1 Timothy, Anthropology, Christmas, Herman Bavinck, Herman Bavinck, image of God, Imago Dei, incarnation, Jesus, John, John 16:21, Kurt Vonnegut, love, Love Enemies, love one another, Mystical Bedlam, Thomas Adams, Thomas Watson
The Christian celebrating the incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth, does well to contemplate the wonder of the human being (see Thomas Watson, http://www.fivesolas.com/watson/humilia.htm ).
The Christian concern for human beings as human beings, whether of human beings unborn or human beings at advanced age and weakness seems striking strange to other people who don’t hold the same premise. Once a student in one of my classes let the States to go to Pakistan to bring supplies to people, most of whom were Muslim, suffering from the earthquake of 2005 (Kashmir earthquake). He reported that many of the international supplies were pillaged before they could make to victims. While most of the help actually being delivered was delivered by Christians — which is strikingly odd considering the difficulty that Christians routinely face in Pakistan.
The atheist Matthew Parish famously stated that Africa needs Christianity (for an interesting take on this by an atheist, see, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2008/12/27/does-africa-need-god/)
Now, I am not so silly as to say as that everyone who claims Christianity acts remotely like a Christian. Nor do I do deny the decency and good that some atheists have done. Kurt Vonnegut the atheist novelist who penned many lines which made me think and shirk and laugh had a character quip in God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, There’s only one rule I know of babies, …you’ve got to be kind!
What I am stating is that Christianity rightly understood thinks the human being to be the pinnacle of God’s creation — the very image of God himself. And thus, the Christian must honor human beings as valuable because the human being exists.
In John 16:21, Jesus of the movement from pain to joy when a woman gives birth:
When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.
Note that, she rejoices because a “human being has been born in the world.” The nature of this valuation of human beings often places Christians at marked disagreement with other human beings when it comes to political decisions. And surely any number of inconsistencies between practice and theology could be waved as hypocrisy.
But only a Christian would be a hypocrite when it comes to matters of oppression or slavery or other misuse of human beings. Unless there is a greater moral context to make a judgment, a condemnation of slavery (say) is a matter of taste, not a matter of evil. Hatred of oppression may be a real subjective motive, but the subjective distaste does not make it “evil”.
One may argue that the Christian valuation of human is delusional (because it is a mere “preference” – as are all valuations), but it is the basis upon Christians base their understanding of ethics, morality and salvation.
The Christian must love another because they are human — such love is required to supersede even personal considerations and the response of the other:
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Matthew 5:44-45. Christian love is grounded in the nature of God and the nature of humanity. It is not bound in the nature of a particular immediate personal relationship.
Indeed, Christians would do go further in their practical love to other human beings were we to more fully consider our doctrine. The Dutch theologian Bavinck writes (vol. 3 of his systematic theology) put this well:
Man is a rational animal, a thinking reed, a being existing between angels and animals, related to but distinct from both. He unites and reconciles within himself both heaven and earth, things both invisible and visible. And precisely as such he is the image and likeness of God. God is most certainly “spirit,” and in this respect also the angels are related to him. But sometimes there is reference also to his soul, and throughout Scripture all the peculiar psychic feelings and activities that are essentially human are also attributed to God. In Christ, God assumed the nature of humanity, not that of angels. And precisely on that account man, rather than the angels, is the image, son, and offspring of God. The spirituality, invisibility, unity, simplicity, and immortality of the human soul are all features of the image of God.
Thomas Adams put it thus, “Man as God’s creation left him was a goodly creature, an abridgement of heaven and earth, an epitome of God and the world; resembling God, who is spirit, in his soul; and the world, which is his body, in the composition of his. Deus maximus invisibilum, mundus maximus visibilium — God the greatest of invisible natures, the world the greatest of visible creatures; both brought into the little compass of man” (Mystical Bedlam, Collected Works, vol. 1, p. 255).
The human being, the human, body and soul, is the great cross-roads of Creation. Jesus Christ as the human being is the point of intersection between God and human beings. It is for this reason he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6).
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
(1 Timothy 2:5-6 ESV).