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Tuesday
Jan202015

Theological Term of the Week

anthropology
The branch of theology that studies what the Bible teaches about humanity. 

  • One key biblical passage for the study of anthropology: 

    Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28 ESV)

  • From the Belgic Confession:
  • Chapter 14 We believe that God created man from the dust of the earth and made and formed him in his image and likeness— good, just, and holy; able by his own will to conform in all things to the will of God.

    But when he was in honor he did not understand it and did not recognize his excellence. But he subjected himself willingly to sin and consequently to death and the curse, lending his ear to the word of the devil.

    For he transgressed the commandment of life, which he had received, and by his sin he separated himself from God, who was his true life, having corrupted his entire nature.

    So he made himself guilty and subject to physical and spiritual death, having become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways. He lost all his excellent gifts which he had received from God, and he retained none of them except for small traces which are enough to make him inexcusable.

    Moreover, all the light in us is turned to darkness, as the Scripture teaches us: “The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not receive it.” Here John calls men “darkness.”

    Therefore we reject everything taught to the contrary concerning man’s free will, since man is nothing but the slave of sin and cannot do a thing unless it is “given him from heaven.”

    For who can boast of being able to do anything good by himself, since Christ says, “No one can come to me unless my Father who sent me draws him”?

    Who can glory in his own will when he understands that “the mind of the flesh is enmity against God”? Who can speak of his own knowledge in view of the fact that “the natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit of God”?

    In short, who can produce a single thought, since he knows that we are “not able to think a thing” about ourselves, by ourselves, but that “our ability is from God”?

    And therefore, what the apostle says ought rightly to stand fixed and firm: “God works within us both to will and to do according to his good pleasure.”

    For there is no understanding nor will conforming to God’s understanding and will apart from Christ’s involvement, as he teaches us when he says, “Without me you can do nothing.”
  • From Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof, The Origin of Man:
  • 1. MAN’S CREATION WAS PRECEDED BY A SOLEMN DIVINE COUNSEL. Before the inspired writer records the creation of man, he leads us back, as it were, into the council of God, acquainting us with the divine decree in the words, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” Gen. 1:26. The Church has generally interpreted the plural “us” on the basis of the trinitarian existence of God. Some scholars, however, regard it as a plural of majesty; others, as a plural of communication, in which God includes the angels with Himself; and still others, as a plural of self-exhortation. Of these three suggestions the first is very unlikely, since the plural of majesty originated at a much later date; the second is impossible, because it would imply that the angels were co-creators with God, and that man is also created in the image of the angels, which is an un-Scriptural idea; and the third is an entirely gratuitous assumption, for which no reason can be assigned. Why should such a self-exhortation be in the plural, except for the reason that there is a plurality in God.

    2. THE CREATION OF MAN WAS IN THE STRICTEST SENSE OF THE WORD AN IMMEDIATE ACT OF GOD. Some of the expressions used in the narrative preceding that of the creation of man indicate mediate creation in some sense of the word. Notice the following expressions: “And God said, Let the earth put forth grass, herbs, yielding seed, and fruit-trees bearing fruit after their kind” — “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures” … and, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind”; and compare these with the simple statement, “And God created man.” Whatever indication of mediacy in the work of creation is contained in the former expressions, is entirely wanting in the latter. Evidently the work of God in the creation of man was not mediated in any sense of the word. He did make use of pre-existent material in forming the body of man, but even this was excluded in the creation of the soul.

    3. IN DISTINCTION FROM THE LOWER CREATURES MAN WAS CREATED AFTER A DIVINE TYPE. With respect to fishes, birds, and beasts we read that God created them after their kind, that is, on a typical form of their own. Man, however, was not so created and much less after the type of an inferior creature. With respect to him God said, “Let us make man in our imageafter our likeness.” We shall see what this implies, when we discuss the original condition of man, and merely call attention to it here, in order to bring out the fact that in the narrative of creation the creation of man stands out as something distinctive.

    4. THE TWO DIFFERENT ELEMENTS OF HUMAN NATURE ARE CLEARLY DISTINGUISHED. In Gen. 2:7 a clear distinction is made between the origin of the body and that of the soul. The body was formed out of the dust of the ground; in the production of it God made use of pre-existing material. In the creation of the soul, however, there was no fashioning of pre-existing materials, but the production of a new substance. The soul of man was a new production of God in the strict sense of the word. Jehovah “breathed into his (man’s) nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” In these simple words the twofold nature of man is clearly asserted, and their teaching is corroborated by other passages of Scripture, such as, Eccl. 12:7; Matt. 10:28; Luke 8:55; II Cor. 5:1-8; Phil. 1:22-24; Heb. 12:9. The two elements are the body and the breath or spirit of life breathed into it by God, and by the combination of the two man became “a living soul,” which means in this connection simply “a living being.”

    5. MAN IS AT ONCE PLACED IN AN EXALTED POSITION. Man is represented as standing at the apex of all the created orders. He is crowned as king of the lower creation, and is given dominion over all the inferior creatures. As such it was his duty and privilege to make all nature and all the created beings that were placed under his rule, subservient to his will and purpose, in order that he and his whole glorious dominion might magnify the almighty Creator and Lord of the universe, Gen. 1:28; Ps. 8:4-9.

Learn more:

  1. GotQuestions.org: What is Christian Anthropology?
  2. Nathan Pitchford: Knowing Ourselves
  3. Stanford Murrell: Anthropology: The Study of Man
  4. James White: The Doctrine of Man
  5. Bruce Ware: Humanity and Sin
  6. Greg Herrick: Anthropology and Harmartiology: Man and Sin
  7. S. Lewis Johnson: Lectures on Anthropology (audio)

Related terms:

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