Eccentric Existence: Part 2

Continuing our look at Kelsey’s Eccentric Existence I want to turn to some methodological and structural issues. While I will not go into Kelsey’s criticisms of other anthropologies, I do find it helpful to start here with one of his overviews of the tradition:

When the claim that the triune God relates creatively is taken as a theologically central claim, anthropology usually has a nature/grace structure (typical of catholic theology) or creation/redemption structure (typical of classic Lutheran and Reformed theology) that keeps primary focus on the goodness and strength of human creatures by virtue of God relating to them…When the claim that the triune God relates to draw all that is not God to eschatological consummation is taken as a theologically central claim, anthropology usually has a ‘creation/consummation’  structure (characteristic of much late-twentieth-century theology of hope) that keeps primary focus on the goodness and glory of human being by virtue of God relating to them” (115-116). Continue reading


Eccentric Existence: Part 1 (of many)

For those of you who remember, I’ve been in the middle of a series of books on theological anthropology over the past year or so. I’ve looked at several books, some introductory and others much more advanced, but I have always intended to end the series with David Kelsey’s work Eccentric Existence. That is, until I saw it. Kelsey wrote a massive two volume work in answer to the question of anthropology (the introductions, and yes, that is supposed to be plural, take up 158 pages). Kelsey’s work takes up about the same amount of space on my shelf as my two volume edition of Calvin’s Institutes! More importantly though, for those of you who remember, I was critical of Jamie Smith’s work Desiring the Kingdom, which I claimed failed to be theological (and therefore distinctively Christian). Jamie was kind enough to interact with me about my critique, and when he asked me about anthropology, I suggested that Kelsey’s volume would probably offer a helpful account (one of my criticisms of Jamie’s anthropology was that it was not trinitarian). Therefore, it seems fitting that I finally put a close on this series by digging into this massive beast clogging up my desk.

To start, I want to pick up on a piece noted above in response to Jamie Smith, that anthropology needs to be guided by a robust trinitarian theology. Kelsey picks up here well: “My aim in this project is to think through the agenda of theological anthropology in a way shaped from beginning to end by the triunity of the God with whom we have to do” (46). Continue reading

Theological Anthropology: Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies

I am continuing our look at recent theological anthropolog texts with another post on Marc Cortez. We addressed his intro text to theological anthropology in the “Guide for the Perplexed” series, and now turn to his dissertation turned monograph, Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies: An Exercise in Christological Anthropology and its Significance for the Mind/Body Debate. This volume appears in the T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology series, which has continued to pump out really well-crafted dissertation/monographs.

After addressing some introductory matters, Cortez jumps into Barth’s exposition of a Christological anthropology with specific focus on CD III/2. Cortez offers six criteria which, for Barth, are necessary conditions for true humanity:

(1) being constituted by the ontological priority of Jesus in his relationship with God; (2) being conditioned by the salvation enacted by Jesus; (3) having its ‘true determination’ in the glory of God; (4) existing under the Lordship of God; (5) freely corresponding in its proper action to the divine deliverance; and (6) freely rendering service to God as a being who is for God” (38).

Furthermore, these six criteria are the standard by which Barth engages and criticises other approaches to anthropology – three are highlighted: the biological, ethical and existential. Continue reading

Theological Anthropology and Christian Formation

After my reviews of Jamie Smith’s work here and here, I’ve decided to do something of a series of book reviews here on theological anthropology, culminating in the new two volume Eccentric Existence by Kelsey. I have already looked at Cortez’s book on the subject in the Guide for the Perplexed series (here), and I will return to Cortez with a look at his dissertation-turned-monograph Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies. Here, I am looking at a new volume from Baker Academic entitled God’s Many-Splendored Image: Theological Anthropology for Christian Formation by Nonna Verna Harrison.

Harrison’s work follows along similar contours as many new volumes, which seek to bring Patristic teaching to the church today. The best example of this I have seen thus far was Fairbairn’s volume Life in the Trinity, which I reviewed here, here and here. I say best, because Fairbairn does not simply seek to offer tidbits from the Patristics, but to grasp the center of their theology and utilize their insights, in a holistic fashion, for modern theology. Harrison’s book, on the other hand, takes on a different feel. Throughout, one is left wondering if she is merely wielding her own thoughts and proof-texting Patristic sources to make her point. In the end, one is never sure, since her interaction with the Patristic material is used to answer specific questions outside the contours of their own work. Continue reading

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?

Theological Anthropology and Human Ontology

I’m going to be doing a post soon on a volume on theological anthropology I’m reading, but before I did I wanted to hear some thoughts from those of you who follow TF concerning human ontology. How many of you are committed to a kind of substance dualism? How many to a strictly physicalist position (or even a “weak” physicalist position)? Does anyone just not care?! It has been a long time since I’ve worked through some of these issues, and I wanted to see where people are at with all of it.

For those of you who want to comment further, I would be interested to hear what doctrinal commitments and moves you would want to emphasize in this discussion. Furthermore, are there strictly exegetical commitments which seem to delineate one view, say a sort of dualism, over others?