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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Truth about Us

The Scripture knows who we are.

The Truth that Makes Us Free (3)

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1.26, 27

This is like that
Human thinking is based entirely on analogies. We learn and know things by association, by recognizing that something is like something else.

This, at least, is the argument of Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander in their book, Surfaces and Essences. They write, “the central thesis of our book – a simple yet nonstandard idea – is that the spotting of analogies pervades every moment of our thought, thus constituting thought’s core… We swim nonstop in an ocean of small, medium-sized, and large analogies, ranging from mundane trivialities to brilliant insights.”

Analogies work by comparison: This is like that. Poetry abounds with analogies. We use analogies in everyday conversations. Today, for example, it may be “hot as blue blazes outside.” We may not know what “blue blazes” are, but we have a sense that they’re really, really hot. “She’s sharp as a tack,” we say about someone whose wit we admire; or “He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer,” the meaning of which we all understand.

Human beings live by analogies; we think along analogical lines. Because analogies form the way we think, the particular analogies we embrace determine how we live. Put another way, what we think we’re like is likely what we’ll become. The more widespread the analogy, the more it dominates our life.

And when those widespread analogies are false – when we insist on believing that we are like something when in fact we are not – it can be difficult to realize the truth about who we are and why we’re here.

A disastrous analogy
Disastrous in the extreme is the widespread analogy which insists that human beings are more like animals than any other beings. From elementary to graduate school, students are told that human beings are simply a higher form of animal. Animal studies form the basis of much scientific research, both in the natural sciences and the social sciences. “We’re like monkeys or ants or bees or starfish” researchers insist, and so, if only indirectly, we teach our children to take their behavioral cues from animals. Animals tell us the truth about who we are, our teachers maintain, and we politely nod and head off to do whatever human animals do, according to the patterns and practices discernible especially among our primate “brothers and sisters.”

While, of course, people share certain features with animals, this way of thinking about human beings is reductionistic, for it defines people in purely material terms. The idea that people have a “spirit” or a “soul”, an immaterial essence that connects with transcendent realities, is regarded as just so much rhetoric. It’s not to be taken seriously. Researchers question the existence of the mind. They reduce “heart” to a blood-pumping muscle. And “conscience” becomes nothing more than a form of social consensus. Everything about us reduces to electro-chemical processes and influences in a world devoid of transcendent realities and ultimately without meaning or purpose.

This is a cruel joke. Rather, a cruel lie. The evolutionary view of human beings operates on a false analogy, and thus strips people of their essential core spirituality, as C. S. Lewis argued so powerfully in The Abolition of Man.

Made in God’s image and likeness
The Scriptures teach that human beings are not animals; rather, we are a kind of “in-between” creature. We’re neither gods nor angels, and we are not animals. We are the image-bearers of God. Originally made in God’s image – so that we may know Him – and likeness – so that we may be like Him – we have fallen from that pristine condition and are subject to an inherited law of sin, the spiritual bequest of our first parents.

The image of God in us continues as a “memory” in the soul – the mind, heart, and conscience. By coming to faith in Jesus, we are indwelled by the Spirit of God, and He begins the work of restoring us into the likeness of God in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3.2-18). People are made in the image and likeness of God, and this fills life with meaning, purpose, and joy as we seek the Kingdom and righteousness of God.

As God’s image-bearers, we’re more like God than animals, and we will realize our true fulfillment and greatest happiness only when we think, feel, value, speak, and act like Jesus Christ – not like animals. To achieve full humanness, we must look to God, compare ourselves with God, and aspire to know and be like God. To think properly about ourselves and our purpose, we must think with the mind of God (1 Cor. 2.16), not the brain of a beast.

Take God out of the equation and point people to animals – to a world “red in tooth and claw,” as evolutionists like to put it – and you obsure people’s proper aspirations for grace, good works, nobility, civility, and the glory of God, and you make them instead content to compete, struggle, grunt, and grovel like the lowest beasts of the earth.

This is a lie, part of the larger lie which will one day be blasted to smithereens against the Rock of God’s truth. Even Christians fall prey to this lie, especially when they neglect proper care of their souls and when they fail to insist, in every forum and at every opportunity, that we are not animals, but image-bearers, made to be like God by looking to Him and submitting to His Word.

The Word of God tells us the truth about who we are, what we should aspire to, and how we should live. It tells the truth about us: We are image-bearers of God. Every other analogy for thinking about people is a lie.

For reflection
1.  Should it trouble us as believers that this false analogy comparing people with animals has become institutionalized in America’s public schools? Explain.

2.  Do churches in any way abet this false analogy? Explain.

3.  Meditate on Hebrews 12.1 and Colossians 3.1-3. Do you see why focusing and meditating on Jesus is so important to realizing our full humanity? Explain.

Next steps – Conversation: Would it make a difference if more people began to know about Jesus and His way of life, than about the latest research on primate social behavior? Ask a friend or co-worker about this matter, and follow the conversation wherever it leads.

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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