Our View of Man

A philosophy that is popular among many in our day says, “Love yourself, esteem yourself, believe in yourself.” Some have gone so far to suggest that the greatest need of the human race is to build self-esteem.

One Christian writer says, “…the human being is a glorious, dignified creature with infinite value,” and another, “God wants us to see ourselves as his gift to the world.” Such thinking is a far cry from the teaching of Scripture and what can be found in Christian writings of the past.

A Depraved Humanity

Horatius Bonar, author of God’s Way of Peace says:

“In all unbelief there are two things—a good opinion of self and a bad opinion of God. So long as these things exist, it is impossible for an inquirer to find rest. His good opinion of himself makes him think it quite possible to win God’s favor by his own religious performances…The object of the Holy Spirit’s work, in convicting of sin, is to alter the sinner’s opinion of himself, and so to reduce his estimate of his own character that he shall think of himself as God does…”

Nineteenth century preacher James H. Oliphant writes:

“The nature, extent and degree of human depravity is a subject of the first importance. We cannot have a correct understanding of the remedy unless we fully understand the disease. No effort is necessary to prove that sin exists among us, but the power that it possesses to control men and women, the deep-seated hold it has in the human heart and affections, are what but few understand. For one to know the real evil of his own heart is sure to be attended with humility and distrust of self.”

I once talked to a man who had gone for professional counseling in an effort to overcome an addiction. I was interested to know what counsel he had been given. He said, “The most significant thing I was told is that I must believe in myself.” I said, “Well, it appears to me that is what got you in trouble to start with. The solution to your problem is not to believe in yourself but to believe in Jesus Christ who is able to give you strength to overcome the weakness of your nature."

The fact is, it is impossible to have a correct view of one’s self, and consequently a correct worldview, without the proper view of God.

When God is seen as he is presented in his Word, the proper view of man will follow.

When Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up and heard the chorus of the seraphims sing, “Holy, holy, holy” he said “Woe is me! for I am undone” (6:1ff). Getting a glimpse of God’s greatness and holiness puts man in his proper place.

God’s Word declares explicitly that man is a sinner by nature. He is born with a sinful nature. “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3). He is sinful by practice. “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:3).

A Proud Culture

But in spite of these plain passages many in their pride reject the testimony of God’s Word and attempt to build a better image for man.

One Christian author, Anthony A. Hoekema, criticizes Isaac Watts’ hymn Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed? because it speaks of “such a worm as I.” He says, “this hymn could convey to many people a quite unflattering self-image.” Some churches have removed the line, “that saved a wretch like me” from John Newton’s well-loved hymn Amazing Grace.

The Barna Group did a nationwide study to discover how many people have a biblical worldview. Among the questions used were these: Do you believe that absolute moral truth exists? That the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches? That a person cannot earn their way into heaven by trying to be good or in doing good works?

According to the survey only 9% of all American adults have a biblical worldview. Of those who claimed to be “born again” Christians, and said they were certain they were going to Heaven when they die, only 19% had a biblical worldview.

How sad to see so many in this day who profess to hold to the Christian faith being influenced by the philosophy of the culture in which they live.

Humanistic thinking obviously has a strong appeal to human nature. As a result of man’s depravity he is already encouraged to think highly of himself and so when he is told he needs to focus on esteeming himself more highly yet, he is happy to go along with the concept.

A Unique Religion

Accepting what the Bible says about man provides a worldview that differs from the view of every other religion.

Jeff Baldwin writes in his book The Deadliest Monster: “Though many religions outwardly appear similar to Christianity, they are fundamentally different from Christianity…No other worldview can possibly accept the Christian contention that man is a desperate sinner who can do nothing to save himself. Every other worldview—including Islam, including Mormonism—believes, at bottom, that man if not perfect is at least ‘good enough’ to save himself.”

Baldwin continues, “Is there any other religion that says to man what Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9…Does any other religion tell man that he is so rebellious that none of his works will save him?…The Christian view of the world, and indeed of all reality, is radically different than every other view of the world.”

Dr. Dell Tackett writes: “A biblical worldview is based on the infallible Word of God. When you believe the Bible is entirely true, then you allow it to be the foundation of everything you say and do.” How important then that we are careful not to be influenced by the popular thinking of our time but to rely fully on the authority of God’s Word.

What you believe about God is an integral part of your worldview and what you believe about God will determine what you believe about man.

Man is a fallen sinner, at enmity against God, unable to save or help save himself.

But the good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ came to save sinners and reconcile men to God who were his enemies. If you by faith have come to rest in Jesus Christ as your Savior, it is evidence that you have been rescued by his grace.

Recommended Resources: A Worldview Weekend, The Authority of Jesus, What Is the Christian Gospel?, and the Worldview and Ethics section of our Resource Center.