"Theological anthropology can be defined briefly as theological reflection on the human person." This was part of the compelling introduction that opened a most fascinating book.
I chanced upon this title while browsing through Wheaton College's website and was intrigued as I read its description. It looked kinda like a "Idiot's Guide" (no offense to the author) and I thought I should take a look.
What a book it proved to be!
The author attempted to give the reader an overview of the classical and contemporary theological arguments for the following questions:
- What is the relationship between human persons and the rest of creation? How "unique" are humans in creation? How does this affect our appreciation for the "dignity" of the human person?
- Why were humans created male and female? What is the significance of human sexuality for understanding humanity? How should this play out in our understanding of marriage, family, and sexual ethics?
- Of what are human persons comprised? Are we basically physical beings, spiritual beings, some combination of the two, or something else entirely? In what ways does our answer to this question affect how humans should live in the world?
- Do human persons have "free will"? What exactly does this mean and what is its significance for understanding, among other things, salvation, moral responsibility, and relationality?
I liked how the author guided the reader in the complex discussion and tried to make things as jargon-free as possible, although some technical terms would invariably pop up.
At the end of introducing the current debates on the imago dei, sexuality, mind and body and free will (as the chapters are so titled) we are given a framework in which to view these arguments in a coherent fashion. This I appreciated very much.
I most enjoyed the chapter on sexuality, perhaps partly because of my interest in it. I felt the author dealt very well with the intricacies of the topic and kudos to him for featuring the intersex. I'd just read a book on them and am thankful the author included them in the chapter because their very presence raises various theological questions.
The author rightly points out that "the number of discrete disciplines involved in the discussion can complicate matters and to do justice to our questions, it would seem that we need to be well versed in (at least) the fields of exegesis, theology, philosophy, psychology, biology, physics, and the neuroscience."
However, I felt that this book did an excellent job in addressing the various disciplines involved and I was pleasantly surprised that I understood perhaps 80% of the material save the parts that were overly technical.
I would recommend this book to all who are interested in the questions posed above as it gives a clear and comprehensive explanation. I would also like to thank the author for recommending me another book on the same topic by a different author, and perhaps you'll see another review up real soon. For my first foray into theological anthropology, I must say that this book has made it an enjoyable one.