Belief : Nature Of Humanity
Man and woman were made in the image of God with individuality, the power and freedom to think and to do. Though created free beings, each is an indivisible unity of body, mind, and spirit, dependent upon God for life and breath and all else. When our first parents disobeyed God, they denied their dependence upon Him and fell from their high position. The image of God in them was marred and they became subject to death. Their descendants share this fallen nature and its consequences. They are born with weaknesses and tendencies to evil. But God in Christ reconciled the world to Himself and by His Spirit restores in penitent mortals the image of their Maker. Created for the glory of God, they are called to love Him and one another, and to care for their environment.
Nature Worships The Creator
Isaiah 55:12You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!
Psalm 69:34Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them.
Psalm 96:1112Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!Let the trees of the forest sing for joy
Though Humans Have Material And Immaterial Aspects To Their Nature Humans Should Be Ministered To As A Complex Unity
Yes, humans have a soul and a physical body, but these are unified. This means we cannot minister to ones spiritual life and neglect the body, including things like diet, exercise, and rest. The body and spirit are connected. The body affects the spirit, and the spirit affects the body. Sin can lead to sickness and experiencing sickness can make it easier to sin. A joyful disposition can lead to physical healing, while a depressed disposition can lead to sickness. Proverbs 17:22 says, A cheerful heart brings good healing, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
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Because God Created Humans As Complex Unities Each Aspect Of Their Nature Must Be Honored Cultivated And Used To Glorify God
It is possible to depreciate one aspect of human nature and exalt the other. To the Greeks, the body was evil, and the spirit was good. However, they are both essential parts of our nature, which God has given us and that we must cultivate. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul said,
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.
Our bodies were purchased by God. He owns and indwells them therefore, we must glorify God through them. Certainly, this includes maintaining good health, but also using our bodies to serve God and his people. Also, Romans 12:1-2 says,
Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrificealive, holy, and pleasing to Godwhich is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of Godwhat is good and well-pleasing and perfect.
If They Were To Choose God They Needed To Know What The Other Choice Would Be
The presence of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil wasnt a trap. It wasnt even much of a temptation, since they had so many pleasing food options. But this tree showed that human beings were not Gods slaves.
If they wanted to, they had the choice to turn from Him and walk a different path. A path that, since God is the creator and sustainer, would lead them to death.
Unfortunately, Adam and Eve allowed themselves to be talked out of obeying Gods warning. They were tricked by the devil, deceived by his fancy words and lured in by the idea of being like God, knowing good and evil .
But it wasnt the fruit itself that corrupted Adam and Eve, it was the decision behind it. By disobeying Gods command, Adam and Eve were claiming they didnt need Him. Instead of trusting God knew what was best for them, their actions demonstrated that they knew what was best for themselves. And as soon as they discovered something they didnt yet know about, they just had to know it. They wanted to be like God.
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God Is Active In Nature
Matthew 10:29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Fathers care.
Luke 12:6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.
Acts 17:2428The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Were Not Of The Same Nature
So while all of us as human beings have a mind capable of analytical thought and reason, we dont all behave and respond in the same way. The vast majority of us continue to yield unknowingly to the constant bombardment from Satan that manifests itself in selfishness and evil desires far too often.
God has chosen to to repentance and a change of heart , not to exclude all others, but rather to begin His plan to eventually call everyone. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light .
Once called by God, we are to walk a different path in the light of Gods Word: For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light .
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The Human Nature Of Christ
in the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry.
During the earliest centuries of church history, much of the theological debate centered around the identity of Jesus. Was He merely human? Was He God? Was He both? Was He neither? Over time, sustained reflection on the Apostolic testimony of the New Testament led the church to affirm Christs true deity. But, the church fathers also confessed Christs true humanity. The essentials of this teaching on the person of Christ were codified at the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451, and the confession produced by this council was adopted by the Protestant Reformers.
Many passages of Scripture teach the true humanity of Jesus. For example, todays passage describes the hunger of Jesus . The ability to get hungry is an attribute of Christs human nature, for God has no need of anything, even food. Similarly, Christs growing weary and sleeping also reveal His human nature, for God neither slumbers nor sleeps . At a few points in His ministry, Christ also expressed ignorance of certain things . Again, that is a revelation of Christs humanity, for God is omniscient, and in His divine nature Christ is omniscient as well.
Human Nature And The Gospel
When we consider the view of personhood presented in Scripture, the question of whether we are mere brain machines or something more becomes a gospel question. In other words, the integrity of the gospel proclamation is undermined if we reject a biblical view of humanity, because, in large part, it is our nature that frames the gospel message in the first place. There are many reasons these connections matter, but four significant ones are worth reflecting on briefly.
First of all, the gospel of Jesus Christ presents us with a call: because we have all fallen into sin, we are unable to live the righteous life that God requires. This is a universal problem endemic to humanity. The remedy provided by God in Christ is the forgiveness of sins, secured by Jesuss sacrifice of himself on the crossthe righteous for the unrighteous. We can stand in his forgiveness and be acceptable to God by turning from sin and following Jesus in faith. This is a very cursory description of the good news proclaimed by the apostles and bequeathed to the church, but it has a key implication that traditional Christian anthropology has embraced and many secular thinkers have abandoned: there is a moral law. We cannot be in need of forgiveness unless we have transgressed the moral law and if we are not in need of forgiveness, the gospel is emptied of its power and truth. No moral law, no sin problem no sin problem, no gospel.
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Humans Are Set Apart In Nature
Humans are the only created life form made in the image of God. God created people to be stewards of nature.
Genesis 1:2627Then God said, Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground. So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them male and female he created them.
Psalm 100:3Acknowledge that the LORD is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
When God created human beings, he made them to be like himself.
Genesis 9:6If anyone takes a human life, that persons life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image.
James 3:9Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.
Psalm 115:16The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to mankind.
Genesis 1:29Then God said, I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.
Genesis 2:15The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
When God Formed Our First Human Parents Adam And Eve In The Garden Of Eden They Were Part Of A Created Order That Was Very Good Clearly They Were Not Bent On Evil
But in describing their creation as good, God did not mean that Adam and Eve were inherently good or were inclined to choose to live God’s way. Initially, they made no reasoned choice in terms of good and evil. Their way of thinking and behavior was neutrala state sometimes referred to as tabula rasa, or “clean slate.”
As flesh-and-blood human beings, they did have the physical drives and material interests common to all mankind. They had desires for self-preservation, for physical pleasures, for appreciation, for learning and for bettering their circumstances. They were also naturally curious, desirous of avoiding boredom or, conversely, too much effort. The focus on self in such characteristics was not inherently sinful. But this self-oriented focus could lead to sin if it contradicted God’s direction and instructions.
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Nature Will Be Restored To Perfection
When God created paradise in the Garden of Eden, His original intention was for nature to be perfect, free from decay. But when sin entered the world, all creation was subjected to the curse. In the New Heavens, Gods perfect creation will be restored as part of His plan to redeem humanity and the whole universe.
Romans 8:1922For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to Gods curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join Gods children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
Revelation 21:1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
Isaiah 65:17For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.
Humanity In The Bible
There are certain inherent understandings about human nature in the biblical view: each person is a unique individual he has the power to act under his/her own initiative as a whole, mankind is a good creation of God, firmly tied to the finite world, but with the important qualifications of dominion and stewardship, a freedom to move within the limits of time and space, and to affect the course of history the real criteria for the exercise of that freedom is its correspondence to the will and intention of God there are right and wrong modes of conduct. In substance, these considerations make one aspect about mankind central to biblical religion: by design, human beings are in relation. They are in relation to their environment, to God, to their neighbours, and to the larger human community. This is a natural consequence of each persons status as a personal being. Women and men enter into contact with events, objects, and characters surrounding them. Moreover, as noted by Wright, The central fact about the place of man in creation according to the Old Testament is the dignity and honour accorded him by God. Elsewhere it has been noted:
Dr. Cherbonniers Hardness of Heart: A Contemporary Interpretation of the Doctrine of Sin is available in its entirety in the Cherbonnier subsite. The book is part of the Christian Faith Series edited by Reinhold Niebuhr. Also, a sermon by RTN on persons as unique children of God may be found in the Reflections subsite.
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Human Freedom And Grace
An essential feature of human nature is freedom. It is the ability to form judgments and then to act accordingly. As Cherbonnier states:
All human endeavour presupposes freedom, including the enterprise of philosophy itself. For the philosopher depends upon the distinction of true from false B that is, on the freedom to distinguish true from false. Take away freedom and you thereby preclude all thinking.
H. W. Robinson, The Psychology and Metaphysics of Thus Saith Yahweh, Zeitschrift fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft XLI , p. 2 of a mimeographed edition provided in a 1957 class by Theodor M. Mauch, Th.D.
Colin Crowder, Humanity, The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought, ed. Adrian Hastings, et al , p. 313.
Acting from this position of freedom puts humans either with or against Gods intentions. Human choices are to be made. That Gods Holy Spirit totally controls anyones behavior and the flow of events is utterly absent from biblical thought. Uninformed disciples of particular spiritualities ironically, often devoted to the Bible may be heard repeatedly transferring their own responsibilities to The Lord whom they seem to believe will take care of all their problems. Contrary to that fantasy, in the Bible human initiative often inspired by the Spirit is central.
Cherbonnier, Jerusalem and Athens, p. 265.
Titus, Smith, and Nolan, op. cit., p. 31.
Cherbonnier, Hardness of Heart, p. 188.
Adding insights, Professors Burrows and Wright comment:
Conflict And War Will Cease
Taking on the nature of God will profoundly change the world in every way. Take, for example, the scourge of war. Today we find continual fighting, conflict and war, which James 4:3 reveals is caused by our selfish desires and evil lustshuman nature!
In this new world to come, as people submit to Gods divine nature, conflict and war will cease: They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore . How wonderful!
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Biblical Descriptions Of The Characteristics Of Human Nature
Several chapters in the Bible summarize the characteristics of human nature.
Look at Pauls list of attitudes and lifestyles that are natural and developed through the influence of Satan: Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds .
Heres another list: Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like .
Can we agree these characteristics are all too prevalent in todays world? We are all subjected to these negative attitudes or emotions sometimes we resist them, but they all need to be rejected all the time and replaced with Gods nature.