by Louis Berkhof
MAN IN HIS ORIGINAL STATE
I. The Origin of Man
A. The Doctrine of Man in Dogmatics
The transition from Theology to Anthropology, that is, from the study of God to the study of man, is a natural one. Man is not only the crown of creation, but also the object of God's special care. And God's revelation in Scripture is a revelation that is not only given to man, but also a revelation in which man is vitally concerned. It is not a revelation of God in the abstract, but a revelation of God in relation to His creatures, and particularly in relation to man. It is a record of God's dealings with the human race, and especially a revelation of the redemption which God has prepared for, and for which He seeks to prepare, man. This accounts for the fact that man occupies a place of central importance in Scripture, and that the knowledge of man in relation to God is essential to its proper understanding. The doctrine of man must follow immediately after the doctrine of God, since the knowledge of it is presupposed in all the following loci of Dogmatics. We should not confuse the present subject of study with general Anthropology or the science of mankind, which includes all those sciences which have men as the object of study. These sciences concern themselves with the origin and history of mankind, with the physiological structure and the psychical characteristics of man in general and of the various races of mankind in particular, with their ethnological, linguistic, cultural and religious development, and so on. Theological Anthropology is concerned only with what the Bible says respecting man and the relation in which he stands and should stand to God. It recognizes Scripture only as its source, and reads the teachings of human experience in the light of God's Word.
B. Scriptural Account of Origin of Man
Scripture offers us a twofold account of the creation of man, the one in Gen. 1:26, 27, and the other in Gen. 2:7, 21–23. Higher criticism is of the opinion that the writer of Genesis pieced together two creation narratives, the first found in Gen. 1:1–2:3, and the second in Gen. 2:4–25; and that these two are independent and contradictory. Laidlaw in his work on The Bible Doctrine of Man is willing to admit that the author of Genesis made use of two sources, but refuses to find here two different accounts of creation. He very properly denies that in the second chapter we have "a different account of creation, for the plain reason that it takes no account of the creation at large." In fact, the introductory words of the narrative beginning with Gen. 2:4, "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth, when they were created," seen in the light of the repeated use of the words "these are the generations" in the book of Genesis, point to the fact that we have something quite different here. The expression invariably points, not to the origin or beginning of those named, but to their family history. The first narrative contains the account of the creation of all things in the order in which it occurred, while the second groups things in their relation to man, without implying anything respecting the chronological order of man's appearance in the creative work of God, and clearly indicates that everything preceding it served to prepare a fit habitation for man as the king of creation. It shows us how man was situated in God's creation, surrounded by the vegetable and animal world, and how he began his history. There are certain particulars in which the creation of man stands out in distinction from that of other living beings:
1. MAN'S CREATION WAS PRECEDED BY A SOLEMN DIVINE COUNSEL. Before the inspired writer records the creation of man, he leads us back, as it were, into the council of God, acquainting us with the divine decree in the words, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness," Gen. 1:26. The Church has generally interpreted the plural "us" on the basis of the trinitarian existence of God. Some scholars, however, regard it as a plural of majesty; others, as a plural of communication, in which God includes the angels with Himself; and still others, as a plural of self-exhortation. Of these three suggestions the first is very unlikely, since the plural of majesty originated at a much later date; the second is impossible, because it would imply that the angels were co-creators with God, and that man is also created in the image of the angels, which is an un-Scriptural idea; and the third is an entirely gratuitous assumption, for which no reason can be assigned. Why should such a self-exhortation be in the plural, except for the reason that there is a plurality in God.
2. THE CREATION OF MAN WAS IN THE STRICTEST SENSE OF THE WORD AN IMMEDIATE ACT OF GOD. Some of the expressions used in the narrative preceding that of the creation of man indicate mediate creation in some sense of the word. Notice the following expressions: "And God said, Let the earth put forth grass, herbs, yielding seed, and fruit-trees bearing fruit after their kind"—"Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures" … and, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind"; and compare these with the simple statement, "And God created man." Whatever indication of mediacy in the work of creation is contained in the former expressions, is entirely wanting in the latter. Evidently the work of God in the creation of man was not mediated in any sense of the word. He did make use of pre-existent material in forming the body of man, but even this was excluded in the creation of the soul.
3. IN DISTINCTION FROM THE LOWER CREATURES MAN WAS CREATED AFTER A DIVINE TYPE. With respect to fishes, birds, and beasts we read that God created them after their kind, that is, on a typical form of their own. Man, however, was not so created and much less after the type of an inferior creature. With respect to him God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." We shall see what this implies, when we discuss the original condition of man, and merely call attention to it here, in order to bring out the fact that in the narrative of creation the creation of man stands out as something distinctive.
4. THE TWO DIFFERENT ELEMENTS OF HUMAN NATURE ARE CLEARLY DISTINGUISHED. In Gen. 2:7 a clear distinction is made between the origin of the body and that of the soul. The body was formed out of the dust of the ground; in the production of it God made use of pre-existing material. In the creation of the soul, however, there was no fashioning of pre-existing materials, but the production of a new substance. The soul of man was a new production of God in the strict sense of the word. Jehovah "breathed into his (man's) nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." In these simple words the twofold nature of man is clearly asserted, and their teaching is corroborated by other passages of Scripture, such as. Eccl. 12:7; Matt. 10:28: Luke 8:55; 2 Cor. 5:1–8; Phil. 1:22–24; Heb. 12:9. The two elements are the body and the breath or spirit of life breathed into it by God, and by the combination of the two man became "a living soul," which means in this connection simply "a living being."
5. MAN IS AT ONCE PLACED IN AN EXALTED POSITION. Man is represented as standing at the apex of all the created orders. He is crowned as king of the lower creation, and is given dominion over all the inferior creatures. As such it was his duty and privilege to make all nature and all the created beings that were placed under his rule, subservient to his will and purpose, in order that he and his whole glorious dominion might magnify the almighty Creator and Lord of the universe, Gen. 1:28; Ps. 8:4–9.
C. The Evolutionary Theory of the Origin of Man
Among the various theories that have been broached to explain the origin of man, the theory of evolution at present holds the field, and therefore deserves brief consideration.
1. STATEMENT OF THE THEORY. The theory of evolution is not always stated in the same form. It is sometimes represented as if man is a direct descendant of one of the species of anthropoid apes now in existence, and then again, as if man and the higher apes have a common ancestry. But whatever difference of opinion there may be on this point, it is certain that, according to thorough-going naturalistic evolution, man descended from the lower animals, body and soul, by a perfectly natural process, controlled entirely by inherent forces. One of the leading principles of the theory is that of strict continuity between the animal world and man. It cannot allow for discontinuity anywhere along the line, for every break is fatal to the theory. Nothing that is absolutely new and unpredictable can appear in the process. What is now found in man must have been potentially present in the original germ out of which all things developed. And the whole process must be controlled from start to finish by inherent forces. Theistic evolution, which seems more acceptable to many theologians, simply regards evolution as God's method of working. It is sometimes represented in a form in which God is merely called in to bridge the gaps between the inorganic and the organic, and between the irrational and the rational, creation. But to the extent to which a special operation of God is assumed, gaps are admitted which evolution cannot bridge, and something new is called into being, the theory naturally ceases to be a pure theory of evolution. It is sometimes held that only the body of man is derived by a process of evolution from the lower animals, and that God endowed this body with a rational soul. This view meets with considerable favor in Roman Catholic circles.
2. OBJECTIONS TO THE THEORY. Several objections can be raised against the theory of the evolutionary descent of man from the lower animals.
a. From the point of view of the theologian the greatest objection to this theory is, of course, that it is contrary to the explicit teachings of the Word of God. The Bible could hardly teach more clearly than it does that man is the product of a direct and special creative act of God, rather than of a process of development out of the simian stock of animals. It asserts that God formed man out of the dust of the ground, Gen. 2:7. Some theologians, in their eagerness to harmonize the teachings of Scripture with the theory of evolution, suggest that this may be interpreted to mean that God formed the body of man out of the body of the animals, which is after all but dust. But this is entirely unwarranted, since no reason can be assigned why the general expression "of the dust of the ground" should be used after the writer had already described the creation of the animals and might therefore have made the statement far more specific. Moreover, this interpretation is also excluded by the statement in Gen. 3:19, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground: for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." This certainly does not mean that man shall return to his former animal state. Beast and man alike return again to the dust. Eccl. 3:19, 20. Finally, we are told explicitly in 1 Cor. 15:39 that "All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts." As to the spirit of man the Bible teaches explicitly that it came directly from God, Gen. 2:7, and therefore cannot be regarded as a natural development of some previously existing substance. In perfect harmony with this Elihu says, "The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty giveth me life," Job 33:4. Furthermore, Scripture also teaches that man was at once separated from the lower creation by an enormous chasm. He at once stood on a high intellectual, moral, and religious level, as created in the image of God and was given dominion over the lower creation. Gen. 1:26, 27, 31; 2:19, 20; Ps. 8:5–8. By his fall in sin, however, he fell from his high estate and became subject to a process of degeneration which sometimes results in bestiality. This is quite the opposite of what the evolutionary hypothesis teaches us. According to it man stood on the lowest level at the beginning of his career, but slightly removed from the brute, and has been rising to higher levels ever since.
b. The second great objection is that the theory has no adequate basis in well established facts. It should be borne in mind that, as was pointed out before, the evolutionary theory in general, though often represented as an established doctrine, is up to the present time nothing but an unproved working hypothesis, and a hypothesis that has not yet given any great promise of success in demonstrating what it set out to prove. Many of the most prominent evolutionists frankly admit the hypothetical character of their theory. They still avow themselves to be firm believers in the doctrine of descent, but do not hesitate to say that they cannot speak with any assurance of its method of operation. When Darwin published his works, it was thought that the key to the process was found at last, but in course of time it was found that the key did not fit the lock. Darwin truly said that his theory depended entirely on the possibility of transmitting acquired characteristics, and it soon became one of the corner-stones of Weismann's biological theory that acquired characteristics are not inherited. His opinion received abundant confirmation by the later study of genetics. On the basis of the assumed transmission of acquired characteristics, Darwin spoke with great assurance of the transmutation of species and envisaged a continuous line of development from the primordial cell to man; but the experiments of De Vries, Mendel, and others tended to discredit his view. The gradual and imperceptible changes of Darwin made place for the sudden and unexpected mutations of De Vries. While Darwin assumed endless variation in several directions, Mendel pointed out that the variations or mutations never take the organism outside of the species and are subject to a definite law. And modern cytology in its study of the cell, with its genes and chromosones as the carriers of the inherited characters, confirmed this idea. The so-called new species of the evolutionists were proved to be no true species at all, but only varietal species, that is varieties of the same species. Nordenskioeld in his History of Biology quotes the following sentence from a popular account of the results of heredity research, as reflecting the true state of affairs: "For the very reason of the great number of facts that modern heredity-research has brought to light, chaos prevails at present in regard to the views on the formation of species," p. 613. Prominent evolutionists now frankly admit that the origin of species is a complete mystery to them. And as long as that is so, there is not much chance of their explaining the origin of man.
Darwin in his attempt to prove the descent of man from a species of anthropoid apes relied on (1) the argument from the structural similarity between man and the higher animals; (2) the embryological argument; and (3) the argument from rudimentary organs. To these three were added later on, (4) the argument derived from blood tests; and (5) the palaeontological argument. But none of these arguments furnish the desired proof. The argument from structural likeness unwarrantably assumes that the similarity can be explained in only one way. Yet it can very well be accounted for by the assumption that God in creating the animal world made certain typical forms basic throughout, so as to have unity in variety, just as a great musician builds up his mighty composition on a single theme, which is repeated time and again, and at each repetition introduces new variations. The principle of preformation gives an adequate explanation of the similarities under consideration. The embryological similarity, such as it is, can be explained on the same principle. Moreover recent biological studies would seem to indicate that no structural similarity but only a genetic relationship can prove affinity or descent. As far as the rudimentary organs are concerned, more than one scientist has expressed doubt as to their vestigial character. Instead of being the useless remains of animal organs, it may very well be that they serve a definite purpose in the human organism. The blood tests in their original form, while pointing to a certain likeness between the blood of animals and man, do not prove genetic relationship, since in these tests only part of the blood, the sterile serum which contains no living matter, was used, while it is an established fact that the solid portion of the blood, containing the red and white cells, is the carrier of hereditary factors. Later tests, in which the spectroscope was called into use and the entire blood was examined, proved conclusively that there is an essential difference between the blood of animals and that of man. The palaeontological argument is equally inconclusive. If man really descended from the anthropoid apes, it might be expected that the intermediate forms would be in existence somewhere. But Darwin was not able to find this missing link any more than the thousands of missing links between the various species of animals. We are told that the early progenitors of man have long since died out. This being so, it was still possible that they might be found among the fossil remains. And to-day scientists actually claim that they have found some bones of very ancient men. They have reconstructed these men for us, and we can now enjoy looking at the imaginary photos of the reconstructed Java man (Pithecanthropus erectus), the Heidelberg man (Homo Heidelbergensis, the Neanderthal man (Homo Neanderthalensis), the Cro-Magnon, the Piltdown man, and others. These reconstructions seem to be taken seriously by some, but really have very little value. Since only a few bones were found of each, and even these were scattered in some cases, so that it is not certain that they belong to the same body, they merely testify to the ingenuity of the scientists who reconstructed them. In some cases the specialists are by no means agreed as to whether the bones in question belonged to a man or to an animal. Dr. Wood, professor of anatomy in the University of London, says in a booklet on the Ancestry of Man: "I find no occupation less worthy of the science of Anthropology than the not unfashionable business of modelling, painting, or drawing these nightmare pictures of the imagination, and lending them in the process, an utterly false value of apparent reality." Fleming, one of the most prominent present day scientists, says: "The upshot of it all is that we cannot arrange all the known fossil remains of supposed 'man' in a lineal series gradually advancing in type or form from that of any anthropoid ape, or other mammal, up to the modern and now existing types of true man. Any supposition or statement that it can be done, and is true, is certainly incorrect. It is certainly misleading and unspeakably pernicious to put forward in popular magazines or other publications read by children pictures of gorillas or chimpanzees labelled 'Man's cousin' or 'Man's nearest relative,' or to publish perfectly imaginary and grotesque pictures of a supposed 'Java man' with brutish face as an ancestor of modern man, as is occasionally done. Those who do such things are guilty of ignorance or deliberate misrepresentation. Neither is it justifiable for preachers in the pulpit to tell their congregations that there is general agreement among scientific men as to the evolutionary origin of Man from an animal ancestor." But the body of man does not even present the greatest difficulties to the evolutionist. These arise from the consideration of the spiritual element in man, or what is usually called "the origin of mind." It is at this point that his helplessness becomes most painfully apparent. In spite of all his attempts, he has signally failed to give a plausible explanation of the origin of the human mind, or intelligence (progressiveness), language, conscience, and religion. This might be pointed out in detail, but we do not deem it necessary. There are many who, like Dennert and Batison, still profess to believe in the doctrine of descent, but disown the Darwinian method of evolution and regard it as a well-nigh complete failure. Yet they know of no other method which might take its place. This means that for them evolution has ceased to be a science, and has become once more a mere philosophical theory. Batison said: "We read his (Darwin's) scheme of evolution as we would those of Lucretius or of Lamarck.… We are just about where Boyle was in the seventeenth century." The testimony of Dr. D. H. Scott is very similar. In a presidential address before the British Association for the Advancement of Science he made the following statements: "All is again in the melting-pot.… Is evolution, then, not a scientifically established fact? No, it is not … It is an act of faith—because there is no alternative." Creation, of course, is not to be thought of. He further said that there is in natural science "a return to pre-Darwinian chaos." Dr. Fleischmann of Erlangen writes: "The Darwinian theory has not a single fact to support it … is purely the product of the imagination." Even stronger is the assertion of Dr. B. Kidd: "Darwinism is a compound of astonishing presumption and incomparable ignorance." Such scientists as Fleming, Dawson, Kelly, and Price do not hesitate to reject the theory of evolution and to accept the doctrine of creation. Respecting the origin of man, Sir William Dawson says: "I know nothing about the origin of man, except what I am told in the Scripture—that God created him. I do not know anything more than that, and I do not know of anyone who does." Fleming says: "All that science can say at present in the light of definitely ascertained and limited human knowledge is that it does not know, and has no certain proof how, where, and when man was originated. If any true knowledge of it is to come to us, it must come from some source other than present modern anthropology."2
D. The Origin of Man and the Unity of the Race
1. SCRIPTURE TESTIMONY TO THE UNITY OF THE RACE. Scripture teaches that the whole human race descended from a single pair. This is the obvious sense of the opening chapters of Genesis. God created Adam and Eve as the beginning of the human species, and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth. Moreover, the subsequent narrative in Genesis clearly shows that the following generations down to the time of the flood stood in unbroken genetic relation with the first pair, so that the human race constitutes not only a specific unity, a unity in the sense that all men share the same human nature, but also a genetic or genealogical unity. This is also taught by Paul in Acts 17:26, "And God made of one every nation of man to dwell on all the face of the earth." The same truth is basic to the organic unity of the human race in the first transgression, and of the provision for the salvation of the race in Christ, Rom. 5:12, 19; 1 Cor. 15:21, 22. This unity of the race is not to be understood realistically, as it is represented by Shedd, who says: "Human nature is a specific or general substance created in and with the first individuals of a human species, which is not yet individualized, but which by ordinary generation is subdivided into parts, and those parts are formed into distinct and separate individuals of the species. The one specific substance, by propagation, is metamorphosed into millions of individual substances, or persons. An individual is a fractional part of human nature separated from the common mass, and constituted a particular person, having all the essential properties of human nature." The objections to this view will be stated in another connection.
2. THE TESTIMONY OF SCIENCE TO THE UNITY OF THE RACE. Science in various ways confirms the testimony of Scripture as to the unity of the human race. Scientific men have not always believed in this. The ancient Greeks had their theory of autochtonism, to the effect that men sprang from the earth by a sort of spontaneous generation, a theory that has no solid foundation whatever, since spontaneous generation has never been proved but rather discredited. Agassiz propounded the theory of the Coadamites, which assumes that there were different centers of creation. As early as 1655 Peyrerius developed the theory of the Preadamites, which proceeds on the assumption that there were men before Adam was created. This theory was revived by Winchell, who did not deny the unity of the race, but regarded Adam as the first ancestor of the Jews rather than as the head of the human race. And in recent years Fleming, without being dogmatic in the matter, says that there are reasons to assume that there were inferior races of man preceding the appearance of Adam on the scene about 5500 B.C. While inferior to the Adamites, they already had powers distinct from those of the animals. The later Adamic man was endowed with greater and nobler powers and probably destined to bring the whole of the other existing humanity into allegiance to the Creator. He failed to preserve his own allegiance to God, and therefore God provided for the coming of a descendant who was human and yet far more than man, in order that He might accomplish what the Adamic man failed to do. The view which Fleming has been led to hold is "that the unquestionably Caucasian branch is alone the derivation by normal generation from the Adamic race, namely, from the God-worshipping members of the Adamic race which survived the flood—Noah and his sons and daughters." But these theories, one and all, find no support in Scripture, and are contrary to Acts 17:26 and to all that the Bible teaches concerning the apostasy and deliverance of man. Moreover, science presents several arguments in favor of the unity of the human race, such as:
a. The argument from history. The traditions of the race of men point decisively to a common origin and ancestry in Central Asia. The history of the migrations of man tends to show that there has been a distribution from a single center.
b. The argument from philology. The study of the languages of mankind indicates a common origin. The Indo-Germanic languages are traced to a common primitive tongue, an old remnant of which still exists in the Sanskrit language. Moreover, there is evidence which goes to show that the old Egyptian is the connecting link between the Indo-European and the Semitic tongue.
c. The argument from psychology. The soul is the most important part of the constitutional nature of man, and psychology clearly reveals the fact that the souls of all men, to whatever tribes or nations they may belong, are essentially the same. They have in common the same animal appetites, instincts, and passions, the same tendencies and capacities, and above all the same higher qualities, the mental and moral characteristics that belong exclusively to man.
d. The argument from natural science or physiology. It is now the common judgment of comparative physiologists that the human race constitutes but a single species. The differences that exist between the various families of mankind are regarded simply as varieties of this one species. Science does not positively assert that the human race descended from a single pair, but nevertheless demonstrates that this may have been the case and probably is.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY: What can be said against the view that we have in Gen. 1 and 2 two different and more or less contradictory accounts of creation? Does it seem reasonable to think that the world existed millions of years before man appeared on the scene? Is the hypothesis of theistic evolution in harmony with the Scriptural account of the origin of man? Is the notion that the body of man at least is derived from the animals tenable in the light of Scripture? Has evolution established its case on this point? What has it proved in connection with the far more difficult question of the derivation of the human soul? What becomes of the doctrine of the fall in the theory of evolution? What is the theological significance of the doctrine of the unity of the human race?
From Systematic Theology, Berkhof, L. (1938).