Union Chapel Baptist Church



What Does it Mean to be Human?

By Stephen Mitchell

Genesis 1:26-31

The cultural battles we face here in our society, our culture, center primarily around this question of identity: Who are we? Or, rather, What are we?

We know what our culture thinks we are.

Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind. He was not planned. He is a state of matter, a form of life, a sort of an animal, and a species of the Order Primates, akin nearly or remotely to all of life and indeed to all that is material.” George Gaylord Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution, 1971, p. 345.

What are the consequences of this view of what and who we are? What does it mean to simply be “a sort of an animal … akin nearly or remotely to all of life and indeed to all that is material.” Let me illustrate with a deservedly infamous quote from the former medical director for Planned Parenthood, Dr. Mary S. Calderone, recorded in the Medical Moral Newsletter of February-March, 1968:

We have yet to beat our public health drums for birth control in the way we beat them for polio vaccine; we are still unable to put babies in the class of dangerous epidemics, even though that is the exact truth.

Notice that, in spite of the Abortion position that the baby in the womb is just tissue, Dr. Calderone, in 1968, stated very clearly that they are babies. But, in her view, babies are a dangerous epidemic. What does one do when faced with an epidemic? Why, eradicate it, of course. And so we have, in this country, Planned Parenthood.

James Rachels, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alabama, wrote in his 1990 book Created From Animals, p. 245,

Darwinism [evolution] undermines both the idea that man is made in the image of God and the idea that man is a uniquely rational being. Furthermore, if Darwinism is correct, it is unlikely that any other support for the idea of human dignity will be found.

Robert Reilly, in the Fall 1988 Intercollegiate Review, wrote an article titled “Atheism and Arms Control: How Spiritual Pathology Afflicts Public Policy.” Listen to his words:

The problem is that, by denying the possibility of a relationship between God and man, atheism also denies the possibility of a just relationship between men. In other words, atheism removes the grounds for the recognition of, and therefore respect for, another person as a fellow human being. … Human life is sacred only if there is a God to sanctify it. Otherwise, man is just another collection of atoms and can be treated as such.

In contrast to the world’s view, listen to the majesty granted to man in these ancient words.

Ge 1:26-28 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

So, in contrast to the world’s godless and hopeless view of mankind, What are we? What does it mean to be Human?

It Means to be Spiritual.

God created us physically, with a physical body, with physical needs, with physical supply. He also created us with a soul. Man is a body – soul duality. We have both a physical part and a spiritual part. It was only mankind that God created to exist “in the image of God.”

What does it mean to exist in the image of God? Scripture does not tell us exactly, but it gives a few details.

First, the image of God involves being able to know the truth. Turn to Ephesians 4:17-24 and read or listen to these words of contrast between the world’s philosophy and the image of God.

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

In some way, the image of God involves being able to know the Truth. We can know the truth about God, the Truth about Jesus, the Truth that is both righteous and holy. God walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the Garden. He did not walk and talk with the animals. Adam and Eve could know God experientially, know Him in His righteousness and holiness. We know this because, when they sinned, they hid themselves from Him. They knew they were no longer holy and could no longer commune with God as they had done before. They knew the truth about the holiness of God in His character.

Then, in Colossians 3:9-10, Paul wrote:

Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.

So secondly, the image of God also involves a true knowledge. Elsewhere the Scriptures tell us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. A true knowledge is knowledge based upon truth. That truth begins, most fundamentally, with the reality of God being God, Someone to fear and reverence. We were made different than all other creatures. We were made to know God in His holiness and to give Him the reverence due Him as our God and Creator. We were made to relate beyond the physical. We were made to find our greatest answers in the spiritual realm, not in the physical. We were made to see beyond the daily grind of food and shelter to God for all the answers to our deepest needs. Something no other physical creature has or can have. We were made to be spiritual beings in a physical world.

It Means to be Moral

The ultimate outcome of this world’s godless philosophy is Might Makes Right. If you have the power to do it, it must be right. There is no over-riding moral philosophy. There is no ultimate moral standard. There is no right and wrong. In the 1980 book Humanist Ethics, edited by Morris Storer, the humanist Max Hocutt wrote:

The nonexistence of God makes more difference to some of us than to others. To me it means that there is no absolute morality, that moralities are sets of social conventions devised by humans to satisfy their need.

That these “needs” really mean “desires,” note the tens of millions of babies slaughtered to the refrain of reproductive “rights.” Rights of whom? Certainly not the rights of the babies in the womb. No. They are the weakest of the weak. The stronger slaughter them and call it a “right.” Whatever the stronger can impose on the weaker is justified as a “right.” Their moral philosophy always degenerates into “Might Makes Right.”

But why would Hocutt, speaking of Humanists, write that “the nonexistence of God makes more difference to some of us than to others?” Because all can see a universal moral standard in the hearts of mankind. That must be explained, or explained away. So the Humanists argue among themselves about morality.

But listen to what the Scriptures tell us, in Romans 2:14-15:

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.

If you want to see the knowledge of right and wrong on the heart of every one, just do something against another and immediately, they will declare themselves slighted, wronged, sinned against. That shows the presence of the moral law engraved on their heart. The Scriptures explain the existence of this universal Moral Law, the Natural Law.

And that moral law has a very powerful judge adjudicating that law. Listen as the Apostle Paul records this truth for us in Romans 2:3-8.

But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.

We were made to be moral beings accountable to the ultimate Moral Judge for every deed.

It Means to be Rational and Emotional

Animals can have some traits of rationality and emotion. But animals are incapable of rationality anywhere close to the level that we approach as creatures made in the image of God. Do you recall the quote I gave you by James Rachels?

Darwinism [evolution] undermines both the idea that man is made in the image of God and the idea that man is a uniquely rational being.” Why does the belief in Evolution undermine the idea of man being a uniquely rational being? It is because, if everything has arisen from random, purposeless processes, we have no justification for rational thought. Rational thought implies a Universe formulated upon rational principles and that demands a rational Designer. If everything is random and purposeless, we could have no basis on which to think we were rational beings. Jason Lisle noted this in his book The Ultimate Proof of Creation.

Evolutionists must assume the preconditions of imtelligibility in order to make any argument whatsoever; they must assume things like the laws of logic and uniformity of nature. But these preconditions of intelligibility do not comport with an evolutionary worldview. They only make sense if creation is true.

So notice what God calls Israel to do in Isaiah 1:18: “’Come now, and let us reason together’ says the LORD.” And, in Psalm 50, after castigating the wicked for their evil, the LORD stated to them, “I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.” God certainly expects even the wicked to be able to use rational thought. God deals with us rationally.

And emotion? Look at the beautiful works artists have created, pouring their emotions into their creative abilities in art, words, construction, and all the many ways mankind expresses their emotions in their creative ways.

This is what God also did. If we look at the majestic beauty of His creation we stand in awe of His abilities.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Psalm 19:1

O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! Psalm 8:1

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. Luke 12:27

God has made us to be both Rational and Emotional Beings as He is Himself.

It Means to be Relational

In “An Interview with Robert Rimmer on Premarital Communes and Group Marriages,” The Humanist (March/April 1974), this statement was made:

Marriage and family life have been largely responsible … for today’s prevailing neurotic climate, with its pervasive insecurity, and it is precisely this climate that makes so difficult the acceptance of a different, healthier way of life.

The creeping destruction of family relationships is a stark reality of today’s culture. Marriage has become essentially meaningless. Procreation is regarded as a burden. Family roles are regarded as tyranny. Men and women are portrayed as enemies with men being ridiculed for being male and women criticized for not acting aggressively as men.

The pathological behavior of children from dysfunctional homes screams this truth from every location that children inhabit. The neurotic behavior of our culture is seen when studies constantly show how serious are the effects upon children of fatherlessness yet the culture continues to cut the natural ties of families.

Yet God made us to be relational. As soon as He had made Adam, God showed Adam that he needed a mate. And after God made sure Adam understood that none of the animals that God had made could satisfy Adam’s hunger for a partner, God made Eve, beautiful to Adam in every way and perfectly suited to be his partner for eternity. After all, without the entrance of sin, and death by sin, Adam and Eve would still be partners together in marriage to this day.

And God showed Adam that Adam needed a relationship with God Himself as well. He showed him this by God’s presence walking and talking with Adam in the cool of the day. And this relationship need continues to this day. This is why Job said, “I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” 23:12. This from a man suffering greatly. Yet, even in his suffering, time with God through God’s Word was a greater need than eating.

And what about kids? Are they a burden? Are they a disease? Joking aside, not according to God Who gives us our children.

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:3-5

Being human means being relational.

It Means to be Volitional

Volitional means to have the ability to make free choices, to have free will. Animals act by instinct. Animals, for the most part, lack free will. A Monarch butterfly cannot choose to winter in Barbados rather than in Mexico. Sharks cannot choose to make friends with their prey, in spite of Disney cartoons.

The behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner wrote that all human behavior is determined by behavioral and genetic factors. This is why we must be soft on criminals. It is not their fault. They could not help their behavior. It is all society’s fault. It is their parents’ fault. It is the environment’s fault. Anything to avoid free will. Since we are simply more evolved animals, everything can be attributed to instinct.

But how do the Scriptures see us? From the beginning God has given us choices and demanded that we make the right choice. If we do not, we are held accountable.

God told Adam about eating the fruit of the garden, all except one type. Then God told Adam that there would be consequences if he disobeyed. And God held him accountable when Adam disobeyed.

When Cain was angry, God told Cain he needed to make the right choice and, if not, there would be consequences. All through Scripture, God holds mankind responsible for the choices we make. God treats us as if we are Volitional beings, people who have free will. We are not like the brute beasts. We do not act by instinct. We exercise our free will. In Ezekiel 18:30-32, God discussed this with Israel. Listen to the discussion:

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,” declares the Lord GOD. “Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live.”

Do you hear it? Being Human means being able to make choices, to have free will, to be volitional.

It Means to be a Ruler

Carl Amery, quoted in the 2003 book Environmental Mafia: The Enemy is Us, stated:

We, in the Green movement, aspire to a cultural model in which the killing of a forest will be considered more contemptible and more criminal than the sale of 6 year old children to Asian brothels.

Our current culture has turned God’s intent for human rulership on its head. No longer are we the rightful rulers of this planet. We have become the lowest of the low. We are denigrated as the cause of all earth’s troubles. We have become the creature with the lowest value. As I pointed out two weeks ago, look at how much we spend on protecting the life of beasts while we slaughter people by the tens of millions. The forests have greater value than 6 year old children. California struggles to supply sufficient water for their population while releasing vast amounts of potential drinking water to save a few small fish.

When we lived in California the Stormy Complex Fire swept through the area in which we lived. After the fire we toured a logging operation that was reclaiming trees killed by the fire. There were potentially millions of board feet available to be logged that were killed in the fire. Many, many homes could have been built from that available lumber. But the logging operation was stopped and those tens of thousands of trees left to be a further fire hazard because the logging operation might have harmed a small flower. Human needs subservient to a small flower.

That is not a problem. As rulers, we have the right to protect the flora and fauna of this planet. But we must never confuse rulership with value. And that is the error of our culture. Every person is of infinitely greater value than any creature or plant. We want to be good stewards of this planet put into our keeping, but not by devaluing the souls for whom Christ died.

Notice the difference of value Jesus used to encourage his followers in Matthew 6:26.

Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?

Then, in Luke 12:6-7,

Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

And at the very beginning, in Genesis 1:27-28, God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Being human means that you have the right to rule over this earth. We share the rule with all other people.


God’s view of us is radically different than the current views of our culture. God’s view of us exalts us above the creatures, the plants, and even the earth itself.

Psalm 8:3-9

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

Do not let anyone tell you you have no value and are of less worth than the creation. We are Human Beings whom God created to fellowship with Him and for whom God’s Son shed His blood on Calvary. Remember who you are as our culture continues to deny our worth and uniqueness. Rather than just being a little higher than the apes, God has made us just a little lower than God Himself.


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