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Abstract

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Appendixes


     

Part III: The Word Became Flesh

Chapter 25

What Is Man, And The Son Of Man,
That Thou Visitest Him?

 

When I consider the heavens the work of thy fingers, 
the moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained;  
what is man  
that Thou art mindful of him? 
Thou hast made him  
a little lower than the angels, 
and has crowned him with glory and honour!
  
(Psalm 8:3-5)  

My delights are with the sons of men.  
(Proverbs 8:31)  

     A colleague of mine walked into my laboratories one day and said, "We've had this thing around the house ever since I was a kid. Any idea what it is?"
     We both looked at it carefully. It was made of wood, obviously shaped by hand, about six inches long, and asymmetrical along its axis. It weighed only a few ounces and it had been nicely finished with a good lacquer. I have always felt I was quite sharp at this kind of guessing game . . . but I couldn't identify it at all. Apparently nobody else had been able to either, not even the National Museum of Canada! 
     It was not simply a piece of wood that someone had doodled into shape as the fancy of the moment had suggested. It had without doubt been made for some purpose, and there were even unmistakable wear marks on it in one place indicating that it had actually been

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made for something. But what had it been made for?
     And there's the point. We could not say what it was because we could not imagine what it was for. The fact that we could identify it as to its weight, colour, size, shape, or any of its other physical or chemical characteristics which are measurable, still did not tell us what it was because we did not know what it was for. As far as I know, he never did find out. One day, someone will say, "Oh, I know what that's for . . ." and the problem of identity will be solved.
     Nor can we say what man is though we may know a great deal about him: his physical characteristics, his chemical constitution, his physiological functioning, and even his psychological make-up unless we know what he is for. We shall only really know what man is when we understand God's object in creating him. As Aristotle was wise enough to observe, "The nature of man is not what he is born as, but what he is born for."
(229)
     We can see in a measure how each plant and animal fits into the web of life, even perhaps how each elemental substance in nature contributes to the whole; but man seems alien in some way to the scheme of things. He is the great disturber of nature, the destroyer of order, the unbalancing factor in the web of life. Among all creatures, man alone seems to be without the proper equipment for the survival of his species except by plundering the rest of the world in which he lives. The pattern of his life as an individual and as a species is essentially destructive even in the midst of his most creative activities, and suicidal even when his objective is precisely the opposite. He is capable of a beastliness that is not of the beasts, and of aggressiveness that seems totally unrelated to the kind of aggressiveness animals display in their will to live.
     He is, in fact, a fallen creature. And yet he is so constituted that he can upon occasion do such noble things as to surprise even himself. He is capable of being a demon, but also of being a saint. And his creative talents are, it seems, almost unlimited whether in the composing of music, the building of a plane, designing a cathedral, or rocketing to the moon with a precision measured in mere seconds in terms of touch-down time and mere yards
in terms of landing site.
     For a host of reasons, such potential for good or for evil does not reside in the animal kingdom below him. The form and functioning of his brain, his eyes, his ears, his face, his tongue and throat, his neck, his torso, his arms and his hands, his knee structure and his feet, all contribute in unique ways towards his being what he is.
His upright posture frees his hands, and his freed hands become an extension of his brain even as his mobility
of facial expression and his capacity for speech and the use of symbols become an extension of his mind. Above all else, he has a spirit with a different destiny from that of the

229. Aristotle, quoted by Ashley Montagu, Human Heredity, New York, World PubIishing Co., 1959, p.19

     pg 2 of 8      

animals (Ecclesiastes. 3:21) and is a creature with a capacity for redemption that constitutes him a unique being, placing him in a "kingdom" by himself. He is neither angel (without body) nor animal (without redeemable spirit). He is man: made at first in the image of God, a child of eternity, and potentially capable of being a very habitation of God Himself.
     Moreover, there are today some authorities who are prepared to say that in a sense man is the measure of all things, even of the very size and structure of the Universe itself! It seems clear now that man could not continue to exist, nor would he ever have come into being, unless the Universe had been constituted as it is. This speck of dust which is our earth, floating in the immensity of space, would never have emerged as man's proper habitat except for the fact that the very constitution of the Universe itself has contributed to its being what it is a home for living things of which man is both the objective and the justification.
     Was the Universe really created for our earth, and our earth for man? Quite possibly. John A. Wheeler wrote in all seriousness that a very good case can be made for the view that it is not the Universe that determines the size of men but man who governs the size of the Universe!
(230)
     Even Sir Julian Huxley, as we have already seen, went so far as to admit that the kind of nature man has, including the power of conceptual thought and of making delayed decisions and moral judgments, can hardly be supposed to exist in any other type "of primate body and primate brain" than we observe in man.
(231) And only such a Universe as we observe around us seems capable of accommodating this kind of primate body and primate brain.
     The reader may recall Hugo St. Victor's words, written nearly nine hundred years ago:

The world was made for the body,
and the body was made for the spirit,
and the spirit was made for God:
the spirit that it might be brought into subjection unto God,
the body that it might be brought into subjection unto the spirit,
and the world that it might be brought into subjection unto the body.

     It seems to us now that Hugo St. Victor was wrong only in this, that he should have prefaced his observation by adding also that "the Universe was made for the world." So he is suggesting in answer to the question, "What was man made for?" that man was made for God; and we would add that in the final analysis the Universe was made for man.
     But in what way was man made for God? And why was it necessary, if this is true, that he should be made the kind of creature he is? Romans 8:20 tells us that this creature was made subject to

230. Wheeler, John A., "Our Universe: the Known and the Unknown," American Scientist, Spring, 1968, p.18.
231. Huxley, Sir Julian, quoted by E. L. Mascall, The Importance of Being Human, New York, Columbia University Press, 1958, p.7.

     pg.3 of 8     

failure in hope. In hope of what? And what does it mean to be "made subject to failure"? Well, I think it means that man had to be made free to choose, and this freedom of choice inevitably made him subject to failure. But God had a plan to cover the contingency of failure: and the fulfillment of this plan, the plan of redemption, necessitated that man be made just such a creature as he is a redeemable creature. And by this I mean he has to be given just such a constitution physical, chemical, moral, and in every other way as he does indeed have. This constitution was given to man for one very important reason above all others, a reason which theologians have often tended to overlook. The reason relates to the circumstances surrounding the incarnation of God as Man.
     In Part I,
(chap.13) I have used an analogy regarding the design of the human body. The analogy involved the building of a house for a particular purpose. A man builds a house to suit the occupant for which it is intended. Thus he designs a hive for bees, a sty for pigs, a stable for horses, a kennel for his dog. The design of each house is pre-determined by the use to which it will be put. And man's body was designed as a habitation for a creature made in the image of God, and to this extent his house was to be a house of God. It might be more truthful to say a house for God. This is still true in spite of the Fall. Each individual who is born again is reconstituted individually, and not merely collectively, a Temple of God. As Paul says, "Your body is the temple of God"
(1 Corinthians 3:16), and this is one reason why he lays such emphasis upon the sanctity of the body. "I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, wholly, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). We are to return this house to the original Owner who designed it for his own purposes which indeed is a reasonable thing to do. It is an awesome thought that God should take up residence in a human body, yet the New Testament is full of the idea. As Paul said in writing to the Galatians (2:20), "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." And in Romans 7:18 he defines what he means by "in me": he says, "that is, in my flesh."
     The Incarnation of Jesus Christ as Man demonstrated once for all the fitness of the human body to be just this a house of God. He did not take upon Him the nature of angels but of human seed (Hebrews 2:16). The body in which He expressed Himself was a body like ours. It was not identical with ours (as we have already noted see reference #223), for ours is a body that is defiled by sin both inherited and actual. But his body was a human body in the most perfect sense, for it was the same as Adam's body when it was first created. The powerful

     pg.4 of 8     

persuasion that bodily existence is somehow evil is really pagan in origin and stems from the universal experience that while the spirit is willing the flesh is weak. Sinfulness in action seems to be rooted somehow in a corruption of body. But this is entirely due to the consequences of the Fall, not to the fact that God created man an embodied spirit. The body is essential to man, a uniquely designed vehicle for the housing of his spirit: and it was entirely worthy of its design to carry the image of God which no other animal body is.
     When Solomon was preparing to build the Temple, God gave him very specific instructions. He did not simply say, "Build Me a temple," which He might well have done for Solomon had plenty of temples of other gods all around him which might have served for prototypes. Indeed when he received instructions for this Temple, he may have felt that these other pagan temples were more impressive, larger, more richly equipped. But God was not planning to build a house for Himself merely by elaborating upon the designs of other houses already in existence. Perhaps this also reflects the fact that He did not build Adam's body by merely copying animal bodies which were prototypes. But as Solomon's Temple made use of materials and structures and architectural principles already in existence, so when God designed a body for Adam, He made use of materials and structures and architectural principles already existing in other animal bodies. However, in certain ways Adam's body was unique, and the chief aspect of its uniqueness stemmed from the purpose it was designed to serve. The body of Adam was to serve as a housing for creatures made in the image of God, and one day it was to serve for the incarnation of God Himself
     It was not therefore just another electrochemical machine. It was designed to make it possible for God to express Himself perfectly in terms of human personality: and there are millions of "electrochemical machines" that function successfully as living organisms which could never make a suitable housing for the purposes of divine incarnation. Man's body was created in such a form that the Creator Himself could assume it for a season as his own housing without in any way demeaning or violating his own divine nature. Such a house, like Solomon's Temple, was not merely to be like any other pagan temple already in existence, any more than Adam's body was merely a copy of some other animal body already in existence. It was to be exceptional, "exceedingly magnifical" (1 Chronicles 22:5) as the King James put it.
     And so it was, originally. It must have been glorious indeed. Imagine a human body which, despite all the defilement of sin to which it became subjected, still survived with its energies largely unimpaired for nearly a thousand years! The body in which Jesus Christ took up residence for some thirty-three years was Adam's

     pg.5 of 8     

body recovered and it, too, was "magnifical." The divine Architect had built it for Himself in the first place. "Every house is builded by some man; but He that built all things is God" (Hebews 3:4), so we may be sure the Lord's body was not the tumble-down house in which we struggle through life. His body magnificently supported Him daily as He lived out his life among men: and it provided perfectly all the resources for the expression of the whole spectrum of his divine nature. His presence in the body was so magnificent that even the most callous of his enemies had to step back sometimes in awe, and they only had the courage to abuse Him because He deliberately veiled his glory. There is, even yet, an aura about this human body that is revealed now and then when a man draws very near to the Lord, even as it was with Moses when he came down from Mount Sinai (2 Corinthians 3:13).
     There was, and is, nothing in the constitution of the human body (except in so far as it has been "defiled" by sin Philippians 3:21) that God is ashamed to take unto Himself and employ as a dwelling place. Undefiled by sin and indwelt by the Lord Himself, a superb human body appeared on the stage of human history and men worshipped without shame or hesitation the One who possessed it.
     As we have seen, one of the fundamental differences between his body and ours was its potential for endless continuance (Hebrews 7:16), exactly as Adam's had been at first. Yet this did not mean it was a body incapable of fatigue or thirst or hunger or physical injury. Adam unfallen was still given the night for rest, fruit trees for food, and a river from which to draw water. But it certainly was a body capable of expenditure of effort far beyond our own present resources even as his mind enormously exceeded ours in its intellectual reach. His energies nevertheless could be depleted, for He became aware of the depletion when a woman in the crowd touched Him and was healed (Mark 5:30).
     Now such a body with its potential for unending continuance, and unfailing transmission of healing power to others, and housing what must be described literally as the mind of God, is not a mere animal body. In some way which it is not possible for us to grasp, it was different fundamentally different. It is quite possible that with all the modern tools of research we now have at our disposal we might have identified some areas of physiological difference.
(232) But the effects of the Fall upon our bodies have obliterated many of these differences and blurred others so that the human organism now looks like any other animal body. Indeed in some ways we are far less efficient organisms than they. But the human body unfallen made it a perfect vehicle for the Incarnation of the Creator Himself, who designed it. This body was what our body was intended to be and was designed to be and would have been but for the Fall. 

232. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page 8).

     pg.6 of 8     


     The human body, then, is no mean organism. It is, in fact, still capable of serving as a worthy Temple for the majesty of God, a divine residence for the display of God's glory in the Person of Jesus Christ. It became such when conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of woman in perfection.
     Thus, man is not a creature of spiritual significance who merely happens to have the kind of body he does and who might just as easily have been equipped with any other kind of body. He is a creature whose uniqueness from the point of view of his humanness is as much dependent upon the structure of his body as upon the nature of the spirit which animates it. It is quite wrong to imagine that the structure of man's body is incidental and that he might have been built like a giraffe or a dog or a mouse or even an ape and still have fulfilled the role for which he was created. The body that man inhabits was built with the capability of housing even God Himself. And the universe was designed to support that house, and probably when we know enough, we shall find everything in this universe contributes in some way to the sustaining of it.
     In the final analysis, the creation of the body of Adam was really nothing less than the first step in the preparation of the body of Christ. And to this end the universe was made as it is. When seen in the perspective of history, man had to be created in the image of God in order that God might in due time appear in the image of man for his redemption. The nature of the first human body was thus predetermined entirely by God's intention to come as man's Redeemer. God incarnate, and man incorporate. each was the prototype of the other, depending upon perspective. Adam's body was designed for God because, as Irenaeus said, man's creation was for redemption. Here is where we shall one day find a complete answer to the often asked question, "What is the purpose of such a universe?"

     So what is man? He is to be assessed by the purpose for which he was created. He was made for redemption and therefore made "redeemable": and this redeemableness hinged upon the incarnation and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ who took upon Himself our human form. The means of man's redemption required that he should be a creature whose constitution, body and spirit alike, could be assumed by the Redeemer in order to effect our salvation, and this assumption must be possible without incongruity with his own divine nature.
     Such, then, had to be the total constitution of man and such it has manifestly proved to be. In this we therefore have the answer not only to the question, "What is man?" but even a more basic question, "What is man for?"   Man is for God.

     pg.7 of 8     


Notes

232. (See page 6)  For many years until retirement, I served as Head of the Human Physiology Laboratories of the Defense Research Board in Ottawa (Canada). With highly sophisticated equipment we were engaged in measuring heat stress under various conditions in human volunteer subjects. One of the most important instruments which was developed in the Laboratories was a Sudorimeter for measuring sweating rates at exceedingly low levels, as an index of the body's ability to maintain thermoregulation. I believe that we would have detected very distinctly a fundamental difference in the functioning of the Lord's body in this respect, since sweating in man is clearly linked (in Genesis 3:19) to certain consequences of man's fallen constitution.
     The fact is that sweating (by contrast with perspiration) is directly linked to the circumstance that our appetite for food exceeds the body's needs by approximately 200%, and since this food generates heat that is not needed, a back-up system for the removal of heat has to be set in motion. If we ate a quarter of what we normally do, this back-up system would not be triggered nearly so soon but
we should be everlastingly hungry. Appetite and actual need have now been thrown out of adjustment, presumably by the Fall.
     This might be considered highly speculative, but we are dealing with what is essentially in this respect a heat-engine that is defective, and the level of its defectiveness is demonstrably related in quantitative terms to its inner state of health when tested under controlled conditions.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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