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About the Book

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V



     

Vol.4: Evolution or Creation?

Part V

IS MAN AN ANIMAL?

 

Table of Contents

Introduction
Chapter 1.  The Uniqueness of Man
Chapter 2.  The Human Brain: Its Size and Its Complexities
Chapter 3.  The Erectness of Man
Chapter 4.  The Ubiquity of Man
Chapter 5.  Man the Culture Maker
Chapter 6.  The Expression of Humanness in Man
Chapter 7.  The True Nature of Man in Jesus Christ

 

Publishing history:
1972:  Doorway Paper No. 21, published privately by Arthur C. Custance
1977:  Part V in Evolution or Creation?, vol.4 in The Doorway Papers Series, Zondervan Publishing Company
1997:  Arthur Custance Online Library (html)
2001  2nd Online Edition (corrections, design revisions)

     pg 1 of 7      

The question What is man? is probably the most profound that
can be asked by man. . . .

     
I do not mean to say that the biological study of man or even
that the scientific study of man in terms broader than biological can
here and now, if ever, provide a satisfactorily complete answer to
the question. . . .
     The other, older approaches . . . theology . . . and other non-
biological, non-scientific fields can still contribute, or can now
contribute anew.

                                  George Gaylord Simpson,
                                           in  Biology and Man

 

     pg.2 of 7     


 

INTRODUCTION

     IS MAN really an animal? To many people the answer must seem obvious. To ask the question at all is naive. Of course he is! Yet there are many informed people who would say with more caution, "Yes, man is an animal, but he is far more than an animal."
     When it is asked in what ways he is more than an animal, it is customary to list such things as his possession of culture, his powers of abstract reasoning, his use of language, and possibly his self-consciousness: and then to add a few important anatomical differences, such as his permanently erect posture, and his possession of truly opposable thumbs combined with wide-angle stereoscopic vision. By reason of these man becomes a unique creator of culture.
     Yet for all this, the feeling persists that such specialized features single man out as unique not so much because he is the only animal which has them, but because he has them in forms so much more highly developed than other creatures do. As we shall see, animals can communicate with one another by a kind of language; they learn from one another and use tools which gives them a sort of culture. Some animals seem to be self-conscious at times. A few animals can stand erect, and some apes can even run erect for short distances. And a few species are able to oppose their thumbs in grasping things. So it could be said that man is, after all, only quantitatively different, different in degree but not essentially different in any classificatory sense.
    But even a quantitative difference can reach such proportions as to constitute a new order of life, and it is recognized today that man really is in a category by himself for this very reason, as Dobzhansky put it:
(1)

     Perhaps the most satisfactory way of describing man's status is to say

1. Dobzhansky, Theodosius: quoted by Herman K. Bleibtrue, "Some Problems in Physical Anthropology," in Biennial Review of Anthropology, Stanford University Press, 1967, p.255.

     pg.3 of 7     

that he is unique in having a unique combination of abilities, rather than in the posession of any single
unique ability.

     In this way, quantitative differences, when they grow very large, become qualitative differences.

     Yet Dobzhansky would still be the first to deny that man had anything other than an animal origin. If he is qualitatively different now, it is because of the accumulation of special abilities. But this accumulation was a quite natural process, to be explained ultimately in neo-Darwinian terms, Natural Selection acting upon random mutations. There is nothing supernatural about man's uniqueness.
     On the other hand, the Bible clearly sets man apart in the final analysis not by pointing to his achievements, but by constantly emphasizing the fact that he is a fallen creature with a capacity for redemption, a redemption which involved the Incarnation. The answer to the question "What is man?" cannot be found without taking into account the fact that God Himself came into this world as Man and "visited him" (Psalm 8:4) in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in order to secure his redemption. God "objectified" Himself as a Man, in human form, as Oken put it.
(2) Humanity was uniquely designed for this purpose, not merely for God's pleasure, but for His Self-expression; and this design involved not only his spiritual capacity, but his physical form and his intellectual endowment as well. This is what makes man unique and something quite other than animal in nature.
     If the Bible is correct in saying that man is a fallen creature (and it never says this of any animal), that sin has affected not merely his spiritual nature, but also his mental faculties, so that he can neither be wholly right in his motivations nor completely sound in his thinking, it must be clear that man cannot define true humanness by studying himself as he now is. Just as the man whose vision is faulty cannot fit himself with corrective glasses unless he has the help of someone who is not similarly afflicted, so if man's perceptive abilities are at fault he cannot obtain a true picture of himself either without outside help. He requires some yardstick external to himself, some standard of reference with which to compare himself, and thus to correct his definition of what humanness really is. Or, alternatively, such knowledge must come to him through Revelation. It cannot stem from his own reflections upon himself. But we believe that in Jesus Christ we have a dual revelation, a revelation of what God is like (John 14:9), and also a revelation of the nature of true manhood.

2. Oken, Lorenz, Lehrbuck der Naturphilosophie, no publisher,1810, p.26: as quoted by A. O. Lovejoy in The Great Chain of Being, Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1960, p.321.

     pg.4 of 7     

     Sherrington's justly famous little book Man on His Nature (3) may give us useful leads, but it can only speak to us about what man is now. It cannot tell us what he was unfallen. Yet it is unfallen man whom we see in Jesus Christ, with powers humanly expressed, both of a spiritual and a physical nature, which we no longer possess in our present state. He perceived things we do not perceive. He claimed spiritual powers (and demonstrated them) that. are totally beyond us. He used His body in ways entirely outside our capabilities -- when walking on the water for instance. He had dominion over the forces of Nature beyond our wildest dreams as when He stilled the wind and storm for example, or multiplied the loaves and fishes. He healed diseases by a mere command and thus utterly negates our finest medical skills by a simple act of will. And He did these things as Man in a human body, and He promised His disciples that they should do even greater things (John 14:12).
     
God's definition of what it really means to be a man is not our definition. God's design for man was not the creature we now see in ourselves. All we see in ourselves is but a pale shadow of true manhood, a marred spirit in a diseased body inadequately informed by a mind suffering from the noetic effects of sin. Man is a fallen creature, fallen not merely in spirit, but in mind and in body also. (4) His body is no longer the same body which God designed and created for him. We cannot know this except by revelation, but that revelation is explicit enough in stating that in crucial ways man's body is not now like Adam's. It suffered permanent damage in its organization in Eden, and it will not recover its proper constitution until the resurrection. It looks like a reasonable facsimile, but it received a mortal wound in the Fall, which has made it a shambles of its original stature even though its potential is still truly remarkable. It has not altogether lost its uniqueness in many significant ways, as we shall see in the next chapter. But in the meantime man is not really man any longer. C. S. Lewis put it so well: (5)

     The process [of the Fall of Adam], was not, I conceive, comparable to mere deterioration as it may now occur in a human individual; it was loss of status as a species [his emphasis]. What man lost by the Fall was his original specific nature. . . .
     This condition was transmitted by heredity to all later generations, for it

3. Sherrington, Sir Charles, Man on His Nature, Cambridge University Press,1963, 300 pp. Sherrington himself falls into the trap of "nothing-but-ism." Man's mind, he said, "is nothing more than the topmost rung continuous with related degrees below" (p.156).
4. On man's body as a fallen organism: see "The Nature of the Forbidden Fruit," Part II in The Virgin Birth and the Incaranation, vol.5 in The Doorway Papers Series, Zondervan Publishing Company.
5. Lewis, C. S., The Problem of Pain, Macmillan, New York, 1948, pp.70,71.

     pg.5 of 7     


was not simply what biologists call an acquired variation. It was the emergence of a new kind of man; a new species, never made by God, had sinned its way into existence [emphasis ACC]. . . .  It was a radical alteration of his constitution.

     The fact is that we are faced with an anomaly in the natural order, for man is a creature who seems in many ways to be bound within its framework and yet is alien to it, lording it over the rest of the created order as though he were its acknowledged crown and yet clearly quite unequipped to conduct this lordship successfully. He has a potential and an inclination for the exercise of dominion which he somehow cannot fulfill. The climax of the supposed evolutionary process has been the production of a creature which has none of the in-built wisdom that has made the rest of the created order such a successful web of life. Homo sapiens, man the wise, is the greatest fool among God's creatures and demonstrates his lack of perception in the very classification which he has given himself as sapiens.
     
It is all very well to attribute this disastrous failure to some over-complexification of his central nervous system, as is sometimes done. (6) If man arrived on the scene by some evolutionary process, this might be the explanation except that it is without logic since natural selection, which is the driving force in evolution, supposedly operates to eliminate every venture in Nature which is not in some way an improvement over the existing order, as Wood Jones put it: (7)

     If, in the ordering of Nature, life on Earth was destined to flourish and multiply, to outfold its forms and increase its variety, it must be recognized as a tragic failure of its destiny that, so far, it has merely achieved the emergence of the arch-destroyer of life and of the sources of food and shelter necessary for its maintenance.

     The appearance of man as he is, is more logically explained by supposing that he is indeed the crown of creation and ought, indeed to have proved himself to be its prime benefactor, but that something then went wrong which turned all his potential for good into an equal potential for evil. He is in fact sick in a way that none of the other animals are ever capable of being. But he is also redeemable in a way that none of the other animals are. In the final analysis, he is a creature unlike any other, not so much because he has certain faculties which are superior to theirs, but because he is capable of sin and of being redeemed, which no other animal ever is. There is, therefore, something about him which places him in a class entirely by himself. His destiny is different: his spirit goes upward to

6. Over-complexity of the central nervous system: E. J. Holmyard, "The Future of Man," Endeavor, January. 1946, p.2.
7. Jones, F. Wood, Trends of Life, Arnold, London, 1953, p.18.

     pg.6 of 7     


God who gave it whereas the spirit of the beast goes downward to the earth (Ecclesiastes 3:21). And in keeping with this fact, his origin is also different, not because he was created (for the animals were also created), but because he was created in the image of God (Genesis1:26).
     
Moreover, as we have seen, man had to be redeemed by a method which would allow God Himself to enter physically within the framework of His own created order and become Man in a form appropriate to His deity and without doing violence to His own Person as Creator. (8) No animal form below man would have sufficed for such an extraordinary event as the Incarnation of God Himself. Only a special creature, special both as to his spirit and as to the body which housed that spirit, could appropriately serve such a plan. Thus, man stands midway between the angels which have no bodies and are not therefore redeemable by such a mode of redemption and the animal world which has no spirit capable of sin which would create a need for redemption. Man is both more than an animal by reason of his creation, yet less than an animal by reason of his Fall. He is, in fact, something unique to which the term "animal" is not really applicable at all.
     
This Paper is a study of man's assessment of himself apart from revelation, and then a consideration of the light we have from revelation, the revelation of true man in the person of Jesus Christ.

8. See "The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation", Part IV in The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation, vol.5 in The Doorway Papers, Series, Zondervan Publishing Company.

     pg.7 of 7   

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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