About the Book
Table of Contents
Vol.4: Evolution or Creation?
IS MAN AN ANIMAL?
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. The Uniqueness
Chapter 2. The Human Brain: Its
Size and Its Complexities
Chapter 3. The Erectness of Man
Chapter 4. The Ubiquity of Man
Chapter 5. Man the Culture Maker
Chapter 6. The Expression of Humanness
Chapter 7. The True Nature of Man
in Jesus Christ
1 of 7
1972: Doorway Paper No. 21, published privately by Arthur C. Custance
1977: Part V in Evolution or Creation?, vol.4 in The Doorway
Papers Series, Zondervan Publishing Company
1997: Arthur Custance Online Library (html)
2001 2nd Online Edition (corrections, design revisions)
What is man? is probably the most profound that
can be asked by man. . . .
do not mean to say that the biological study of man or even
that the scientific study of man in terms broader than biological
here and now, if ever, provide a satisfactorily complete answer
the question. . . .
The other, older approaches . .
. theology . . . and other non-
biological, non-scientific fields can still contribute, or can
Biology and Man
IS MAN really an animal? To many people the answer
must seem obvious. To ask the question at all is naive. Of course
he is! Yet there are many informed people who would say with
more caution, "Yes, man is an animal, but he is far more
than an animal."
When it is asked in what ways he
is more than an animal, it is customary to list such things as
his possession of culture, his powers of abstract reasoning,
his use of language, and possibly his self-consciousness: and
then to add a few important anatomical differences, such as his
permanently erect posture, and his possession of truly opposable
thumbs combined with wide-angle stereoscopic vision. By reason
of these man becomes a unique creator of culture.
Yet for all this, the feeling persists
that such specialized features single man out as unique not so
much because he is the only animal which has them, but because
he has them in forms so much more highly developed than other
creatures do. As we shall see, animals can communicate with one
another by a kind of language; they learn from one another and
use tools ‹ which gives them a sort of culture. Some animals
seem to be self-conscious at times. A few animals can stand erect,
and some apes can even run erect for short distances. And a few
species are able to oppose their thumbs in grasping things. So
it could be said that man is, after all, only quantitatively
different, different in degree but not essentially different
in any classificatory sense.
But even a quantitative difference can
reach such proportions as to constitute a new order of life,
and it is recognized today that man really is in a category by
himself for this very reason, as Dobzhansky put it: (1)
the most satisfactory way of describing man's status is to say
1. Dobzhansky, Theodosius:
quoted by Herman K. Bleibtrue, "Some Problems in Physical
Anthropology," in Biennial Review of Anthropology,
Stanford University Press, 1967, p.255.
that he is unique
in having a unique combination of abilities, rather than in the
posession of any single
In this way,
quantitative differences, when they grow very large, become qualitative
Yet Dobzhansky would still be the first to deny that
man had anything other than an animal origin. If he is qualitatively
different now, it is because of the accumulation of special abilities.
But this accumulation was a quite natural process, to be explained
ultimately in neo-Darwinian terms, Natural Selection acting upon
random mutations. There is nothing supernatural about man's uniqueness.
On the other hand, the Bible clearly
sets man apart in the final analysis not by pointing to his achievements,
but by constantly emphasizing the fact that he is a fallen creature
with a capacity for redemption, a redemption which involved the
Incarnation. The answer to the question "What is man?"
cannot be found without taking into account the fact that God
Himself came into this world as Man and "visited him"
(Psalm 8:4) in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ,
in order to secure his redemption. God "objectified"
Himself as a Man, in human form, as Oken put it. (2) Humanity was uniquely designed
for this purpose, not merely for God's pleasure, but for His
Self-expression; and this design involved not only his spiritual
capacity, but his physical form and his intellectual endowment
as well. This is what makes man unique and something quite other
than animal in nature.
If the Bible is correct in saying
that man is a fallen creature (and it never says this of any
animal), that sin has affected not merely his spiritual nature,
but also his mental faculties, so that he can neither be wholly
right in his motivations nor completely sound in his thinking,
it must be clear that man cannot define true humanness by studying
himself as he now is. Just as the man whose vision is faulty
cannot fit himself with corrective glasses unless he has the
help of someone who is not similarly afflicted, so if man's perceptive
abilities are at fault he cannot obtain a true picture of himself
either ‹ without outside help. He requires some yardstick
external to himself, some standard of reference with which to
compare himself, and thus to correct his definition of what humanness
really is. Or, alternatively, such knowledge must come to him
through Revelation. It cannot stem from his own reflections upon
himself. But we believe that in Jesus Christ we have a dual revelation,
a revelation of what God is like (John 14:9), and also a revelation
of the nature of true manhood.
2. Oken, Lorenz, Lehrbuck
der Naturphilosophie, no publisher,1810, p.26: as quoted
by A. O. Lovejoy in The Great Chain of Being, Harper Torchbooks,
New York, 1960, p.321.
Sherrington's justly famous little book Man on
His Nature (3)
may give us useful leads, but it can only speak to us about what
man is now. It cannot tell us what he was unfallen. Yet it is
unfallen man whom we see in Jesus Christ, with powers humanly
expressed, both of a spiritual and a physical nature, which we
no longer possess in our present state. He perceived things we
do not perceive. He claimed spiritual powers (and demonstrated
them) that. are totally beyond us. He used His body in ways entirely
outside our capabilities -- when walking on the water for instance.
He had dominion over the forces of Nature beyond our wildest
dreams ‹ as when He stilled the wind and storm for example,
or multiplied the loaves and fishes. He healed diseases by a
mere command and thus utterly negates our finest medical skills
by a simple act of will. And He did these things as Man in a
human body, and He promised His disciples that they should do
even greater things (John 14:12).
definition of what it really means to be a man is not our definition.
God's design for man was not the creature we now see in ourselves.
All we see in ourselves is but a pale shadow of true manhood,
a marred spirit in a diseased body inadequately informed by a
mind suffering from the noetic effects of sin. Man is a fallen
creature, fallen not merely in spirit, but in mind and in body
His body is no longer the same body which God designed and created
for him. We cannot know this except by revelation, but that revelation
is explicit enough in stating that in crucial ways man's body
is not now like Adam's. It suffered permanent damage in its organization
in Eden, and it will not recover its proper constitution until
the resurrection. It looks like a reasonable facsimile, but it
received a mortal wound in the Fall, which has made it a shambles
of its original stature even though its potential is still truly
remarkable. It has not altogether lost its uniqueness in many
significant ways, as we shall see in the next chapter. But in
the meantime man is not really man any longer. C. S. Lewis
put it so well: (5)
[of the Fall of Adam], was not, I conceive, comparable to mere
deterioration as it may now occur in a human individual; it was
loss of status as a species [his emphasis]. What man lost
by the Fall was his original specific nature. . . .
was transmitted by heredity to all later generations, for it
3. Sherrington, Sir Charles,
Man on His Nature, Cambridge University Press,1963, 300 pp.
Sherrington himself falls into the trap of "nothing-but-ism."
Man's mind, he said, "is nothing more than the topmost rung
continuous with related degrees below" (p.156).
4. On man's body as a fallen organism: see "The Nature
of the Forbidden Fruit," Part II in The Virgin Birth
and the Incaranation, vol.5 in The Doorway Papers Series,
Zondervan Publishing Company.
5. Lewis, C. S., The Problem of Pain, Macmillan, New York,
was not simply
what biologists call an acquired variation. It was the emergence
of a new kind of man; a new species, never made by God, had
sinned its way into existence [emphasis ACC]. . . . It
was a radical alteration of his constitution.
The fact is that we are faced with
an anomaly in the natural order, for man is a creature who seems
in many ways to be bound within its framework and yet is alien
to it, lording it over the rest of the created order as though
he were its acknowledged crown and yet clearly quite unequipped
to conduct this lordship successfully. He has a potential and
an inclination for the exercise of dominion which he somehow
cannot fulfill. The climax of the supposed evolutionary process
has been the production of a creature which has none of the in-built
wisdom that has made the rest of the created order such a successful
web of life. Homo sapiens, man the wise, is the greatest
fool among God's creatures and demonstrates his lack of perception
in the very classification which he has given himself as sapiens.
is all very well to attribute this disastrous failure to some
over-complexification of his central nervous system, as is sometimes
done. (6) If man arrived on the scene by some
evolutionary process, this might be the explanation except that
it is without logic since natural selection, which is the driving
force in evolution, supposedly operates to eliminate every venture
in Nature which is not in some way an improvement over the existing
order, as Wood Jones put it: (7)
the ordering of Nature, life on Earth was destined to flourish
and multiply, to outfold its forms and increase its variety,
it must be recognized as a tragic failure of its destiny that,
so far, it has merely achieved the emergence of the arch-destroyer
of life and of the sources of food and shelter necessary for
The appearance of man as he is, is
more logically explained by supposing that he is indeed the crown
of creation and ought, indeed to have proved himself to be its
prime benefactor, but that something then went wrong which turned
all his potential for good into an equal potential for evil.
He is in fact sick in a way that none of the other animals are
ever capable of being. But he is also redeemable in a way that
none of the other animals are. In the final analysis, he is a
creature unlike any other, not so much because he has certain
faculties which are superior to theirs, but because he is capable
of sin and of being redeemed, which no other animal ever is.
There is, therefore, something about him which places him in
a class entirely by himself. His destiny is different: his spirit
goes upward to
6. Over-complexity of the
central nervous system: E. J. Holmyard, "The Future of Man,"
Endeavor, January. 1946, p.2.
7. Jones, F. Wood, Trends of Life, Arnold, London, 1953,
gave it whereas the spirit of the beast goes downward to the
earth (Ecclesiastes 3:21). And in keeping with this fact, his
origin is also different, not because he was created (for the
animals were also created), but because he was created in the
image of God (Genesis1:26).
as we have seen, man had to be redeemed by a method which would
allow God Himself to enter physically within the framework of
His own created order and become Man in a form appropriate to
His deity and without doing violence to His own Person as Creator. (8) No animal form below man would have sufficed for
such an extraordinary event as the Incarnation of God Himself.
Only a special creature, special both as to his spirit and as
to the body which housed that spirit, could appropriately serve
such a plan. Thus, man stands midway between the angels which
have no bodies and are not therefore redeemable by such a mode
of redemption and the animal world which has no spirit capable
of sin which would create a need for redemption. Man is
both more than an animal by reason of his creation, yet less
than an animal by reason of his Fall. He is, in fact, something
unique to which the term "animal" is not really applicable
Paper is a study of man's assessment of himself apart from revelation,
and then a consideration of the light we have from revelation,
the revelation of true man in the person of Jesus Christ.
8. See "The Virgin Birth
and the Incarnation", Part IV in The Virgin Birth and
the Incarnation, vol.5 in The Doorway Papers, Series, Zondervan
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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