What Does it Mean to be Human?
To understand who we are, we need to know something about how we got here. Are we merely products of a mindless, purposeless, accidental, chance processes or are we products of an ultimate Mind made with purpose? Does God or chance explain who we are?
Schaeffer noted, “We cannot deal with people like human beings, we cannot deal with them on the high level of true humanity, unless we really know their origin—who they are. God tells man who he is. God tells us that He created man in His image. So man is something wonderful”
Are we “something wonderful”? Are we something unimagined and unpurposed? From a biblical worldview, believers can see the significance of Genesis as it is foundational to understanding the nature of humankind. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” What we believe about God as the Creator will affect what we believe about human beings. Rejecting the Creator has consequences. Schaeffer and Koop noted, “If man is not made in the image of God, nothing then stands in the way of inhumanity. There is no good reason why mankind should be perceived as special. Human life is cheapened.”
Genesis is foundational and presents some vital concepts that cannot be overlooked or minimized. God created all things in His wisdom and power (Rom 1:19-20; Heb 11:3; Psa 19). Creation tells us of God’s glory. As Creator, He has absolute authority (cf. Acts 17:24-31). By His wisdom and authority, God made humans, male and female, in His image (Gen 1:26-27).
People are unique among in creation. We are not beasts. Animal life, while important, is not to be equated with human life. Darwinism teaches that humans evolved from lower life forms, which means that, as Darwin himself put it, “the difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.” While we would never want to promote or condone the abuse of animals, as they are still part of God’s creation, we must never think that human beings, as God’s image-bearers, are merely higher forms of animals with no special nature.
What does it mean to say that people are made in God’s image? I’m not sure we could exhaust the idea or fully understand all the implications. There is a spiritual aspect to it, of course, as God is Spirit. Yet there is much more. For example, we might think of the following:
God rules over creation, and we are given dominion. God is love, and we can love. God has all knowledge, and we can know. God is the source of logic, and we can reason. God is all-wise, and we can understand. God is the standard of morality, and we can make moral choices. God provides freedom, and we have free will. God is eternal, and we can have eternal life. God feels emotion, and we feel pain and joy deeply. God imbibes meaning, and we have true purpose. God is holy, and we are to strive for holiness. Consider the nature of God and think about how we reflect that nature. Consider our nature and how this echoes the divine. We are far from perfect, but we have a perfect standard before us. Though we must never try to turn God into our image, we should realize that there is more to human beings than meets the eye. This is the foundation for our service and love toward both God and humans.
Human beings are not just spiritual beings. We inhabit bodies for which we are responsible. Understanding this is important because Christians look forward to the resurrection. We will not be eternal bodiless spirits, but will be raised up incorruptible. Bodies return to the dust, but when Christ comes again, they will be changed into glorious bodies prepared for eternal life (2 Cor 5:1; 1 Cor 15:43, 44, 50-54). The body, therefore, is not a meaningless part of who we are; God will see to it that our bodies will changed for eternity. God will preserve us “whole spirit and soul and body” (1 Thess 5:23).
Human beings are priceless. Jesus asked the question, “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man given in exchange for his soul?” (Matt 16:26). Nothing on this earth is worth the loss of a soul, and nothing could buy back a soul lost for eternity.
As an aspect of being in God’s image, humanity was given dominion over the earth (Gen 1:26; 2:15). Through this dominion, God gave people the power to use the earth’s resources. This is not a license to abuse those resources since they are God’s. The earth and its resources are not there for selfish and ungodly reasons. People have the ability to work with resources for creative purposes and should seek to glorify God as the Creator of all.
Yet humans are more valuable than the earth and any other creatures on the earth. Jesus taught, “you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7). God watches over the sparrows and takes note of their situation, but people are more valuable.
 Francis A. Schaeffer, Escape from Reason. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1968, 22.
 Francis A. Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop, Whatever Happened to the Human Race? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1983) Kindle Edition, Loc 182-183.
 Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (Kindle Loc 2391-2392). Kindle Edition.