What Does It Mean to Be Human?

What Does It Mean to Be Human?

It’s the million-dollar question that has perplexed every individual, regardless of education, geography, and economical status: What does it mean to be human?

This question is at the center of Crave: Calgary, a new documentary by Erwin Raphael McManus. McManus and his team spent time in Calgary connecting with residents of this vibrant city to explore “the deepest questions of the human spirit.”

Despite the broad spectrum of individuals (among them, a business leader, musician, chef, and fashion designer), each expressed the same yearnings for intimacy, destiny, and meaning. McManus describes these shared soul cravings as a “cohesive narrative” that draws all of humanity together, to “become cities, families, and tribes.”

I had the privilege of attending the Crave: Calgary screening at Mosaic Hollywood this past weekend and couldn’t help but notice how much of what the film explores (those common “essential questions”) connects with the “big” questions we strive to find and provide answers for here at RTB.

The discussions here usually center on the uniqueness of humanity as compared to other creatures. Often the phrase imago Dei (image of God) comes up, and scientific evidence is weighed in light of what this phrase means. It can all get a bit heady for those who would rather sip an iced latte and enjoy the summer breeze. Yet, in some form or another, the intrinsic “soul craving” for meaning and purpose begs to be filled.

Hugh writes in Why the Universe Is the Way It Is that for some, the desire for hope, purpose, and destiny means seeking out vocations that give their lives meaning, choosing occupations that give resources of wealth or time to devote to spiritual and humanitarian enterprises.

Again, evolutionary theory says this powerful human impetus to seek life’s purpose and eternal destiny arises from naturalistic processes, but from what source?…If natural causes cannot explain this trait’s origin, then it seems both reasonable and probable to conclude that it came from something or Someone beyond the natural realm.

Those who acknowledge “Someone” as the God of the Bible would expect humans, being made in God’s image and likeness, to bear some resemblance to the Creator. Kenneth Samples lists inherent spirituality (to pursue life’s big questions), sophisticated communication (capable of abstract reasoning), and time and truth consciousness (being conscious of time, reality, and truth) as among the uniquely human characteristics.

Biochemist Fazale Rana concurs that, from an orthodox Christian perspective, we would expect humans to have a distinctly spiritual nature that “gives individuals the ability to know and relate to God through prayer, worship, repentance, and so forth.”

It’s no surprise, then, that all of humanity shares a “cohesive narrative.” As McManus points out, “these things between us [humans] are too similar to be coincidental.” How, then, does this understanding that we are all on the same journey—searching for meaning and purpose—inform our interactions with others? How might it impact the way we share our faith and express reasons for our hope?


For more on this topic, see:

Origin of the Human Soul, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

How Humans Differ from Animals

Imago Dei. What Does It Mean?