“It is dangerous to explain too clearly to man how like he is to the animals without pointing out his greatness. It is also dangerous to make too much of his greatness without his vileness. It is still more dangerous to leave him in ignorance of both, but it is most valuable to represent both to him. Man must not be allowed to believe that he is equal either to animals or to angels, nor to be unaware of either, but he must know both.”Pascal, Pensees, 121.
“‘Man is not like a balloon, floating free in the sky, nor like a mole, burrowing in the earth, but like a tree, with its roots firmly planted in the earth and its branches reaching up to the heavens.'”Chesterton, quoted in Kreeft, Christianity, 52
Knowing our place in the creative order is super important. The Bible presents humans as being created below the angels and above the animals.
The Fall–the rebellion in the Garden of Eden–is presented as a coup d’etat. A rebel angel comes down, takes the form of an animal (a snake), and tempts the humans to be like God. No one is where they belong. Chaos ensues.
Worldviews that claim that humans are merely advanced animals are too simple. Worldviews that argue that we are pure spirits trapped in human bodies are too simple.
We are embodied souls. We are soulified bodies. We are image bearers of God and glorious. But we are also rebels who have distorted the image, and regularly degrade our own dignity and that of those around us.
Christianity proclaims a seeming paradox: That we are, at the same time, worse than we thought, yet more glorious than we could ever imagine. Oxymorons. Contradictions. Glorious Wretches. Wretched Glories.
This paradox is resolved in the Good News (The Gospel): That a perfect God/Man, Jesus Christ came to earth 2000 years ago; through his life, death, and resurrection, he takes our wretchedness on himself, kills it, and then gives us His perfection in return. He promises this to us as a free gift to be accepted by faith.
It’s tremendously liberating!
On the one hand, we can be honest about the fact of the evil that dwells within us. We don’t have to pretend to ourselves and others that we are perfect against so much contrary evidence. We are free to say, “I was wrong. Please forgive me. Let’s be friends.”
And on the other hand, we don’t have to live in fear and shame without hope. We don’t have to lie about the beauty we see within ourselves–and the beauty we experience in others. Because that’s all reflective of God. We are free to say, “You’re beautiful, your work is transcendent. I see God in you. Let’s be friends.”