The Doctrine of Man

by | Dec 16, 2016

What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him. (Job 7:17) It is one of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. What does it mean for a doctrine to be an essential doctrine of the Christian faith? To put it simply, an essential doctrine of the Christian faith is a doctrine, without which, the Christian faith would no longer be the Christian faith. Hence, a false doctrine of man would alter the Christian faith in such a way that it would no longer cohere as a system. Job’s question then, is especially meaningful. Philosophers and scientists have attempted for hundreds and thousands of years to come up with an answer. Naturalism reduces man to the naturalistic processes of a highly evolved brain. Evolutionary theory, despite is many flaws, seems to be the default view today. Christian theology, on the other hand, has a far different view of man. And that view is based, not on philosophies of science, but on the Christian Scriptures. Man is what God says he is. So then, what does God say about man?

For starters, God says that man is a created being. God created man in his image and in his likeness, male and female God has created man. (Gen. 1:27) Man is created in God’s image and likeness which naturally implies that man exists to image God. The analogy between God and ourselves will always have disanology with it. So we are looking for qualities in man that constitute finite replicas of God’s infinite qualities.[1] Man is like God and not like God. This idea is both contrary and offensive to the sensibilities of the modern intellect. Nevertheless, Christian doctrine is clear that man was created by God, in God’s image, for the purpose of imaging God in the world. The duty of man is summed up in one thing: Fear God and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. (Ec. 12:13) The Christian doctrine of man then contradicts the modern doctrine of evolutionary theory.

All that has been said with regard to the original state of man is involved in the account of the creation, which declares that he was made like God; and that he was pronounced to be good, good exceedingly.[2] Man was created in an original state of righteousness. Understanding mankind involves grasping the fat that man is God’s “image” and “likeness.”[3] Man, then, does not exist for his own pleasure or happiness. He exists for the pleasure of God. Man was also created, male and female. This was God’s original, and as such, perfect design. Whereas v 26 used the anarthrous אדם, here in v 27 the definite article האדם is used, and clearly mankind in general, “male and female,” not an individual, is meant.[4] Both man and woman was created by God, in God’s image and likeness, for God’s good pleasure and purpose. That is the Christian position regarding the origin of man. Any other account of man’s existence is not Christian in nature. The Christian doctrine of man then contradicts any view that postulates a defect in God’s original design.

Even though man was created perfect, they were created with the ability to dissent. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness, and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.[5] The apostle Paul introduces us to the doctrine of original sin in Romans 5. This raises the question of the problem of evil which is dealt with in more detail here.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Rom. 5:12-14)

Sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and as a result, all men become infected! This first sin on the part of man has resulted in what is now called the doctrine of original sin. Original sin is not a specific act of sin. It is a condition of sin. Original sin refers to a sin nature out of which particular sinful acts flow. Again, we commit sins because it is our nature to sin. It was not man’s original nature to sin but, after the Fall, his moral nature changed. Now, because of original sin, we have a fallen and corrupt nature.[6] The implications of this doctrine are far-reaching. After Adam and Eve failed to live up to the covenant God had placed before them, they God separated himself from man, expelled man from paradise, and man died spiritually and insured physical death would come in due time. Man had now become a natural enemy of God. That point cannot be overemphasized. Man was cursed by God and as such, man now, by God’s active curse, inherits at his inception, a hostile nature where God is concerned. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. (Eph. 4:18-19) The Christian doctrine of man then contradicts the view that all people are born good and that evil behavior is a learned phenomenon. This doctrine also contradicts the view that men are sincere, honest seekers of God. Finally, the Christian doctrine of God contradicts the view that man is neutral or can be neutral on the question of God. 

Man was created as male and female. This was God’s design from the very beginning. But man, when he fell from right relation with God, as a result now of his newly found wicked nature, seeks to corrupt and truth of God to one degree or another. In recent times homosexuality has reached a level of acceptability that is unparalleled in human history.[7] Gender identity has seemingly eclipsed every other social concern in some cultures and this is especially true in American culture. This is simply one more attempt of the fallen sinner to corrupt the truth of God and his design for humanity. The Christian doctrine of man then contradicts the homosexual, gay Christian, and gender identity movement(s).

Where does the Christian doctrine of man leave humanity? Quite simply, it leaves man in desperate need of redemption. Man, having been cursed by God, born into an original state of sin now, finds himself at odds with his creator. Man opposed God’s creative activity. He rejects God’s narrow law. Man even rejects God’s assignment of sexual roles. And as a result, he sinks deep into the grips of depravity. He needs a redeemer!

  1. Man is the supernatural creation of God.
  2. Man is created, male and female.
  3. Man is created in the image of God.
  4. Man was created in a state of original righteousness.
  5. Mas was created to image God in the created order.
  6. Man was created, as a man and woman, as sexual compliments to one another.
  7. Man broke the covenant and became the subject of divine judgment.
  8. All men are now born into a state of original sin.
  9. All men are natural born enemies of God.
  10. Man is unable to change his natural hostile disposition toward God.
  11. Man is in desperate need of redemption.

[1] Frame, John. Systematic Theology, 785.

[2] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 102.

[3] John MacArthur, Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), 409.

[4] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, vol. 1, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 32.

[5] Westminster Assembly, The Westminster Confession of Faith: Edinburgh Edition (Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1851), 41.

[6] R. C. Sproul, Chosen by God (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1986), 64.

[7] John MacArthur, Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), 430.

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