The Book Corner
The Christian View of Man. By H. D. McDonald. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1981. 149 pp.
This is the kind of book that I like; the proper combination of biblical exposition and historical theology can be very stimulating and really give a good perspective when studying a particular biblical doctrine. This is an excellent treatment of a crucial and neglected area.
Part I deals with the biblical teaching concerning man and consists of three chapters treating the gospel narratives, the apostolic writings (the rest of the New Testament), and the Old Testament view of man in that order. This reader found the author’s positive approach to be very refreshing. Conservative Christians are often so zealous to emphasize the depravity of man in his fallen state, that we have a tendency to neglect the very important biblical truth that man, as originally created by God — man as God intended him to be — was a magnificent being. We so very badly need this biblical perspective of man when there are so many eastern and pagan influences around which have such negative views of humanity.
The Bible certainly projects a positive view of the significance, value, and dignity of human existence. Man was created in the image and after the likeness of God (Gen. 1:26) and was crowned with glory and honor (Psalm 8:5). This truth in no way conflicts with the doctrine of total depravity; in fact, it is man’s greatness as a special creature of God that makes the predicament of sin all the more tragic and scandalous. Man was the ultimate creation of God; thus, man’s fall into sin was the ultimate tragedy that could befall the created order. The seriousness of sin is bound up with the goodness and greatness of man as initially created by God.
It is crucial that we understand that sin “is a foreign element, an intrusion” (p. 6) into human nature; our most basic definition of man should not include the sin nature! Thus the predicament that man finds himself in is not hopeless; there is a real possibility for redemption from the terrible reality of sin and for becoming genuinely and fully “human” again.
One unique and very important aspect of the biblical view of man is the emphasis on the essential goodness of the created order in general and man’s physical existence in particular (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). This is in contrast with the very negative view of the material realm and the physical aspect of man’s being that is projected by the eastern religions and the occult philosophies of our day and also the Gnosticism and Greek philosophies of apostolic times.
Another vital truth is the balance that is struck in the Old Testament between man’s likeness to God (Gen. 1:26, 27) and at the same time the very important distinction between God and man (the Creator/creature distinction). “Throughout the Old Testament there is emphasis on God’s otherness from man, a contrast set up between him as creator and man as creature” (p. 33). This is a unique biblical teaching; virtually every philosophy or religion produced by man in some way or another denies the Creator/creature distinction that is so vital to a proper view of reality.
Part 2 surveys the development of this particular area of doctrine in the history of the church through Reformation times. This is valuable material which gives the serious student real insight and perspective into the various issues and their importance. Those who teach and preach will find much here to enliven the teaching of doctrine. Part 3 is a discussion of modern issues and controversies and gives a stimulating interaction with other competing views of man such as liberal Christianity, evolutionism, existentialism, Freudianism, communism, and humanism.
—Stan F. Vaninger