What is Man
What is man? Man is a creature. Man was created by God therefore; the meaning of man’s life transcends man. It is impossible for man to interpret and understand himself and the universe apart from the Creator. The creator of a thing creates the thing with a plan and purpose in mind. It would be similar to a man, a thousand years ago, stepping into a time machine and finding himself at Cape Canaveral, Florida staring at the space shuttle. As he inspects this strange object he would naturally ask “What is it”, and ‘what does it do?” The meaning and purpose of the space shuttle cannot be accurately ascertained by the man in and of himself. A NASA scientist would have to explain to the man what it is and what it does. Apart from that explanation the true meaning and purpose of the large object cannot be known by the man.
There is no academic field of study and application more immersed with evolutionary thinking than psychology. Ever since Darwin and especially Freud psychologists have evaluated man’s behavioral problems on an animalistic basis. Experiments with animals and even insects are routinely used for guidance in dealing with human beings. Although many modern day psychologists have disavowed Freud they nevertheless have built on his foundation. They theorize within an evolutionary framework. They believe man is merely a highly evolved animal with animal problems and animal solutions.
Psychology’s attempt to understand man’s nature, his behavior, attitudes and thoughts, apart from the Creator is impossible. Man exists by virtue of the fact that God exists. God is man’s environment. Man cannot be lifted out of his God-environment and be known. To understand man, as psychology attempts to do, one must understand God’s purpose for creating man in the first place. God, the Creator, is the Interpreter of what He has created. To say there is no God who created man with meaning and purpose is to deny man has meaning and purpose.
The theory of evolution maintains that man evolved out of chaos and by chance. Man has no meaning and purpose because chance has no meaning and purpose. Chance has no plan because there is no Planner. If there is no NASA scientist to explain and interpret the meaning and purpose of the large object then it is impossible to know. The object has no meaning and purpose. The man can hypothesize and guess, within the context of a man living a thousand years ago, however, all that the man will know for sure is that the object is; it exists. Why, because it is there. But what it is and what it does, he will never know.
Man will never understand himself apart from God who created him. To deny God and then attempt to gain knowledge of man, as psychology professes to do, is an attempt to do the impossible. It is impossible because God made man with meaning and purpose. Psychology ignores man’s real meaning and purpose and presupposes a false meaning and purpose. The result is man’s behavior, disturbing moods and uncomfortable feelings are confusing and difficult to explain; hence the reason there is hundreds of conflicting theories of psychology.
For example, a can opener was created with meaning and purpose; to open cans. I decide to impose a false meaning and purpose on a can opener. I tell you I am going to use it to clean my carpet. Can you imagine how difficult and convoluted my explanations are going to be trying to explain how a can opener can clean carpet?
It is the same with psychology. The Bible teaches us that man was created in the image of God. Man is a spiritual and material being. Man is a sinner and his problems with anger, immorality and so on are heart issues. Psychology teaches man is an animal. Man is material only and his problems are health issues. As man continues to evolve he will become physically and ethically better and better.
No matter what explanation I put forth as to how a can opener can clean carpet the explanation will never fit the experience of cleaning a carpet. I will have to give another explanation. However, it won’t fit either. And so I will have resort to another and another and another explanation.
Getting back to the man looking at the space shuttle the NASA scientist interprets its meaning and purpose. He explains the landing gears, wings, booster rockets, etc. It all makes perfect sense. If the man rejects the scientist’s explanation and imposes his own erroneous explanation then he will never know the meaning and purpose of the space shuttle. For example, the man observes it has wheels therefore, it rolls. It is large and very heavy therefore; it must be pulled by horses. It is long and has a protruding nose on the front therefore, it must be a modern day battering ram used to break down fortified walls. The platforms (wings) are where soldiers ride. And the man’s theories about the meaning and purpose of the space shuttle, just like in psychology, go on and on.
The knowledge to understand man is found in God’s Word. Paul wrote, “Knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:10). It is knowledge within the context of the One who created man with meaning and purpose. To lift man out of that context would make true knowledge about man unknowable. The man does not have the proper context to interpret the space shuttle. He does not know about modern aerodynamics, hydraulics, rockets, space exploration and so on. He tries to understand the space shuttle in the context of a man living a thousand years ago. Therefore, he cannot know the space shuttle. God’s Word is the ground for true knowledge. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).
The belief that man can formulate a psychology apart from God is a myth. A psychology that does not begin with the fact that man was created by God and rebelled against his Creator is not an objective account of man. Humanistic psychology has produced unprecedented confusion and has permeated the evangelical church. Psychology, properly understood, is a branch of theology. Theology is the study of God. Psychology is the study of the soul or mind of man. Anthropology’s focus is on man’s physical character, environmental and social relations and culture. Psychology is concerned with man’s nature and inner life. Satan’s substitute, humanistic psychology although it is radically at odds with the Bible, is commonly used by Christians for guidance in pastoral or “Christian” counseling. This routine practice has resulted in the steady erosion of the Biblical doctrines of creation, man and salvation.
A Little Lower Than the Angels or A Little Higher Than the Apes?
In the gradual ascending series of creative acts we see man at the top. Man created in God’s image, a little lower than the angels and able of entering not only into relations with his fellowman but with his Creator. There stands, above the plant kingdom and animal kingdom, man, a being fitted for the kingdom of God. Animals, however highly developed, are merely creatures of the natural world. Man has a life above nature. He is able to reflect upon himself; on the meaning and causes of things. He can reason and over-rule impulse and passion and so he is responsible and capable of morality. He shows his superiority through the thoughts he cherishes of God and eternity. Before God had created man He pronounced His works “good” but not until He made man did He declare His works “very good.” Man is the key to understanding the whole creation for nature does not exist for its own sake, but for the sake of man. Man is the bonding agent who connects the material and spiritual worlds. Humanistic psychology’s materialistic explanations ignore the spirit and reduce thoughts, feelings, and will, to functions of matter. Man is a little higher than the ape. There are no angels.
In one brief phrase “image of God”, man is related to God. Evolution is denied and man’s uniqueness is upheld. He is more than flesh and blood. His behaviors and attitudes issue from his heart and are therefore, spiritual and God-related. Contrary to humanistic – evolutionary psychology human beings are far more similar to God than to animals. Man is made in God’s image; animals are not (Genesis 1). Man was given rule over the animals (Genesis 1:26). Animals are not “suitable” and do not correspond to man (Genesis 2:18 – 20). Communication by man and God through revelation and prayer is nonexistent between God and animals. Man, unlike the animals, has the power of moral knowledge. The moral “ought.” He distinguishes good from evil. He recognizes his obligations toward God to obey what is right and just and flee from what is unjust and evil. He was made with moral freedom and capable of moral affection. God is love and without this capability man would not be a true image bearer of God. Man, in the image of God, is a rational being. He can understand the world God has made. Science is only possible because man was created with same the kind of reason which is expressed in the world which man lives. For example, if a man was going to translate a book written in a foreign language he must know the language of the author who wrote the book. If he did not know the author’s language, he would not be able to translate the book into his native language. It is the same with the kind of reason man was created with and the kind of reason expressed in creation by the Creator.
Biblical psychology will seek to understand man, not in terms of human relations, but in terms of the image of God. The psychologies built on evolution reduce man from a creature made in the image of God to an animal evolved by chance, out of chaos and nothingness. Many believers argue against modern psychology on the ground that it attributes man’s behaviors on a plethora of drives and instincts which he has no control. Christians rightly contend man is not at the mercy of drives and instincts but is responsible and accountable. It is certainly true modern psychology does not allow for responsibility but it is not because of out of control drives and overwhelming impulses. The psychologies leave no room for responsibility because it lifts man out of a creation context. Man, made in the image of God, is immersed in an evolutionary scenario where every aspect of his personality has come from chance, chaos and nothingness. Man cannot be responsible to nothingness. He can only be responsible if he is a creature of God. Man before God is the only option to man before nothingness.
Written by: David Tyler (Th.B., Trinity College of the Bible; M.Min, Ph.D., Trinity Theological Seminary. Author of Biblical counseling related books: Self-Esteem: Are We Really Better Than We Think?; Deceptive Diagnosis: When Sin is Called Sickness; The Second Coming of Jesus Christ: Oil, Terrorism and Nuclear War; God’s Funeral: Psychology, Trading the Sacred for the Secular; Jesus Christ: Self-Denial or Self-Esteem; ADHD Deceptive Diagnosis.)