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Christian Beliefs about Human Nature

Fundamental to the Christian understanding of human nature is the belief that the first humans were created in the image of God (imago Dei). This derives from Genesis 1:26-27, which declares:

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

What does it mean to be created in the image of God? Certainly it does not mean that humans look like God, for all monotheistic religions believe God to be incorporeal (nonphysical). But theologians have found in this doctrine a rich variety of other meanings, all of which give great dignity and honor to the human race.

Closely related to the imago Dei is the belief that humans were created perfectly good, on which Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are agreed. The concept of original goodness is based in part on humanity's creation in the image of God, as well as the observation that God looked upon his creation of human beings with satisfaction and pronounced them "very good." {1} There is a philosophical basis as well: it is reasoned that since God is absolutely good, he cannot be the origin of anything evil.

A Fallen Nature

Christianity teaches, however, that humankind has fallen from this original state of innocence. The disobedience of Adam and Eve brought negative results that endure to this day. The most widely agreed upon result is the entrance of physical death into the world. {2} Beyond that, Christians views differ as to the effect Adam's sin had on the rest of humanity. Most have taught that when Adam fell and was cast from the Garden of Eden, permanent damage was done to the human soul such that every human being since Adam is born with a tendency towards sin.

In addition, sin is universal: every human being {3} has fulfilled the inborn tendency and actually committed sins. This concept begins in the New Testament with the Apostle Paul, who declared that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. there is no one who is righteous, not even one."

Original Sin

Some Christians have also taught the doctrine of "original sin," in which all humans are born not only with a predisposition to sinful behavior, but with an inherently sinful nature. The result is that every person is born deserving eternal damnation, whether or not they have actually committed a sin yet.

The doctrine of original sin has been especially emphasized by St. Augustine and most of the Protestant Reformers; it is rejected by Jews, Muslims, and some Christian denominations.

References

  1. Genesis 1:31.
  2. Pelagius, a contemporary of Augustine who was declared a heretic, is a notable exception. He taught that physical death would have occured even if Adam had not sinned.
  3. Except Jesus, and in Catholicism, Mary also.

Article Info

Title Christian Beliefs about Human Nature
URL www.religionfacts.com/christianity/human-nature
Short URLrlft.co/1508
Published
UpdatedNovember 26, 2016
MLA Citation“Christian Beliefs about Human Nature.” ReligionFacts.com. 26 Nov. 2016. Web. Accessed 22 Jan. 2017. <www.religionfacts.com/christianity/human-nature>

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