Monday, September 18, 2023

The Paradox of Man (Psalm 8)

"What is man that You are mindful of him?" (Ps. 8:4).

Ecclesiastes is filled with lowly portraits of humanity, its degradation, its transience, and its selfishness. Humanity was not always in such a state. In the beginning, God created a man and woman who bore His image, who were crowned with nobility, honor, and dignity.

John Calvin wrote, “God would not have us forget our original nobility, which He had bestowed upon our father Adam, and which ought truly to arouse in us a zeal for righteousness and goodness. For we cannot think upon either our first condition or to what purpose we were formed without being prompted to meditate upon immortality, and to yearn for the kingdom of God. That recognition, however, far from encouraging pride in us, discourages us and casts us into humility. For what is that origin? It is that from which we have fallen. What is that end of our creation? It is that from which we have been completely estranged, so that sick of our miserable lot we groan, and in groaning we sigh for that lost worthiness.”

A great part of the hopelessness that the writer of Ecclesiastes felt came from that longing for lost nobility. As human beings, we see glimpses of that glory we once bore in the presence of God; but now it is lost, marred by sin. Man was created in the image of God, but now he is fallen and that image has been shattered. The tension that comes from the scattered fragments of man’s nobility has created a paradox in the study of man. On the one hand, man senses his grand distinctions from the brute beasts that roam the earth. Yet, he cannot deny his wicked impulses. He is perplexed by his conflicting abilities to perform the greatest acts of mercy and, at the same time, commit the greatest acts of evil. In one newscast you can hear of an elderly woman opening her home to discarded children from the streets. And then, you can witness the effects of another human being senselessly murdering women and children in a car bomb explosion.

Why this paradox in human nature? Is man noble or wicked? The answer comes from understanding who we are and who God is. We will explore this matter during the next week as we seek to understand the shattered image of God in humanity.

What are the various explanations the world gives for why man can be noble and evil and at the same time? Watch the evening news or glance through a newspaper today. What examples are there of man acting with honor on the one hand and with wickedness on the other? What does this say about man’s nature?