By Robert R. Taylor, Jr.
Both Testaments raise the fundamental query, “What is man?” The Sweet Singer of Ancient Israel does in Psalm 8:4; the writer of Hebrews does so in Hebrews 2:6. Misconceptions abound in our world relative to the basic nature of man. Godless evolutionists view man as an evolved creature who in no sense has been created by a Divine Maker. Materialists view man as wholly mortal. There is nothing that survives him at death. Like Rover, the dog, he is dead all over at death. This view denies man a spirit or an entity that outlives his fleshly tabernacle of clay.
The Calvinistic view of man denies his free moral agency. This widely entrenched system of religious thought has man, the helpless puppet, dangling on the strings of Jehovah’s arbitrary decisions made for him before the foundation of the world. Hedonism (the pleasure principle) views men and women as playboys and playgirls. This was the old Epicurean concept that Paul met among Athenian philosophers in classical Athens in Acts 17. They pursue the principle of “Let us eat, drink and be merry today for tomorrow we die.” No one needs to argue that this is the dominant life style of the masses in our day. This is why fornication, adultery, incest, rape, perversions, etc., are widespread in our day and increasing annually. Then there is the Biblical view that will be set out briefly in this chapter.
MAN IS CREATED IN GOD’S IMAGE
Man is here as a result of a Creator’s hand. The “Big Bang” theory had nothing to do with his origin. Godless evolution, that totally lacks sense and sanity to sustain it, had nothing to do with man’s origin. Man did not will himself into being. This the Psalmist makes crystal clear in Psalm 100:3. Jehovah willed man into existence. The Bible says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26-27). Genesis 2:7 details the making of man from dust and how God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul. Genesis 2:21-23 depicts so beautifully and majestically the marvelous making of glorious woman. Solomon affirmed that God made man upright (Ecclesiastes 7:29). The Psalmist declared that “it is he that made us, and not we ourselves” (Ps. 100:3). David declared himself to be fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14). Jesus said God made male and female and they both have existed from the beginning of the creation (Matt. 19:4-5; Mark 10:6). Paul, on Mars’ Hill, affirmed man to be God’s created off-spring (Acts 17:28-29). Man is here because God made or created him. He is not the product of aimless evolution that did not even have him in mind when the senseless process somehow started in the dim past. Man is not from slime; he is from the Sublime.
MAN IS A FALLEN CREATURE
There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible. Only two of them, Genesis 1 and 2, portray man as a creature of sinless perfection. From Genesis 3, the time when man first sinned, to the end of revelation 22 man is viewed as one who has sinned and thus has come short of Jehovah’s glory. Sin is lawlessness or transgression (1 John 3:4). Sin is a failure to do right (James 4:17). Sin is unrighteousness (1 John 5:17). Sin is an act or thought, word or deed which is contrary to God’s will (Proverbs 24:9; Ephesians 4:29; James 2:9). The Bible teaches surely and certainly that man has fallen; yet George Gaylord Simpson says in The Meaning of Evolution that man has risen; that he has not fallen. The Bible exhibits the folly of this silly, Simpson sentiment. Isaiah 59:1-2; Romans 3:9, 23 and 1 John 1:8-10 are classic verses in the Bible which set forth man as a fallen creature – as a sinner.
MAN IS A DUAL OR TRIUNE BEING
Obviously, man is more than bone, muscle, blood and tissue. If man is nothing more than a creature of evolution and if the only difference between man and a mouse lies in the arrangements of molecules, then man is no better than a cockroach, a sheep, a pig or a horse. Jesus stressed that man is more valuable than a sheep, the sparrows or the fowls of the air. Yet this is just not true if humans and animals are all evolved creatures.
There are passages which set forth man as a dual being – possessive of body which goes to dust from whence it came but the spirit goes to God, its giver. James 2:26 speaks of the deaths of the body at the time the spirit vacates the tabernacle of clay. Jesus warns us not to fear killers of the body but fear him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell (Matt. 10:28). These passages treat man as a dual being.
When a distinction is made between soul and spirit, as is sometimes the case in Holy Writ, then man is depicted as a triune being. Paul wrote the Thessalonians of this triune nature. Note his apostolic affirmation, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23). The writer of Hebrews 4:12 speaks of the “dividing asunder of soul and spirit.” Soul is used in a number of ways. (1) It may refer to the whole person as in the case of the three thousand souls added to the church in Acts 2:41 or the total number of people aboard ship on Paul’s trip to Rome in Acts 27:37. (2) It may refer simply to physical life which man enjoys in common with lower forms of life. Psalm 78:50 employs this particular use of the word soul. (3) Soul may be used to refer to the intellectual nature of man. Paul’s natural man in 1 Corinthians 2:14 is quite literally the “soulish man” (Guy N. Woods). (4) Soul is used as a synonym of that unique unity that bound early disciples together. They were of one heart and one soul (Acts 4:32). (5) The soul is used synonymously with the spirit to refer to man’s immortal nature that survives the body and earthly life. When body, soul and spirit are all used, we are speaking of the fleshly tabernacle of clay, the earthly life that inhabits it and that immortal part which is made in God’s image, in Deity’s likeness.
SOME ERRORS REFUTED
The very fact that man has body, soul and spirit refutes materialism (imbibed and defended by ancient Sadducees, by modern atheists and by many so-called religion- ists) in telling fashion. In Luke 20, Jesus proved to the skeptical Sadducees that even though Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had long been dead physically when God spoke to Moses at the burning bush, that in a far higher sense the trio of patriarchs all lived as far as God was concerned.
The very fact that man is dual or triune in being refutes soul sleeping. Man does not cease to be at death. It is the body that sleeps in Mother Earth as Daniel 12:2 makes crystal clear. The spirit or soul is very much conscious. Abraham, Lazarus and the rich man of Luke 16:19-31 were all conscious in their widely separated compartments of Hades. The rich man knew he was in anguish and pain. Lazarus knew he was comforted in Abraham’s bosom. Jesus promised the dying thief that his spirit and the penitent thief’s spirit would be together that very day in Hadean Paradise (Luke 23:43). Jesus commended his spirit into the Father’s hands (Luke 23:46). Joseph and Nicodemus took care of his bodily burial (John 19:38ff). The souls (not bodies) that John saw under the altar were very much conscious (Rev. 6:9-11). Man is conscious from death to judgment even though he possesses no body.
This is the Biblical doctrine of man’s nature. He is body, soul and spirit. When soul and spirit are used interchangeably, then he is body and spirit or body and soul.
List and discuss the misconceptions relative to man’s nature.
Contrast evolution’s picture of man and the Biblical view of man.
Discuss the real origin of man.
How do evolution and the Scriptures differ drastically relative to man’s fall?
What is man potentially?
Discuss man as a dual creature.
Discuss man’s triune nature.
Refute some popular errors about man’s nature.
Why is a correct understanding of man’s nature so basic to understanding the Bible?