WHAT IS HUMAN?

LIMITED

It doesn’t take much thought to recognize that as humans we are ‘limited’. This is evident at a number of levels:

We are not omnipotent like God - not all-powerful. We have limited physical strength. So we employ animals stronger than ourselves and make machines stronger than ourselves to do our will.

We are not omnipresent like God – we are limited to one physical place at any given time. So we employ technology that enables instant worldwide communication and engagement, and manufacture machines that will take us where we want to be as quickly as possible.

We are not omniscient like God – we have limited knowledge and memories. So we devote the first quarter of our lives to being educated, and we source and store knowledge and collective memories via the various verbal, written and digital means we have created.

We are not omni-competent like God – our skill set is limited. So we are forced to network with others and pay others to do the things we cannot ourselves do.

Our inventions express the God-given dominion, intelligence and creativity by which we have achieved amazing things. Our inventions also express the basic fact that we ourselves are limited. We are finite. We cannot do everything ourselves. We cannot know everything. We cannot be everywhere.

In other words, we are human, not divine, not ‘God’. Only God is unlimited. Only God is infinite. Our limitedness is evident in the original perfect creation, where God said: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’ [Genesis 2:18]. This limitedness is also evident in New Testament image of the church as a body, in which each individual part is essential for the well-being and function of the whole [1Corinthians 12:12-27].

To be human is to be limited, to be finite, and to be intentionally created so by God. It is not in itself a bad thing. Indeed it is the very thing that motivates both our interpersonal relationships and our advances and ingenuity in all fields of learning, development and progress.

Our limitedness becomes a problem only when we deny it or try to escape from it – only when we reach for deity. And here we are confronted by another aspect of our limitedness: that we are limited by what is actually possible. It is not possible for the human to be God. Yet that is the very thing that Satan offered to Eve as a possibility: ‘you will be like God’ [Genesis 3:5]. Not content with limited human knowledge, Adam and Eve stretched out their hands and reached for the impossible – divine omniscience. Not content to be limited and defined by the word of God [Genesis 2:17], they reached for a life unlimited by that word and that definition.

To achieve our true human identity is possible only within the limit defined by God. To push beyond that limitation is to strive for an impossibility, and in that striving to forfeit the greatness and integrity we already possessed.  The fractured and fragmented humanity we observe all around us and within our own being is what resulted when we, the finite, the limited, sought to be what is impossible for us to be.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013, 2016