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Ferrell Griswold

The above title was suggested to me by a statement I read, written by Jean-Paul Sartre. He wrote, "The best way to conceive of the fundamental project of human reality is to say that man is the being whose project is to be God…. To be man means to reach toward being God. Or if you prefer, "man fundamentally is the desire to be God." (Emphasis mine.)1

Although Sartre (1905-1980) was a professing atheist, and a philosophical existentialist, he has defined man in terms of the Biblical doctrine of original sin, and has given the Biblical definition of Satan's promise to him in The Temptation (Gen. 3:4-5). The more man tries to realize this "fundamental project," the more frustrated and impotent he becomes in all aspects of his life. The reason for this is that this "fundamental project" is rooted in rebellion against God and His definition of man's nature and calling, or "fundamental project:" in life. Man was created in God's image, and his goal, set for him by his Creator, is to glorify God in every function of life. He is to function as prophet, to define reality in terms of God's pre-interpretation of that reality. He is to be God's priest on earth, wherein he seeks to bring all things into subjection to God's will. He is to serve God in every calling as religious task. He is to work and worship God in a personal consciousness of his calling to bring glory to God in the totality of his life. As God's image bearer man is to be God's vicegerent on earth. Man's true happiness lies in his obedience to the will of God, and in exercising dominion over God's creation as His representative. The more he seeks autonomy and independence from God, and exploits the creation of God for his own selfish ends, the more frustrated he becomes. The Scriptures declare:

And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Gen. 1:27-28).

This urge to dominion is still basic to man's nature. However, he now seeks dominion over the earth not in obedience to God, nor in fulfilment of the creation mandate, but to realize this "fundamental project" to be God. This desire to be God is alien to man's nature. It is the result of his response to Satan's temptation and his fall into sin. I am aware that the subject of sin is not very popular today, but it is nevertheless the explanation of man's situation; and man's denial of it is simply the working out of this desire to be God. If man is God he cannot then be a sinner. Sin must be defined in terms wherein man is relieved of its responsibility. It is either defined as finitude, or as an illness, or as the lack of want, etc. However,

.... If sin lurks in circumstances, in society, in sensuality, in the flesh, in matter, then the responsibility for it is to be charged to Him who is Creator and Sustainer of all things. And then man goes scot free .... In that event, sin did not begin at the fall but at the time of creation. Creation and fall are then identical. Then existence, then being itself, is sin.2

In his temptation of man, Satan said, For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:5). Ye shall be as gods! The promise here is that man will define his own essence, and will be independent of God's purpose for him. Knowing good and evil. The promise here is that man will determine for himself his own good and evil (the word translated "knowing" means to determine.) Man is promised that he will be able to live beyond God's good and evil. Satan is here declaring that all truth is relative, that there are no fixed absolutes, and that man can legislate his own morals, and determine for himself what truth will be. Ever since the fall this "fundamental project" to be God has been basic to man and his pursuits. Dr. Bolton Davidheiser, a Ph.D in biology, has pointed out that man aspires to play God in the sciences by "trying to create life, and trying to regulate life." Also, he says, "the would-be God-men desire to achieve eternal life through scientific means."

They scorn eternal life as offered by the God of the Bible through His plan of salvation, and they wish to replace it with a scientifically devised means of living forever in perpetual youth.3

He points out that "Already some bodies have been frozen by a special process and at considerable expense with the hope that some day, after sufficient scientific advance, they may be unfrozen and revived." Again, "The best that the scientists hope to achieve is a sort of perpetual youth." But even a healthy body can be killed. "So the scientists' dream of achieving eternal life through the administration of pills or elixirs would be frustrated on the freeways and thwarted by accidents even in the home. It is no match for the eternal life offered by the Creator."4

But man's attempt to play God is not limited to his exploits in the realm of science, where his experiments are beginning to read like science fiction, but in the realm of morals and religion. Man wants to be independent of God's law, and to legislate right and wrong for himself. Also, he wants to be free of God's plan of redemption through the obedience and death of Jesus Christ. He seeks to redeem himself and his society by his own works and technology. However, man's real hope of happiness is to accept his creaturehood, the fact that he is a sinner, and trust totally the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. To play God is suicidal, and guarantees the death of man and his culture!

  1. Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism And Human Emotion. Philosophical Library, New York, 1957, p. 63.
  2. Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith. Wm. B. Eerd-mans Pub. Co., Grand Rapids, Mich., 1956, p. 227· Messenger
  3. Bolton Davidheiser, To Be As God: The Goal of Modern Science. Presbyterial & Reformed Pub. Co., 1972, p. 30.
  4. Ibid., p. 31.

Ferrell Griswold