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"What Does it Mean to Be Human?"

Part Two: Finding the True Nature of Humanity

In part one, we considered man's search for true humanity. Throughout recorded history, men have always asked questions such as "Who am I?", "Where am I?", and "Why am I here?." However, for all of man's persistent attempts at answers, the same insufficient solutions keep arising, generation after generation. Man cannot find satisfactory answers to these fundamentally defining questions because he has limited vision and a sinful, rebellious heart. In part two, we will address the question of whether or not man can ever know the true nature of humanity.

Who Knows?

Every person has a severely limited perspective that hinders his understanding of himself. This is a difficulty inherent in creaturely existence. We do not have the ability to step outside of ourselves and impartially observe our place in the world of time and space. However, despite this limitation, there are those who would still argue that only a human being is capable of defining humanity. After all, it requires a human being to have subjective knowledge of what it is like to be human. In other words, only a human being can have inside, experiential information into the human existence. But even if such a premise is granted, the problem is not as simple as an insufficient external perspective. Man does not have what is required for even the internal half of the equation. Man's subjective experience as a human being simply cannot produce a trustworthy understanding of the true internal dimension of humanity. While each human being does possess a certain inner knowledge of himself that no other creature can fully know (1 Cor 2:11), he remains oblivious to many things about himself (cf. 2 Sam 12:1-7, Luke 6:41-42). We often refer to these areas as "blind spots;" unconscious behaviors, characteristics, and motivations that proceed from within and are many times apparent to everyone but ourselves. It is because of sin's pervasive influence that a human being's inner knowledge is imperfect and even deceptive (cf. Jer 17:9-10). A proper understanding of humanity requires a perfect knowledge of a human being's innermost thoughts as well as an infinitely greater external perspective. Therefore, is anyone truly qualified to define humanity?

God Knows

When we want to truly know about something, it is common practice to trace it back to its source. For example, one can learn a number of things from examining a clay pot. If we break it apart, we might be able to discover such things as the kind of clay from which it was composed, the conditions under which it was baked, and its relative age. From its shape, we might even venture a guess as to its purpose. Yet, all such knowledge is, to some degree, speculative. However, if we could go back to the source, that is, if we were able to locate its maker, he could furnish definitive answers to our questions. For the most extensive knowledge of an object and the most inclusive description of its purpose, we generally ask its creator.


God is not only man's Creator; He is his Sustainer as well. When we look to God for an understanding of the true nature of humanity, we are not only seeking answers from man's Designer but the very Source of his immediate human existence. Who is better qualified to speak about humanity than the One who brought it forth and maintains its life, moment by moment (cf. Col 1:17)? Who could possibly know the inner experiences of human beings more intimately than the One who holds together their very composition at every given moment? God is not only qualified to speak authoritatively in this respect, but, because He is infinite, He has the comprehensive external perspective that all creatures lack. God's knowledge of humanity is perfect and complete.

- Stan McGehee Jr

Next month we will consider where we must look to discover what our Creator and Sustainer says about the true nature of humanity.