Essentials Blue, Week 3: To be human…

January 31, 2009

For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

So, our question to ponder this week was, “What Does it Mean to be Human?”  I know, leave it to theology teachers to keep it simple.  It’s a fair question, I suppose.  Job asked it, when he wished that he could have been a lesser animal so that God (Satan actually, unbeknown to Job) would have left his life alone (Job 7:17-19).

I’ve had a number of conversations in recent days with persons from all ranges of the faith spectrum who asked “how dare we ascribe ourselves [human beings] this universal greatness that we feel, by our mere existence, we deserve?”  The basic presumption among these folks is that, at best, we’re lucky animals, the product of a good spin of the evolutionary wheel of fortune. At worst, we [humanity] are a virus to the earth that could probably stand to be thinned out a bit for the good of the world (twice in the last month, I have heard that exact “virus” sentiment from separate people).

So, I have to ask myself, what about the human being is truly unique? And if I believe, as I do, that we are different, somehow, than the animals that roam the earth (like the dog that roams my kitchen) or the cancers that destroy our bodies, then how do I account for that belief?

Many things struck me about the course materials this week. We read a lengthy article on celebration that captured the human triumphant spirit [1].  But celebration isn’t unique to humanity. The staff at our dog’s daycare facility (yes, our dog does enjoy the occasional day of doggie daycare) will tell you that they have rarely seen celebration like that of our dog when my wife comes to pick him up. He makes new sounds and dances every time they are reunited. [2]

Communication and relationships aren’t necessarily human functions either [3]. But what has most struck me this week is our unique ability as subcreators [4], who are ultimately charged to use our creativity for the betterment of the world. Dan Wilt and Ed Gentry spoke at length about the call to “right-relatedness” [5]. We have the unique place on earth to not only relate to God, each other, animals, the soil, quite literally everything. But human beings contain the potential to render each of those relationships to beauty, tragedy or even the redemption from tragedy.

Ed says
“Our welfare as humans is tied up very tightly to the welfare of the planet.”

Certainly, a swarm of locusts can have far-ranging effects on a local (and perhaps, in theory, a global) ecosystem. But they can’t consciously maintain or repair those effects. Locusts do as locusts are programmed to do, for good or for bad. But humans, we have nearly the full range of destructive or redemptive power in our relations with our ecosystem as the God who created it and turned it over to his subcreators. The same applies to our human-to-human relationships. We can destroy or beautify our interconnected lives, all according to our God-given use of creativity.

All of this has huge implications for our worship lives as we seek to better connect to the perfect heavenly Giver of creativity, as we use that creativity to find new ways of repentance for the damage of wrong-relatedness with ourselves, our neighbors and our world, and as we strive to rightly bear the unique image of the sovereign God of the universe.

[1] Morphew, The Restoration of Celebration (Inside Worship)
[2] Cheesy YouTube illustration
[3] Cheesy YouTube illustration #2 (sorry, couldn’t help myself)
[4] Dan Wilt, Online Studies in Worship Theology and Biblical Worldview, 28
[5] Wilt/Gentry (Podcast: Two Brothers on Righteousness)



  1. Good work here, Johnny. To destroy or dignify, this is the question. Beauty.

  2. I enjoyed “Cheesy YouTube illustration#2” and so did my daughter!!

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