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On Becoming Human

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Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1.26)

Three Ideas to Ponder on Becoming Human…

There’s a saying you’ve probably heard: God’s not finished with me yet. What if that were actually true species wide? What if the creating God began in Genesis 1 is still ongoing? Perhaps the whole of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is a creation story pointing towards the goal to be accomplished far in the future: to give birth to the human. So, this short post is just a brain twister, the kind of thing I think about late at night.

Here are the three ideas:

1. We are not human yet…

To be human is an aspiration, not a present reality. Think about this word, inhumane. It means “not human like.” Why do we even have a word that expresses the negation of what we are? When a lion makes a kill, we don’t think, how inlione. That’s just not lion like. When they maul another animal, they’re acting according to their nature. But when we are inhumane, are we acting according to our nature or contradicting it? Whichever way you answer, the result  is pretty scary. We are both “human like” and “not human like.” Perhaps somewhen down the road we will actually become human.

What do you think? Chime in on our survey below.

2. Neither are we human beings

Every now and then I’ll hear someone say, we’re not human doings, we’re human beings. Probably they’re trying to emphasize our identity, the priority of who we are, over our works, the value of what we do. However, this term human being doesn’t sit well either.  We don’t have “being” in and of ourselves. We’re not immortal “beings.” The term human creature is closer. Whether you’re a theist or not, you recognize that humans had a beginning.  Whether through an act of God or through naturally occurring evolutionary forces or both,  we came into existence. We are creatures just like all the other life forms that populate the eco system.

3. We are human becomings

Still even human creature sticks a little. How can we emphasize our creatureliness and the fact that we are not yet human? We are human becomings. We had a beginning and we are on a journey towards that which we aspire to be: human. We are a story in the middle of the telling. There is value both in what we aspire to “be” and what we “do.” Both are necessary for “becoming.”

So rejoice. God is indeed not yet finished with you. And, as I’ve often said, Jesus did not come to make the world Christian. We can set our sights higher. He came to make it (and us) human.

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5 thoughts on “On Becoming Human”

  1. So, Alex, as I ponder your ponderings, I acknowledge that the premise from which I begin my argument will no doubt determine my conclusions. I recognize that though God made us in His “image and likeness,” He clearly also made us something other than gods, as it would appear patently obvious that we are not that. The only obvious identity then that the Creation Story attributes to mankind is that the Bible says when God breathed into man, man became a living soul–in the original language, a breathing creature. (Genesis 2:7)

    To be human, on the other hand, carries with it the connotation of characteristics and qualities. Interestingly enough, in every definition of the word ‘human’ which I found, the word is defined using itself. For instance Merriam-Webster says: of, relating to, characteristics of humans. The adjective itself simply says: of, relating to, or affecting people. With such a nebulous description, it’s probably debatable whether or not we’ve fully become human, or for that matter whether human being, or human creature are terms aptly describing this ‘condition’ of becoming.

    From this perspective then, when we use the word inhumane, it suggests that we are acting outside of the defined characteristics and qualities that culture and society have qualified as being human. When cannibals on a remote island made it a habit to eat each other, none of them thought they were being inhumane because thats what they all did. New cultural norms and characteristics would appear to constantly be moving the goal post on what it means to be human. So, in the context of that cannibalistic culture, a more ‘evolved’ culture looking in from the outside, would probably describe them as barbaric and inhumane in their behavior.

    By the same token, through observation, we’ve come to expect the lion to savage its prey, which is why when that happens on NatGeo, we cheer for the lion and say it’s the natural order of things. However, if a lion, rather than hunt stealthily, cowered in fear every time it encountered a deer, we’d definitely suggest that it was being ‘unlionlike.’

    When humans on the other hand, savage each other, we say it’s inhumane because our expectations of human characteristics and qualities (especially in light of the teachings of Scripture) don’t include savaging one another. But this is becoming too long winded, so let me say, for the sake of brevity (may be too late for that) that I agree that God is not finished with us yet, but maybe in a somewhat different sense than your conclusion.

    1. Joseph, Thanks for your thoughts. I wanted to clarify at the start that when watching NatGeo, I cheer for the prey animal. :)

      Yes, lions do not act ‘unlionlike’ so we don’t have a word for it. If it did happen, we would consider it very unusual behavior. But humans so regularly hurt others that we have the word “inhumane”. Even in scripture, humans are inhumane, depending on how one understands the teachings. In fact, depending on one’s interpretations, God is at time portrayed as inhumane.

      It is, as you write, “our expectations” that are the riddle! Why would we expect anything other than what we are? We are tied between the human and inhuman. I wonder if, as we continue to emerge from the dust of the ground under God’s artistic care, our evolution is parallel to (but not synonymous with) our becoming human. How’s that for spiritual formation?

      Thanks again.

      1. Alex, it doesn’t at all surprise me that you cheer for the prey. As a matter of record, so do I , but empirical data suggests that the majority of people cheer for the lion. I agree with, and more clearly understand your position in light of your further explanation. It is indeed our expectations that create the conundrum as evidence suggests that we are indeed living between the human and inhumane. In that context, it makes excellent sense that God would call us not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. I imagine it is that process that is synonymous with our spiritual evolution as we become more human.

  2. “everything is a commentary of a commentary of the world.” – paraphrasing Derrida

    Everything is transitory products of our transitory wishes and desires – Rorty

    The gap between the I and the world is unconquerable; the subject cannot escape itself to touch the objective world – Levinas

    Truth has its own history – Foucault

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