The Meaning of Life: Who Are We?

In our quest for the meaning of life we now address our second great question: Who are we?

Of all the creatures in the animal kingdom, we humans are unique. We know who we are. And we can stand outside ourselves and marvel about the fact that we do. We can create art and music and poetry that lifts the hearts of our brethren to the highest of heights. We can build complex machines that themselves can build complex machines. We have sent rockets to the moon. We have plumbed the depths of the ocean. And we have created such death, destruction, and chaos that we recoil in horror at ourselves. Indeed, we have the ability to destroy ourselves and every other living thing—if the One who made the world would ever allow it. And he won’t, unless it’s in his plan and timing.

We can even ponder how we came to be and why we’re here. No other creature is able to do this. Thus we have the ability to worship our Creator and serve Him. And we can write symphonies in his honor and build massive cathedrals to worship him in.

What monkey or dog can say the same?

What is the biblical answer to who we are? It’s this:

Genesis 1:26–27 (NLT): 26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us… 27 Creation-hands-LSo God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

And that is why we are who we are, unique among all life on earth. We are similar to God, with some of His characteristics. To delve a bit deeper, I have borrowed the following list from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology:

  1. Morality. We were given the Moral Law. Every person is born knowing right from wrong, good from evil. This “law” did not come from society. It is innate to our character, and it came only from a superior moral being.
  2. Spiritual Aspects. We are immortal. When our physical bodies die, we will live on in one of two spiritual realms, heaven or hell. We are spiritual because we can know who God is. We can worship him. We can receive a part of God, the Holy Spirit, within us.
  3. Reasoning. Our minds can understand great complexity and solve multifaceted problems. We can reason and think logically. We can discuss abstract concepts at great length and philosophize, something no animal can do.
  4. We are aware of the future. Unlike all other animals, only man can plan for and ponder what will happen in one, three, or twenty years.
  5. Creativity. Witness Handel’s “Messiah”, Michaelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Gutzon Borglum’s sculpture of Mount Rushmore, and Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
  6. Emotions. We have a complexity of emotions like no other animal. We can love and hate, forgive and begrudge. We can experience the heights of joy and the depths of sadness. And we can do all this untethered to the external stimulus needed to precipitate similar, but less complex emotions in animals.
  7. Relationships. We can relate to others like no other creature. Some animals have a sense of community and bonding, but not like that of a human family, when it follows God’s plan for the marriage of one man and one woman. Certainly not like the relationships we can have in a church of believers. We can even have a relationship to the Creator himself.
  8. Communication. We can communicate through spoken and written language, just as God has communicated with us. The very fact I’m able to write this blog shows this characteristic we inherited from God’s image.

There is much more to how we are created in God’s image. But here we have enough to begin to answer the question: Who are we?

In the next post we’ll talk about another important aspect we received from God, one that got us in a heap of trouble—free will.