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To Err Is Human

I must be feeling a bit pedantic today (“Just today?” the Mrs. smugly quips). When this morning I read the old adage, “to err is human,” my immediate response was to object, and launch (silently, to the unrealized but very real relief of said Mrs.) into a corrective lecture.

imageTo err is not inherently human. To say it is is to impute errancy to God, as human beings were created in the image of God. Adam and Eve were created with the ability to not err, therefore, errancy is not a necessary quality of humanness.

But then came the Fall. Adam and Eve chose to listen to Satan, though it was not inevitable (due solely to their humanity, that is) that they do so. Having made that choice—fallen—the image of God in them was forever damaged. Errancy, while not a quality of humanness, was now characteristic of fallen humanity.

Why does this matter? Since all of humanity is fallen, isn’t it, for all intents and purposes, acceptable to say “to err is human?” It matters because “to err is human” is a shrug toward our sinful condition. “Oh well,” it says, “no big deal. Nobody is perfect.” “to err is human” says we’re not so bad, we just make mistakes. People who make mistakes don’t need to repent, they just need to learn their lessons, try I bit harder, do a little better. They certainly don’t need to be saved.

What needs to be acknowledged is that to err is not human, as God created humanity. Errancy is corrupted humanness. It is the result of sin; sin has broken the imago Dei, and therefore, fellowship with God is broken. That, dear readers, can be fixed, but not before rejecting the status quo that is tacitly accepted by the ironically erroneous phrase, “to err is human.”

Posted 2014·03·13 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Anthropology · Total Depravity

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