Thursday, March 14, 2024

The Paradox of Man (Psalm 8)

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

Paul’s desire for the Corinthian Church was that it be free from the entanglements of sin and be conformed to the holiness of God. As is evident from the apostle’s constant exhortations, he understood the fallen condition of man, the reality of sin that plagues every human being, even those who have been redeemed by the grace of God. To gain a better understanding of man’s fallen condition, we will take a few days to examine the relationship between man as made in God’s image, and sin which has shattered that image.

While man is now plagued with sin, there was a time when he walked upon the earth unhindered by evil desires. When God first made man, He fashioned him with dignity and nobility. God would not have us forget that state in which He first made us. As we think about the state in which Adam first existed, in righteousness and goodness, we should be spurred on to be as our first father was, to be righteous and holy. John Calvin wrote, “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.”

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. The tension that comes from the shattered 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 most heinous acts of evil. Why this paradox in human nature? Is man noble or wicked? The answer cannot be found in any other context than who we are as the fallen, image-bearers of God.

What are some of the explanations the world gives for why man can act noble sometimes and evil at other times? What are some theories about the cause of man’s evil behavior? How do these theories differ from what the Bible says is the cause, which is man’s sin?