Just Another Animal?
by Phillip Eichman, Gallipolis, Ohio

Whether it is the Human Genome Project or some other scientific report, the media constantly reminds us that we, as humans, are merely animals. Certainly, humans are considered a higher evolved species, but still just another animal. Most Christians, on the other hand, believe that humans are a special creation and separate, at least in some ways, from the rest of the animal kingdom. In order to better understand our status as human beings, let us look at two important passages regarding the creation of humans.

The first of these is Genesis 2:7, which reads: "...the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being (NIV)." This passage teaches first of all that humans were formed of the "the dust of the ground." Our physical bodies are formed of the same materials as the earth and other living things. The elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus, for example, are the same as those elements which make up animals, plants, other living things, and even the nonliving parts of the physical universe. As humans, our bodies are a part of the earth and made up of the same materials as the rest of the universe.

The passage also teaches that, when God formed the first human being, God "...breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." In some versions, the last part of the verse is translated as "living soul (KJV, ASV)." This has led some to see this as a reference to a spiritual part of our human nature (a soul) rather than a physical part. The term breath of life, however, is also used in reference to other animals as well (see Genesis 7:21-22, for example). Thus, the breath of life is not unique to humans. The breath of life appears to be that which gives physical life and makes our physical bodies alive in the same way in which another animals are alive. We might think of this as biological life. This is also that part of our human nature that ceases to exist in physical or biological death.

Our physical bodies are thus made up of the same elements as other livings things and also share with them the breath of life that God breathed into the first man. It should not surprise us then that our physical bodies are so similar to other animals. The chemical, cellular, and physiological processes, even the genetic code itself, are all very similar to what has been found in animals and other living things. This does not make us any less human, however, but does make us a part of the biological world that God created.

The second passage that we want to notice is Genesis 1:26-27, which reads: "Then God said, `Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them have rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created man in his image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them (NIV)."

It is the image and likeness of God in which the first human was created that sets us apart from the rest of the creation, including the animal kingdom. Peterson translated verse 27 in an interesting way: "God created human beings; he created them godlike, reflecting God's nature. He created them male and female (The Message)." God-like expresses a meaning similar to image and reminds us that we are like and do reflect God's nature in many ways. These are the characteristics which make us human.

Of all the animals that have ever lived on the earth, only humans bear this image and likeness of the Creator. We share many things with the biological world, but the image of God distinctly separates humans from other living things. There is something different about human beings. Francis Schaeffer called it mannishness. Perhaps humanness is a better term. Humans have a personality and spirituality that are not found in other animals. To be like God and made in His image is a tremendous blessing but also carries with it a great deal of responsibility. As humans, we are responsible for our actions, responsible for how we treat others, and most importantly, responsible for our relationship with God, our Creator.

Yes, humans are animals, but much more. We share much with the physical and biological world around us, but most important of all, we also bear the image of the Creator God. It is this image that makes us truly human and gives us our proper place in the creation.

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