Part III: The Word Became Flesh
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!
My delights are with
the sons of men.
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
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
2 of 8
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!
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
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
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,
231. Huxley, Sir Julian, quoted by E. L. Mascall, The Importance
of Being Human, New York, Columbia University Press, 1958,
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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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.