What is “Human?”

“We’re all human – so we all make mistakes, right?” I’ve heard so many people ask this, and have likely asked it myself.

What does this mean given that God created us to be human?  If it is human to make mistakes, and God created us human, then does it follow that God created us to make mistakes?

  1. Humans (by definition?) makes mistakes.  This does not necessarily mean that God designed us with the intent that we make mistakes, but at least with the ability to make mistakes.  Thus, it would be more accurate to say that God created us with the ability to make mistakes than that God created us in order that we might make mistakes.
  2. We often do ourselves (as the human race) a great disservice in condemning the whole lot of us as imperfect in that we are unlike God.  We make this tautological: God is perfect, we are not, therefore we cannot be like God (though God wants us to) because we are not perfect like God is.
  3. One hast to wonder to what extent God has created us in the image of God, yet (obviously) not just/exactly like God.

Here’s my take:  Though we are created in the image of God, we are not God, nor are we  (or were we ever) intended to become gods or god-like.   Whatever the imago dei means, it doesn’t mean that we lose our humanness.  If humanness includes the ability, even the propensity to make mistakes, then to be the perfect human doesn’t preclude mistakenness.

How, then, do we keep this from being a cop-out to allownig the transforming power of God to actually make a difference in our lives over time?

Perhaps it is important to understand the difference between “sin” and “mistake.”

More on that at another time.

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5 thoughts on “What is “Human?”

  1. That “imperfection” take on basic human performance is old enough and widely enough perceived that it’s used in Wheelock’s Latin text (if I remember rightly): Errare est humanum.

    It is comforting that when we recognize something as a defect (either by our reckoning or someone elses) to know that we can give God the credit (blame). It’s not my fault I do/am X – God made me that way. Since God made me that way, it’s (a) ok, and (b) god understands.

    It is a descriptive truth that humans are imperfect – that errare est humanum. But I don’t think a careful reader of scripture will take it as a normative truth about humans. That we who are made in the image of God sin – that we fail – is a tragedy, not the plan.

  2. We err when we classify mistakes as sin … or sin as mistakes … according to Thompson (BTW, that’s me, not the Bible chain-link thingie).

    Perfectionistic people tend to flagellate themselves for mistakes as if they were sin … although they also tend to be more forgiving of others in the same situation. I find this to be a kind of backwards pride — I am capable of doing everything perfectly, but you’re not, so it’s OK when you fail.

    Grace is the space God creates for us to practice holiness … and PRACTICE it is, because none of us are masters of it. By definition, grace is the space created so that we can make mistakes and try again.

  3. I’m not saying sin = mistake. I’m wondering if there might be a class of things called mistakes that aren’t at the same level as all things classified “sin.”

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