Dr. Heinrich Emil Brunner (1889-1966), a Swiss Reformed theologian, published his Gifford Lectures in Christianity and Civilisation (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, NY, 1948 & 1949). Chapter VI in Brunner’s first lecture series (The Foundations) is titled: Man in the Universe. Most people accept the scientific evidence that humans are mammals that ascended through evolution. The ancient Greeks believed that “man rises above the animal world; man becomes conscious of his uniqueness as a spiritual being distinct from a natural world. … Just as the divine Logos permeates nature and orders it, so it also permeates and orders man. But in man this divine principle becomes conscious knowledge. It is in the recognition of himself as partaker in the divine Logos that man becomes conscious of his specific essence and value; his humanity is, at the same time, divinity.” (page 77)
Scripture tells a different story. God creates, reveals, and commands. “God is no more the immanent principle of the world, but its Lord and Creator. He, the Lord-creator, alone is divine. Everything which is not Himself is creature, product of His will. Therefore He is opposite the world, His essence, His divine being, is other-than-world, He is the Holy One.” Humans are not divine, but one of God’s creation. “He [man] is a creature. The barrier which separates God and the world also separates God and man.”
God elevated humans above all other creatures that God created. How are humans elevated? “Man alone is created in the image of God. … And this imago dei is the principle of Christian humanism as distinguished from Greek.” This elevation is not a natural evolution. “That which gives man his specific place in the Universe and specific dignity is not something which he has in his rational nature but his relation to the Creator. This relation is established by God’s calling man to Himself and is realized by man’s hearing this call and answering it by his own decision.” (page 77-78)
A second human elevation above other creatures is that humans have responsibilities. Humans are stewards of our planet and responsible for its welfare. God saw that his creation was good and gave humans the responsibility of caring for God’s creation.
Humans are not divine and fail by marring God’s image through sin. When humans sin, “God, by His revelation of divine redeeming love in the God-man, Jesus Christ, has offered the possibility of reacquiring the true image of God; and, lastly, to those who accept this offer in obedient faith, the perfection and realization of their eternal divine destiny is promised as the final goal of all history.” (page 79)
Brunner argues that Christians were wrong to disclaim evolutionary discoveries like Darwinism. However, Christians should disclaim Godless humanism. “Man alone produces cultural life: this is the argument of idealistic humanism. Man alone can hear the word of God: this is the argument of Christian humanism. … It is the privilege of man alone to produce science, to investigate truth for the sake of truth, regardless of animal appetites and necessities. … The Christian Church theology confused God-knowledge and world-knowledge.” (page 82-84) What was the result? “The Church and its theology therefore were forced by science to withdrawal from a realm which was not theirs. Natural science has helped the Church to understand its own truth and essence better than it had understood them in the course of preceding centuries.” (page 83)
Humans do have responsibilities to science. “The man who knows himself as bound by the word of the Creator, and responsible to Him, will not misuse his scientific knowledge of the world by using his reason to raise himself up against the Creator and to emancipate himself from Him by a false pretense of autonomy.” (page 89) Human’s knowledge of science does not make humans divine.
Humankind should not be fearful of science or knowledge for God created humans to think and reason. Christianity is not anti-science nor is it an unreasonable religion, but a community called by God to faith. “If it is true that God created man in His image, and that this image is realized in Christ’s God-manhood – and faith knows this to be true – then nothing, either in the sphere of nature or in that of history, can uproot this humanism, unless it be the loss of this faith.” (page 90)