An Introduction to Theological Anthropology

I am doing a review on Marc Cortez’s Theological Anthropology: A Guide For the Perplexed, and I thought it would be worth while discussing here (hence my question concerning human ontology here). Before I ask some questions for our consideration, let me give an overall glimpse of the volume. I should start by saying I think this volume is fantastic. Now, note, I don’t say this because I necessarily agree with his choices on what to cover, nor because I think he provides a helpful introduction to a specifically theological anthropology (although he does some helpful work in this regard). Instead, what I love about this volume is that it is perfect for classroom use. It covers everything you personally don’t want to take class time to cover (free will anyone?), and does an excellent job of mapping the various options. In fact, Marc’s modus operandi seems to be to do about 90% mapping and about 10% construction. In doing so, I think this should be seen as the archetype for the “Guide for the Perplexed” series. It does what all of these volumes should – provide overall mapping and advice to navigate constructive work without turning it into his own personal soapbox.

All that being said, I do have a question I would like some feedback on. Marc chooses to cover the image of God, sexuality, mind and body (human ontology I asked about before) and free will. It would be easy to criticize him for choosing these specific emphases, but I think that would be unfair. He was trying to give an introductory account which necessarily included dealing with the historically prominent issues and ideas, so these seem about as central to the discussion as you can get. My question is this: If you were to offer an account of theological anthropology, with the emphasis on the theological, how would you do it? Where would you begin?

45 thoughts on “An Introduction to Theological Anthropology

  1. I’d have to protest from the start, that stressing “theological” prejudices the case. And it minimizes the distinctive and interesting feature here: “Anthropology.”

    We need some real Anthropology here. And yet there seem to be many subtle strategies being employed here and elsewhere by many, to avoid precisely that. Not only 1) de-emphasizing the term, but also 2) mis-using the very word “Anthropology.” “Anthropology” means the “Science of Man.” Re-defining this word to mean merely stressing the traditionally already-recognized human – “anthropic” – side of God, God appearing in the “flesh” in Christ and so forth – is a mere pun on, travesty of, scientific Anthropology.

    Real Anthropology is a science which will surely, shortly – and in fact, hereby – object to this co-option of its name, by a theological enterprise often actually opposed to real science.

    Why are so many in theology apparently so eager to subtly disarm, derail, introduce a ringer for, real Anthropology? In part it is probably because REAL Anthropology is a science; and so it adamantly does not believe in Magic … or in what many might call the Christian version of Magic, “Miracle.” It might address such values as magic and miracle; but without simply aquiescing to their verity.

    This would be a perspective that would shock a few in Christianity (if not everyone in Theology). But any true theological Anthropology that does not slyly misuse or re-invent the term “Anthropology,” would have to limit itself to certain subjects, and not others. In particular, it could not simply accept various miracles.

    The subject of the truth of miracles, would be an interesting and important perspective for theology and Churches to finally face openly and clearly; but so far they don’t seem eager to face it here. Being content instead, to merely twist the word “Anthropology,” into its exact opposite: the uncritical acceptance of an anthropomorphic god, and of magic and miracle?

    • Anthropology is the study of the human, but there are different starting points for that endeavour and different perspectives on it. There is a scientific anthropology, which usually, although not always, takes a naturalistic philosophical approach, but this is ultimately reductionist. The human can never be reduced to merely social or biological indicators. Can scientific or social anthropology explain the purpose of human life for example? No, because that is not part of their endeavour, their project. There are aspects of the human condition which simply lie outside of their purview. Scientific anthropologies will not try to address questions of ultimate truth or worldview, personhood, etc.

      There are philosophical anthropologies as well, which do try to address these sorts of questions. A Platonic approach would describe the human person as dualistic, composed of spirit and body. An Aristotelian anthropology would describe human nature as being a rational animal, with nothing being in the mind unless it is first in the senses. A Cartesian anthropology would describe the human as a thinking being, with the mind preceding the body and senses. There are also more recent philosophical anthropologies we could name, such as existential, or postmodern. From these various starting points, these philosophical anthropologies will try to address important metaphysical, ethical, and other questions arising related to the human person.

      Theology begins from the presupposition of God. A theological anthropology then explains the human person from that standpoint. Why are humans the only animals which display rationality and morality? Because we are made in the image of God (Gen 1:27). What is the purpose of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. There are questions about the human which the Christian needs answered, so a theological anthropology is an important part of any theology. A theological anthropology will take the insights of scientific anthropologies, but it seeks to explain the whole human condition, not merely to study social or biological aspects of it as in the sciences. At times the sciences will present questions which a theological anthropology must answer, for example modern science has taught us much about human reproduction and fetal development. It has also produced technology such as abortions. These present obvious problems for theology, which are answered differently by different theological approaches (e.g. the Catholic Church considers that human life and personhood begin at the moment of fertilization, other theologies would disagree).

      I hope that helps! God bless you in your search for truth.

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  3. After stating some initial reservations and caveats, I’m willing to simply stand aside for a while, and let anyone express whatever views they may have on this subject. To be sure, even pure “theology” is somewhat critical, and metaphorical on the subject of miracles for example.

    Though still, it would seem that, Anthropology being a science, any “Anthropological” theology, would favor a metaphorical interpretation reading of miracles. And not even a “spiritual” reading or ontology. As much as a materialist/naturalist one.

    Still, I’ll shut up for a while: the floor is open. If anyone would like to make the case for a monistic, non-dualistic, spiritual ontology or hermeneutics, even in Anthropology, I’d enjoy listening to that for a while. Or whatever people want to do.

    Kyle seems to have read a book on this subject; maybe Kyle would like to throw out some more specific material?

  4. Kyle, thanks for the post. You did a great job summarizing what I was trying to accomplish with the book.

    To offer my answer to your question, I absolutely agree with Bobby (wink noted). Any attempt to understand the human person theologically must be thoroughly grounded in Christology (that was the focus of my doctoral work). This does not mean, of course, that we reduce anthropology to Christology, but that the person and work of Christ fundamentally orients and reorients what it means to be fully and truly human.

    So, if I were going to write a truly constructive theological anthropology, I would probably begin with the creational motifs of grace and glory as they find their ground in the true humanity of Jesus Christ (i.e., the Christological focus of the imago Dei). That would provide the constructive center of the work. The rest of it would trace other key motifs (e.g. work, worship, community, sexuality, race, etc.), discussing how each is grounded in God’s creational/eschatological purposes as revealed in Jesus, how he remains faithful to these purposes despite the ravages of sin, and how this should shape human life today (e.g. ethics, ecclesiology, culture).

    At least, that’s what I think I would do.

    • Marc, thanks for the comments. I thought you did such a fantastic job of mapping the issues and providing helpful thoughts for further work. Yours is the first volume in that series that I think nails the task of the series. I have no doubt that many professors will agree.

      I agree with your assessment about Christology – and that is where I would want to start as well. I covered, very briefly, some of the anthropological concerns in Jonathan Edwards’s work, and he puts his trinitarian grammar to work in his anthropology in a way that I think is totally unhelpful.

      If you wouldn’t mind helping some of us who are of like mind with you on this – do you have a short reading list of the theologians who you think really provide a robustly Christological account of anthropology? I would be interested to see what you choose.

      • I don’t think there’s any question that Barth has pride of place here. Even if you’re not a Barth fan, he develops the most consistently and thoroughly christological account of the human person of any modern theologian that I’m aware of. I would recommend CD III/2 to anyone wanting to get a feel for what a christological anthropology could look like.

        Other than Barth, I would definitely recommend the Greek Fathers, particularly Athanasius and Maximus the Confessor (Gregory of Nyssa to a lesser extent). They provide a helpfully different perspective on how Christology and anthropology connect. Martin Luther can also be helpful, though the christology/anthropology connection is harder to work out and is inadequately developed in most places. Among modern theologians, I have found von Balthasar helpful, but I haven’t done enough with him yet to know whether I should recommend him on this point. Zizioulas is a must-read, though I’m not convinced of his particular reading on the Trinity and how it informs anthropology. Regardless, his approach is worth engaging and he does a fabulous job connecting anthropology and ecclesiology. Stanley Grenz was starting to produce some useful stuff before he died, and is definitely worth looking at.

        Those are the names that come to mind off the top of my head. Who would you (or anyone else) add to the list?

    • It would be best to begin any discussion of Theological Anthropology where the bible does – with the creation accounts. Protestants often begin their understanding of humanity with the fall of man (this is especially true of Calvinists), which they read back into the creation accounts, and forward into the incarnation of the Son and all its eschatological implications.. Christology is extremely useful, but if we misunderstand what it is to be human, we will misunderstand the nature and purpose of the incarnation.

      I would begin any contemplation of the Creation accounts with the Hexameron of St. Basil and St. Ambrose. You might also begin with Pope John Paul II’s book “Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body”, which is exceptionally rich in its handling of the subject..

  5. I think ecclesiology could be a good theological starting point because individualism doesn’t seem to be a very prevalent biblical theme, and because the historical/eschatological narrative that is the Bible is inseparable from the church.

    I suspect such a starting point could ignore anthropological approaches that are concerned with individuals because the church is a collective subject. Then, whether or not one has a substantial soul can be left open because it is irrelevant to what it means to belong to the church.

    • Pkdd, I wonder if your concerns could still be addressed with a robustly Christological account, particularly if ecclesiology was one major telos of such an account? Therefore, part of a Christologically-grounded anthropology would be the question of community and relations with others in the body of Christ. For my money, I would be more comfortable talking about relations to Christ himself as constituting humanity rather than relations to the church – and similarly, focus ecclesiology as that which flows out of a proper relation of humanity to Christ.

      • I definitely agree that a christological approach to anthropology leads directly to an ecclesial anthropology. I think Kyle is right that the christological is primary, but not in a way that makes the ecclesial extraneous to true humanity. All you have to do is follow the narrative from the people of God in the garden, through Israel and the Church, to the eschatological people of God on the new earth, to know that humanity has always been an ecclesial reality.

        At the same time, I don’t think that a corporate emphasis needs to neglect the individual dynamics at work. “Corporate” and “individual” are not mutually exclusives (unless you make them into isms). So, while I would absolutely affirm the importance of the ecclesial for understanding humanity, I would not agree with Pkdd that this means we can neglect questions more particular to the individual.

        • I didn’t mean to say that we should completely neglect questions particular to the individual, just that the individual is not the starting point. It seems a problem with starting with the individual occurs when framing what it means to be an individual: either the framing is so abstract that it struggles to be practical, or the framing is practical and excludes those who don’t fit the mold. I want a theological anthropology that allows for diversity of individuals in flux to share a practical unified vision as members of the church.

          I agree that ecclesiology and christology are inseparable, but it seems there are at least two ways to approach their relation.

          (1) I would suggest the operative relation is that Christ is who the church says (past/present/future) he is. This is based on the Christ of the Bible being woven into an historical narrative, i.e., who the church said he is. Even the Gospel writers wrote about the stories they heard about Jesus.

          (2) In contrast, it seems an alternative relational christological approach is to say that each of us are implicitly related to Christ through our shared human experience, and then our collective human experience points to an ecclesiology. In that case it is vital to define what it means to be human so that we can say how we are related to Christ as the true human.

          What I like about (1) is that what it means to be human can be more flexible and more open. My relation to Christ is by virtue of my, in faith, belonging to the church. Saying what that means to me as an individual is a personal expression and thus not a primary concern of a general theology, and certainly I don’t need theology to encapsulate my individual human experiences that point me to Christ.

          What I don’t like about (2) is that by starting with Christ’s human nature it seems an uphill battle to robustly attach all the seemingly extra-human biblical stories to him.

          • I agree that it’s an issue of starting points. The problem that you’re pointing out in part of your post is a problem of trying to develop an abstract definition of what it means to be human, and then use that definition to drive our ecclesiology (and implicitly our Christology as well). That approach has it exactly backwards.

            Your hesitation with #2 is (I think) driven by a concern that if we make Jesus our starting point, his historical particularity will limit our anthropological vision. But, that’s not the case. A christological starting point grounds the discussion, but it does not limit it. I actually think a properly christological anthropology has a far broader reach than other anthropological perspectives (just read Maximus). The trick is to be christocentric, but not christomonistic (something Barth always denied being).

  6. Great review Kyle and thanks for the comments Marc. I have just purchased this book and anticipate a day, not too far in the futuer, when T&T Clark reduce the price of their books so I can also buy your Embodied Souls: Ensouled Bodies… Hey, let’s get a review on that book up here too Strobe light.

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  8. So everyone is aware we will begin a contest tomorrow at the Western Seminary Blog ( where you can win this book.

  9. I was wondering when ecclesiology would be addressed. Well said that the discussion of Church falls under Christological Anthropology. What significance do you see the “new man” language of Eph 2, 4 and Col 3 having in this discussion?

    • I’m not sure I would want to say that ecclesiology falls under anthropology, but under Christology. I think anthropology needs to have a teleological orientation of ecclesiology, and I think Marc has a good point about individual elements vs. communual elements. I haven’t really done much thinking on anthropological issues – which is why I picked up this book! – but my inclination is that new man language in Paul has to do with the eschatological reality of being in Christ, where our life is not hidden with Christ in God. I’m not sure I want to be held to that though. Lets hope Marc says something interesting, because now I’m just babbling!

      • Good clarification. I guess I shouldn’t say “Well said that…” and then paraphrase (quite poorly). My comment was supposed to be in reference to Marc’s phrase, “not in a way that makes the ecclesial extraneous to true humanity.”

    • Great, now I have so say something interesting?

      Nice clarification on the relationship between anthropology and ecclesiology. Though they are inseparable, one should not be subsumed under the other.

      I would read the “new man” language in Ephesians and Colossians as both expressing the eschatological achievement of humanity corporately (and individually) in union with Christ as the primary means by which God images himself in creation. The “new man”, then, is the eschatological achievement of God’s creational purpose for humanity from the very beginning.

      • Marc, any thoughts about Kelsey’s new work? I haven’t had a chance to flip through it yet, but it looks like it will be pretty exhaustive! Are you reviewing it anywhere?

        • Sadly, it’s been sitting on my shelf since ETS/SBL. It’s high on my list of things to do this summer. I’ll probably post a discussion of it on the blog that I run for the Th.M. program I direct (, maybe starting as early as next month. (I always succeed in being unreasonably optimistic about these things.)

  10. Regarding the related questions of ecclesiology or the church, and Jesus as the embodiment or “image” of God? Or this question: where is God found?

    Today, lots of people pay attention to the parts of the Bible that seem to call for temples. But other elements of the Bible suggest that God does “not live in shrines made by men,” etc.; Solomon rightly asks whether a God who lives in/built, the whole universe, really needs a house or temple made by men. And in Rev., in the end, there is no temple; because God is everywhere (Rev. 21.22).

    Today we assume, after the New Testament, that of course God chose to live at least, in one man-like form: in Jesus. (And in all men; who are made in the “image” of God?). In the Old Testament though, Job saw God in the whole material universe it seems; or in “Leviathan” and all creatures. And there were other indications that God filled all things; so that any single icon or picture or image or object, normally could not quite adequately hold, or symbolize, God.

    Some early theologians at times suggested that God was too infinite, to be found in any single object; either a pictoral “image” or “icon”; or even in a single man. “Iconoclasts” reasserted that no single picture – “icon” or “image” – could really fully embody or picture God. So that in the Ten Commandments, there was a prohibition, on making “images” of God. A prohibition that was to apply to graphic images, pictures, icons especially. But this prohibition on “images” of God may have wider implications.

    That prohibition on making “images” of God, seems based in part on the idea that no mere image or picture, could reflect the infinite side of a God, who fills “all things”; who therefore could not be put into a single material 1) form or representation or picture. But could all this relate to some supicions about 2) the idea that an infinite, sub-specie-aeternis God, could shoehorn himself into, or be adequately expressed, in any single, discrete being? Any single human form? Here we see some non-incarnational ideas.

    In spite of reservations, the Bible, Paul, seems to have eventually became fairly comfortable, in the NT, with the idea of God finding fleshly, human form, at least in just the body or “flesh” of Jesus himself. And Christianity developed the notion of a “Trinity” that included Jesus, as a man-like “image” of God (“made in his own image”?), or even the fleshly embodiment of him. But – possibly in recognition of the broader idea of a God who filled not just a single form, but “all things”? – the NT also included, in addition to Jesus in the flesh, a more universal, and less imaginable, “Holy Spirit.” Of which fewer representations or images were available. Or even allowed? Or even possible?

    How to picture or image, something that “fills all things”? The image of any single thing or person, would not capture it, at all.

    Often the Holy Spirit was represented symbolically only, as a Dove; it was seemingly beyond human form. And as a “spirit,” it seemed to reside in many – even all – things. So that finally, any single picture, of any single concrete being, would not quite capture this side of God; not at all.

    How did we picture this side of God? As in the days of Hermes, and related Egyptian winged gods, a winged creature – in this case a Dove, a bird (or elsewhere the “wind”) – seemed the best – and at that only approximate – way, of depicting something that … flew from one thing to another.

    Our question though: does all this mean there are elements of the Bible, of God, that are possibly at war, with any attempt to localize and limit God to any particular place or object? And therefore, with ecclesiology and Christology and “images” of God?

    Thinking of God as residing only, or even particularly, in any single, discrete place, or human body, or other material objects – in 1) temples, or 2) in the body of men, 3) or even in the first body of Christ, while this is seemingly at first true to elements, to parts of the Bible, might not be so true to other parts of the Bible, and other ideas of God.

    Or in any case, in simpler language: would any concentration on finding God solely or particularly, in any particular men, or their individual bodies, or in a church, neglect the other elements of God; like his infinite nature? Or even neglect a related element of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit?

    Here’s one of the speculations that motivated the iconoclasts, among others: doesn’t picturing God as residing especially in any single or particular “image” or form or church or body, necessarily neglect some parts of the God who is found not only, or even particularly, in “shrines,” or “temples,” or churches, or in “images,” or even in men? Or even solely or particularly, some might have objected, in the first physical body of Christ?

    If so, then where do we find, how do we picture, embody, or characterize, the God who is found in “all things”? Who does not fully reside in any “image”? Meaning any single picture – or even, some might suggest, any single body?

    These speculations, found in part in the Bible itself, and carried on by the iconoclasts and other religious “image”-breakers, seem to question all churches; all ecclesiologies. And they may question most simple Christologies; most simple ideas of God finding full or final expression in the first physical body of Jesus.

    This universalistic iconoclasm, might even question a Humanistic theology or Anthropology. If this Anthropology asserts that God can be adequately characterized as residing especially or just in men; particular because it is said they are “made in the image” of God.

    For these and many other reasons, I prefer a less ecclesiological – even less Christological? – theology. I would prefer that even any Theological Anthropology, if it has to concentrate on man, would also however locate God/ultimate reality, not just in men, but also in the infinite material universe; “all things.”

    As does real, scientific Anthropology, by the way; locating God and men, in part, in nature.

    • If I followed the thrust of your post well enough, I would say that we have more than sufficient biblical warrant for maintaining that God can and does image himself in creation. Though he never does so exhaustively (obviously), he does do so fittingly and adequately. To say otherwise, is to posit a God that is so transcendently removed from creation as to have little or no involvement with it. At that point, we’ve lapsed into some form of gnosticism or Arianism, against with Irenaeus and Athanasius responded so effectively. So, I would agree that the iconoclast position runs into problems with both the doctrines of creation and incarnation (i.e., I think John of Damascus was right).

      On the other hand, I would not agree that this means we cannot talk about God imaging himself specially in humanity. While God clearly images himself throughout creation, he can and has decided to image himself through human persons in a unique way. I would argue that this does not separate humanity from the rest of the created universe (we are still “creatures” like everything else). But it does denote a unique relationship and function within the universe.

  11. Thanks for your cogent summary of my ramblings above. Still, I think that there is a danger from concentrating too much just on man and his works. Or on the most man-like manifestations of God, in Jesus; the danger is of man worshiping himself, in effect. Something alluded to in the Biblical warnings and comments on “images” I did suggest.

    To fix that? To retain a hold on some larger God, outside of man? I suggest finding God, truth, in part, not just in the works of men, but in the larger nature outside of us; in the study of the infinite material universe. This can be done without lapsing into a vague Gnosticism, or nature-worship either. By honoring science.

    Real anthropology is a science; it attempts to correct the hopeless subjectivity of man looking just at man, by comparing what we find, against what Science says the material universe allows and confirms.

    Can we find Biblical warrent for this science? “Come, let us reason together”; the “Gentile knows by nature what the law requires”; let’s “observe” the birds; because the nature of an invisible God, can be known by “observation of the things he has made.”

  12. Marc:

    Thanks again for your very cogent responses. Which deserve careful attention.

    On a secondary matter: if any single appearance or picture of God HAD been entirely adequate, then why so MANY of them? Why the constant need for one more? (Building on a point St. Paul – ? – made somewhere).

    I think we see God more “fully,” at best, from viewing the aggregate of ALL the many hundreds of appearances in the Bible; and then some.

    Some more to come, from observation of his larger “nature” in fact.

    • I suppose it depends on is meant by “entirely” adequate, which I didn’t say. If you mean something similar to “exhaustively revealed,” then of course one image is inadequate. Even the whole complex if images would be inadequate. But, if you mean entirely adequate for the purpose of God revealing himself and his creating/saving actions truly and sufficiently, then the incarnation at least is “entirely” adequate.

      I’d also like to be clear that I don’t think a theological anthropology precludes other approaches to the human person (biology, psychology, etc.) or to creation as a whole. (I have a chapter in Embodied Souls that makes this point through Barth’s theology). But theological anthropology, insofar as it intends to be theological, can not release its ground – Jesus Christ. Indeed, I think that it is by being explicitly clear that this is its ground and center that it can openly and honestly engage in meaningful dialogue with other perspectives.

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  14. Marc:

    Fair enough; if there is SOME place for science here.

    So just one additional quibble: how complete and adequate is the first coming/appearance, of Jesus? On the one hand, elements of the Bible seem to imply that the first appearance of 1) Jesus “fullfilled” all predictions and promises; even the “kingdom.” On the other hand, many other parts assume that however, somehow, 2) the kingdom was not yet “ful”ly revealed, or completed, with Jesus. Which would imply that though the first appearance of Jesus was in SOME way complete or adequate, still somehow, yet another, “second” coming or “parousia”/appearance, would be necessary.

    By the way; would you like to briefly summarize what you say in your book about “images” of God? That is a particular interest of mine, and might help give all of us some specific material to dig into.

    Or outline ANY topic from the book you’d like to see discussed?

    • Thanks for the invitation to extend this discussion into particular topics. But, I think I’ll let Kyle decide if he wants to post on particular topics from the book, of if he’s ready to move on to something else.

  15. While we’re waiting? I feel that concentrating just on Christology, neglects two other major aspects of God, of the Trinity: God the Father, and the Holy Spirit.

    God the Father seems relevant even to an “anthropology,” because he is man-like. And we are said to have been created in his “image” (cf. “Imago dei”?). Then too he is often characterized as a “father” and so forth.

    But oddly enough, my particular interest even in a theological “anthropology,” might be in the Holy Spirit. A much more nebulous figure to be sure; and not at all anthropomorphic. But in my quest to find the God who fills “all things,” even all things in material nature, the Holy Spirit – as an invisible spirit or substance that can inhabit anything and everything – is an interesting ontological substance. One that might give divine approval, a kind of baptism, a divine occupation, even to material things, and to science. (Cf. Kyle’s interest in Jon. Edwards, similarly approving material nature, atoms, apparently?).

    The Holy Spirit might oddly therefore open up religion a bit to science, and material matter, and … the science that studies it. In this case, in part, Anthropology.

    Granted, the far more obvious candidate for a theological “anthropology” would be Jesus; God made man, made “flesh.” On the other hand, for a field of study to systematically neglect 2/3 of the Trinity, carries some hazards with it; and might ultimately offer a misleading “image” of God.

    In particular, oddly enough, neglecting the study of a “spirit” that can occupy any and all material “bodies,” might prevent theology from growing in the direction of science, the study of material things. A direction it needs, I suggest.

  16. I don’t have time to do this question justice, but the important thing is to realize that a christological approach to theology does not sublimate a trinitarian approach. Instead, the christological is inherently trinitarian. So, there’s no way to do a christological anthropology that is not always already a trinitarian anthropology.

  17. No doubt, even thinking of Christ Jesus, means thinking now and then of the rest of the Trinity. Still the EMPHASIS at least shifts heavily, in Christology, to Jesus.

    But in any case, you apparently allow us to shift the focus of Theo Anthro, from interest just in Jesus himself, to the Spirit and so forth, now and then?

    To be sure, probably a prevailing Humanistic theology would tend to favor finding Jesus in the center of everything; in order to place Man in the center. Still, most of us know men make mistakes. So this would not be out of simple reverence, but also a way of admitting that after all, even our holiest men were flawed too. (“All” have sinned). This epistemic modesty or humility, would allow in turn, the continuance of a critical, and flexbile, non-dogmatic, theology.

    Still, even men are not everything; there are also ideas, God, spirits, and nature. All which help form a man, for that matter. These are extremely important; in fact these should occupy at least half, of any Theological Anthropology.

    For these and other reasons, to prescribe Christ – or even a “trinitarian” Christology – as the center of TA, therefore, would not be quite correct, I would like to argue.

    Unless someone out there has a better subject?

    • I think a challenge is that we are not the center, but we are at the center of constructing ideas when we do theology.

      The decentering of the individual is partially what I was going for above when I mentioned two ways that christology and ecclesiology could relate.

      As I see it, way #(2) is concerned with being at the center. It leads to asking how we can be as the true human Jesus.

      Way #(1) is an attempt to move away from the contemporary notion of an individualistic personal relation with Jesus by acknowledging the interdependency of Christ and his church (neither would exist without the other). That the church interprets the meaning of Christ places the church at the center of constructing ideas. “The church,” as I mean it, is necessarily decentered in existence because it is composed of many different people in different times, and only God can truly delimit the church.

  18. These two aspects, noted by PKDD, could be called 1) the Church definition of Christ; and the 2) personal, native, or Psychological appreciation of him?

    These are not mutually exclusive as Marc notes; the Churches in part define Christ, but also that means according to people’s personal feelings about him. Probably both of these are important in getting the overall picture.

    These two would also by the way, fit into a scientific TA: as say 1) an “Institutional” analysis: what cultural Institutions like churches, say about Jesus; and 2) Cultural Psychology? How the collective, cultural Psychology influences the individual, to experience CHrist in a personal way, in deep psychological response.

    But in addition to these two, by the way, a SCIENCE of Theological Anthropology would NOT simply accept the Church’s or the individual’s own accounts of their religion, as final and definitive. Rather a science would also add a critical context and perspective. Specifically, an Anthropologist would add the perspective of 3) how a particular culture or church’s religious ideas, compares to other cultures.

    And 4) Anthropology would look to see whether what any given religion claims, can be verified by observation of objective material reality.

    Personally, I prefer the multiple perspectives of a science of God. Though this means that the native account of religion, Christianity, has to confront, deal with, a Science that usually says that physical miracles are not real.

    Contemporary theology to be sure, seems to deal with the problem of few miracles today, by suggesting in part, that the old promises of physical miracles are just metaphors for spiritual things. Though many might question this explanation.

  19. For everyone who were interested in this discussion, I have recently received Marc’s more academic volume, Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies, and will be doing a more indepth review sometime this Summer (probably August, but maybe later – it is already a full Summer!). In any case, keep an eye out for it, it looks like a fantastic volume.

  20. Pingback: Theological Anthropology and Christian Formation « Theology Forum

  21. Pingback: Theological Anthropology: Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies « Theology Forum

  22. I would begin with the end in mind, not just the saying but setting a foundation of why the recognition of who is God the creator, his displayed character and stated purpose. This would be my departure point to discuss His stated greatest creation.

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