At Last We Have Seen a Man

Sometimes, a product that has been successful for years undergoes a substantive transformation, but the brand is too powerful to warrant changing the name of the product.

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The Many Versions of Batman” by Digital_Third_Eye under license CC BY_ND 2.0

I think of the immensely popular Michael Keaton Batmans (Batmen?) of 1989 and 1992. When the franchise shifted to the likes of Val Kilmer (1995) and George Clooney (1997) and their gawdawful one-liners, the Batman character embedded within our imaginations was strong enough to carry (or should I say, “drag”) the films. It was still Batman, after all.

Other times, an alteration in substance requires a fresh name to match. Coca-Cola messed with its long-standing formula in 1985, and introduced the bubbly abomination New Coke or, later, Coke II. You just couldn’t have called the newfangled drink “Coke”, as the public made clear.

And so with this blog.

“The View from Here” was a fine name when it simply served as a depository for rather random musings about whatever the heck I might have been entertaining at the time. Granted, there was some level of coherence, because all the posts were coming from a single source. But now with a new focus, I’m eager to put a fresh label on the product.

“At Last We Have Seen a Man” may sound dated to some politically correct ears. We are, collectively, no longer “man” or “mankind”, but rather the lengthier “humankind”. The new title, however, is not a protest against gender inclusive language. (I’m generally fine with it, as long as we can stay away from the ineloquent “he or she” or “s/he” or the mind-bending singular “they”.)

Instead, the title is a phrase from a tidy mid-century volume by missionary and Anglican bishop Stephen Neill. Exploring the question of humanity’s nature, What Is Man? investigates the biblical point of view on our species—our sinfulness, our offered redemption and our potential this side of the cross.

Writing of Jesus, the true and perfect human, Neill writes from the creation’s perspective a passage that has haunted and thrilled me since my first reading. “When Jesus died, something happened that had never happened before in the whole history of the world. A man had lived the whole of his life in perfect and complete obedience to God. … This the universe had never seen, and so it had lived on through all the centuries in frustration. Now we know what the machine was made for. At last we have seen a man” (37, emphasis added).

It’s a neat summation of the person of Jesus, from a human perspective, and a key, I believe, to viewing the whole of humanity’s calling.

It has long been said, on the basis of at least Colossians 1:15 and Hebrews 1:3, that if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. Neill writes (and I think Scripture backs him up) that if you want to know what a person should be like, look at Jesus.

The cross-section of this pair of assertions is simultaneously shocking, exhilarating and humbling. Thus has Neill’s turn of phrase sent me to worship and to wonder, to hope and to pray.

At last we have seen a man. I seek to gaze on him, question him and explore him, and so, somehow, to learn and become my true self. That’s what I hope this blog will be about going forward.

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