Are all men created equal?

The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” What does it mean that all men are created equal? More importantly, is it true that all men are created equal?

As I understand it, America’s founding fathers were declaring that every person has equal natural worth because he is created by God in the image of God. This principle of equal worth is why the founders went on to declare that governments exist to protect every one’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. All men are created equal in the sense that all have the same infinite value. Every person, regardless of gender, race, nationality, ability or economic background is equal. Every person is a reflection of the image of God and bears an inestimable worth.

In more recent times some have understood this phrase to mean every person has the same potential or should have the same opportunity. This interpretation does not line up with Biblical teaching or even with common sense. Physically and mentally none are created equal. Very few have the height, strength or coordination to become a professional athlete, and even fewer have the ability to become superstars. Very few have the understanding, recall and quickness to become a world renowned scientists. An Einstein only comes along every so often. The decades old statement of American freedom and potential, “you too could become president some die” flies in the face of reality. Very few have the drive, political savvy and charisma needed to become a successful politician, much less to become the President. As it says in the other classic American statement, “You’re unique, just like everyone else.”

In Biblical terms, God clearly draws a distinction between people. While all men and women are of equal value before God, God gave them differing abilities and different roles within the marriage relationship. God selected Abraham out of all the people of the world and set him apart to do something remarkable for Him. Abraham held an unequal role in the world. His descendants, the nation of israel, were a special group of people different from all the rest of the nations of the world. They were not equal. Out of Israel God selected men to be judges, prophets and kings. These ones were, in function, not equal with the rest of the nation. God said there was none like unto Moses. In the New Testament Jesus declared, “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist:” Even in terms of accountability before God, God does not view all as equal. Those who have been entrusted with more will have a greater accountability. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required:” Pastors must give account for the spiritual well being of those in the church (Hebrews 13:17). At God’s throne of judgment, the punishment of the unsaved will be meted out based upon their works. (Revelation 20:12)

In value all people equal. This equality does not imply it is unfair for some to succeed while others fail, nor does it necessarily require a full “equal opportunity” to all. Because all men are equally image bearers of God, we must do all we can to protect the life and dignity of all.

What about Aliens?

It seems that every few months there is another announcement of evidence of water on extra terrestrial bodies. The most recent one being the discovery of what appears to be an ancient lake bed on Mars. This announcement has more or less coincided with the release of a major movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars. The prospect of life somewhere besides earth is tantalizing. Astronomers spend huge amounts of time looking for evidence of life on other planets. Since water is key to life on this planet the search for life similar to that found on earth starts with the search for water. Many hope we will find life out there somewhere, many are convinced life exists elsewhere in the universe and a few believe extra terrestrial life has found us.

With the widespread allure of alien life, what is a Biblical framework from which to think about life originating somewhere other than earth? The Bible’s creation account must still guide the Christian’s life and thinking. Many who accept evolutionary explanations of life think there must be life elsewhere. The sheer magnitude of the universe and vast number of stars has convinced some that extra terrestrial life is a certainty. The Biblical perspective is silent about any physical life outside of earth. The Bible is not silent about the origin of all life. The creation of all life happened because of the decree of God. Any life in the universe exists because it was created by God during the six days of creation. All Biblical references to the creation of life only describe the creation of life on earth. Admittedly, this is not conclusive that God did not create any kind of life anywhere else, but the only creation of life that God reveals to man is that of life on earth.

The Bible also declares the entire universe has been cursed by man’s sin. Romans 8 says “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” This means that any life found in the universe is going to be suffering under the curse of sin. Utopia and the salvation of civilization will never be found off planet. This also means that man has a very unique position in the whole of creation. Genesis 1 and 2 announce this with the declaration that man was created in the image of God and given dominion over the earth. Romans 8 shows just how far that uniqueness extends. Because of man’s sin, all 32 billion light years of the universe are cursed. If there is life elsewhere, it labors under the curse of sin and longs for the time when Christ will make all things new. If there is life elsewhere, man still has a unique position among all creation. In the next article we’ll consider some questions of what effect the discovery of alien life would have have on this Biblical world view.