What Does It Mean To Be Human?

November 15, 2002
Veritas Forum at Ohio State

"We have to stand up in such a way, and lead our lives, so that people will realize that there is something better in life than they had ever dreamed."  In this shockingly relevant talk from 2002, Dallas shows us what it means to be human, including the purpose and nature of a human being, addresses the disappearance of moral knowledge and the impact it's had on the western world, shares Jesus's teachings on human nature, and concludes with practical ways we can become people who routinely and easily live the Great Commandment. The Way of Christ contains the body of moral knowledge for which the world is dying and we can become the guiding light for all of humanity.


1: What Does It Mean To Be Human? Part 1

Dallas explores the importance of acknowledging human nature in education (and the profound impact on the university of denying it), and the fundamental needs for love and knowledge in human life. Dallas artfully discusses the intersection of individual desire and societal structures, challenging the listener to reflect deeply on their own nature and the broader implications of their beliefs and actions.

2: What Does It Mean To Be Human? Part 2

Dallas discusses what it means to live a life aligned with the kingdom of God, emphasizing love, creativity, and community. Dallas provides an insightful analysis on the human will, mind, and soul, articulating how these elements integrate to shape a life of purpose and integrity. He discusses the importance of nurturing each aspect of our being within the context of God's overarching plan, offering a vision of life that is not only about personal fulfillment but also about contributing positively to the wider world.

What Does It Mean To Be Human? Part 1


  • Socratic Influence: Dallas begins by highlighting Socrates' influence on Western thought, particularly his method of drawing truth from individuals by asking questions, allowing them to come to terms with the truth on their own. 
  • Human Nature and Education: Dallas asserts that acknowledging human nature is essential in education. He criticizes modern educational systems that ignore this aspect, emphasizing the historical vision of integrating moral and religious dimensions in learning.
  • Purpose of Human Life: Exploring the purpose of life, Dallas describes it as serving and being served in love. He illustrates this through the natural interactions between a mother and her child, emphasizing relational sufficiency as central to human well-being.
  • Circles of Sufficiency: He further explains how humans live within "circles of sufficiency" that encompass love and knowledge. These circles are fundamental to human relationships but are often incomplete, requiring divine completion for true fulfillment.
  • Nature and Its Implications: Dallas discusses the concept of 'nature' as a set of properties defining possibilities and limitations for any entity. He uses simple examples, like the properties of a pen, to illustrate how nature contributes to the functionality and quality of objects and beings.
  • Human Excellence and Well-being: Extending the concept of nature, Dallas argues that understanding the nature of things, including humans, is crucial for determining their well-being and excellence, drawing parallels with health in animals and functionality in objects.
  • Philosophical Foundations of Human Nature: Dallas touches on classical philosophy’s view that every entity, including humans, has a nature, which sets the stage for understanding human actions and societal norms.
  • Challenges to the Concept of Human Nature: He concludes by addressing modern challenges to the concept of human nature, such as the views stemming from existential and feminist critiques that deny inherent natures to promote limitless potential and freedom.

What Does It Mean To Be Human? Part 2


  • Human Nature and Community: Dallas starts by contrasting secular and Christian views of human nature, emphasizing the Christian call to love and serve others. He highlights the importance of community and interdependence, noting that societies are often judged by how they treat the vulnerable.
  • Inherent Dignity and Worth: He discusses the intrinsic worth and dignity of every human being, which stems from their relationship with God. This understanding shifts how individuals and societies value and treat each other.
  • Role of Creative Will in Children: Dallas observes that from a young age, children display a natural tendency to create and assert their independence. This trait is a fundamental expression of the human spirit and will.
  • Integration of Mind and Feelings: He elaborates on the inseparability of thoughts and feelings within the human mind, arguing against the common misconception that these can be distinctly compartmentalized.
  • Physical Body as a Power Source: Dallas discusses the body as a vital component of human nature, describing it as a "power pack" that enables interaction with the world and asserts one's identity.
  • Spiritual Life and Human Nature: Dallas explains how a true understanding of human nature includes recognizing its intended function within a relationship of devotion and worship towards God.
  • Transformation Through Divine Influence: He touches on the transformative power of God's influence in aligning the human will, mind, and soul towards a harmonious existence, emphasizing the importance of spiritual disciplines in facilitating this transformation.
  • Secular Challenges and Moral Knowledge: Dallas critiques the secular dismissal of spiritual dimensions in life, advocating for a recognition of moral knowledge rooted in Christian principles as essential for true understanding and fulfillment in life.