine. While it is popular today in some circles to explain this away as simply a response to mystery, it is true nonetheless.

Looking Ahead

The story of humanity is incomplete at this point. The next few posts in this series will explain why humanity is not living up to God’s purpose for us. And then what God is doing to bring us back to what he created us to be.

Some Questions to Think About

  • What are the logical consequences of adopting a naturalistic explanation for the origin of the universe and humanity?
  • How does that differ from the Christian understanding of our origin?
  • How should God’s purpose in creating humanity impact your own life?

You are welcome to respond to these questions in the comment section below. If you do, be sure to check the “Notify me” checkbox just above the Post Comment button so you can get any feedback. Note that all comments are moderated. Only respectful comments relevant to the topic will be posted.

Supplemental Posts

The posts listed here provide some additional information about humanity

The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.

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