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The Philosopher and Critic of Christianity Ludwig Feuerbach wrote:

“My only wish…is to transform friends of God into friends of man, believers into thinkers, devotees of prayer into devotees of work, candidates for the hereafter into students of the world, Christians who, by their own admission, are ‘half animal, half angel’ into persons, into whole persons.”

Is there an instance in the Bible when men are described as " ‘half animal, half angel’"?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Flimzy, curiousdannii, Lee Woofenden, Mr. Bultitude, Dan May 11 '16 at 0:22

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    It sounds to me like the quote was meant to be taken poetically, not literally. – Flimzy May 5 '16 at 12:29
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    Quotes from avowed atheist philosophers are very rarely likely to reflect Christian theology. – curiousdannii May 5 '16 at 13:07
  • And not all Christians base their beliefs solely on Scripture. (Besides which, "Scripture" means different things to different Christians.) – Matt Gutting May 6 '16 at 3:14
  • Sounds like the language used by the gnostics that Irenaeus refutes in Against Heresies. – Joshua May 6 '16 at 23:53
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I think the statement "half man and half animal" is a derogatory interpretation of the traditional Christian belief that God created man as a special type of creature, fully spiritual and existing in a material body (as Christ is fully man and fully God, so man is not divided in his materiality and spirituality).

But if I had to guess, I think Feuerbach is just criticizing Christians for being occupied with spiritual pursuits. I would suppose he thinks this interferes with their ability to love their fellow man, but Christians believe this pursuit actually enhances their love for man.

Back on topic: I cannot find any scripture or material from the church fathers that describes man as "half animal and half angel" specifically. Here is what I did find:

(All biblical passages are in the NIV and taken from https://www.biblegateway.com)

Psalm 8:5-9

You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild

Genesis 1:26

Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals

Daniel 4:16 This bit deserves some background, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and his dream is fulfilled as a punishment given to him so that he might know God. Notice the phrases uses in the description of the dream:

let him graze with the beasts on the grass of the earth. Let his heart be changed from that of a man, Let him be given the heart of a beast, And let seven times pass over him.

Then the prophecy comes true in verse 31:

“King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! ... he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.

1 Corinthians 15:39-42

All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial ... And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. ... we shall all be changed, ... for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption

I didn't have a bunch of time to track down a lot of writings from the church fathers on Christian anthropology, but New Advent has St. Gregory of Nyssa's On the Making of Man which seems to be suited to this subject (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2914.htm). In many parts of this work St. Gregory expounds on the uniqueness and glory of mankind's creation. Not once does he characterize man as being half animal, but stresses how beautiful creation is and how man is the crowning jewel of that creation.

So let address some philosophical differences between Christianity and the utilitarian materialist ideology that the quote above teaches (I'm not familiar with Feuerbach's work). Christianity teaches that man is unique in that he reflects the divine image and possesses will and reason. The doctrine of the incarnation teaches us that material nature is not in conflict with divinity, but that that which is material can be divine and wholly good, and is purposed to be so (a famous quote from some church father is that man becomes by grace what God is by nature).

A man being animal is not completely out of the question in Christian teaching; but this happens by the destruction of that man's humanity, the annihilation of his person by the withdrawal of the grace of God (as happened to King N). Man is purposed to move through and fulfill his materialness so that he can be resurrected incorruptible (as Paul teaches).

Feuerbach's quote above does not explain how man is unique from creation (what is the difference between an animal and a person?), or what his purpose is. But it does call Christians to abandon their spirituality for more practical aims.

If his accusation is that Christians believe in the spiritual realm as the ultimate reality, then I would say that his assertion is absolutely correct (provided it is also understood that Christians believe they need to care for and love all of creation to attain spiritual blessedness).

So he is expressing a view antithetical to Christianity. Christians believe that man can become a true "person" by being spiritual. Feuerbach teaches that man can become a true "person" by abandoning his spirituality. I think his statement is correct in a sense, Christians are part angel because they worship God and part animal because they live on earth, but it isn't how a Christian would put it.

As a side note Dostoevsky gives a great picture of ideologies much like this in his work Demons. The only antithesis offered in that work to the flood of materialist ideology is one character experiencing the birth of his wife's child in which he is filled with joy which is juxtaposed against the barren heartlessness of the progressive and revolutionary characters.

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There is a verse in Genesis that gives room for such interpretation:

"When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." — Genesis 6:1-5

So, based on this text, some interpret that the "sons of God" were angels, who had sexual relationship with women, thus giving birth to "half animal, half angel" creatures.

When we consider the context of this text we can better understand what Moses is explaining. In previous chapters we are given a glimpse of two competing lines, the godly line of Seth and the wicked line of Cain. Having established the antithesis in the garden, after affirming that there would be a constant struggle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent we are given snapshot pictures of each of these armies.

We see Seth’s line about the business of exercising dominion, in submission to the Lord. We see Cain’s line dishonoring the law of God and making names for themselves. But the future is not mere co-existence between the two lines. The drama builds toward the great crisis of Noah’s flood right here in chapter 6. The great change, what creates the great downward spiral of humanity on the earth is that the two lines come together as one. That is, the godly line of Seth, the sons of God, seeing how attractive are the daughters of men, the wicked line of Cain, decide to take them as wives. The end result, however, isn’t mere dilution. It’s not that the now joined line becomes morally lukewarm, but that evil spreads, grows, deepens.

source

I hope this helps. Blessings!

  • Half man and half angel is not the same as half animal half angel. And those nephilim were all killed in the flood right? – Kris May 9 '16 at 17:10
  • Exactly, the line of Noah traces all the way to Adam. So even with this stretched interpretation of Genesis 6, it's irrelevant as we are all descendants of Noah. – Beestocks May 10 '16 at 15:23
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There is a verse that gives room for such interpretation:

"So he brought the people down to the water; and the Lord said to Gideon, "Every one that laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself; likewise every one that kneels down to drink." And the number of those that lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And the Lord said to Gideon, "With the three hundred men that lapped I will deliver you, and give the Midianites into your hand; and let all the others go every man to his home." So he took the jars of the people from their hands, and their trumpets; and he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the three hundred men; and the camp of Midian was below him in the valley." (Judges 7:5-8)

Another verse:

But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." And he answered, "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." (Matthew 15:25,26)

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    I see nothing in this passage that even remotely suggests that humans are half animal, half angel. – curiousdannii May 5 '16 at 13:17

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