DayBreaks for 10/25/17: What We Are
From the DayBreaks archive, October 2007:
What are we? Ask that question to a variety of “experts” and you’ll get different answers:
A biochemist would probably say that a human is composed of 65% oxygen, 18% carbon, 10% hydrogen – and then goes into a myriad of other atomic components in various trace amounts. 99% is made up of those three, plus nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus. Whoopee!
One philosopher’s definition follows: “I believe a human being is a creation containing two unique parts, equally important for our ability to interact with everything that surrounds us along an endless mysterious path known as time. One part is crystal clear; it is the physical and material matter occupying space, known as the body. This form of matter has size, shape, and dimensions and can be experienced empirically. The other part of the human being is harder to understand since it has no shape, size, or dimensions and cannot be experienced by empirical knowledge, it is the mind.”
A theologian might say: “The psalmist would say that the riddle of ben-‘adam is hidden in the mystery of God. Only faith can envision the point of convergence. Humankind recognizes itself fully only in the recognition of the Being from whom all reality arises. The claim of the psalm is that we can say “human being” only after we have learned to say “God.”
Here’s another one that I won’t even venture to try to classify, other than to say it sounds very new-agey: “Human being may be defined as the humantrue life of the individual, lived according to her or his own supraconsciousness of fulfilled intellect, so that the co-operative being of humanity is this undeniable humantrue awareness on the part of, and between, each and every individual, with no authority, meaning or faith above or beyond that. The human individual is a mind and body of the human species, led by the mind. Human being is being fully and truly human. The second and most important objective is to point out that true human being is to be defined by supraconsciousness – that when both our thinking and activity submits to the guidance of the postconscious which is also embodied in the structure of our society, then will we be wholly fulfilled, i.e., humantrue.”
Yuck. Drives me nuts. It appears that there is great confusion about what it is to be human. We focus on our humanity a lot, but is that the right thing to do?
I like (very much) this view of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, quoted in Philip Yancey’s Rumors of Another World: We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience. We are so focused on our flesh and bone that we neglect the spirit and soul. We think we are humans who, every once in a while, have spiritual insights or spiritual encounters with God, Jesus and the Spirit. They may be wonderful moments of ecstasy and inspiration…but they are not as present and real to us as the flesh, muscle, blood and sinew that courses through our veins.
De Chardin would have us remember our origin, and our true definition: that we are spiritual, formed in the image of the One who was and is and is to be, and that we are destined to return to Him and to live as spirits (albeit with some form of incorruptible body, it would appear) eternally. It is our humanness that is fleeting, it is our humanness that is nothing more than a cloak that hides the spirit. We would do well to remember our true nature and to concentrate our efforts, attention and affections accordingly.
Ecclesiastes 12:6-7 (NIV) – Remember him–before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
PRAYER: In spite of all appearances, Lord, help us to live wisely in our temporary coats of flesh, so that our spirits, the real us, may live with You forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.