Theological anthropology is a topic of perennial interest among evangelical theologians and other scholars of religion. Although numerous introductions are available, the vast majority presuppose a nonbiblical worldview and require a familiarity with philosophy and theology. This volume fills a gap in the literature by offering a thorough introduction to the topic written from an evangelical perspective. It introduces foundational sources of knowledge on human persons from the scriptural narrative and church history while drawing from contemporary evangelical models.
Motived by ancient and Reformed reflections on human nature, Joshua Farris walks the reader through some of the most important issues in traditional approaches to anthropology, such as sexuality, posthumanism, and the image of God. He addresses fundamental questions like, What does it mean to be human? Who am I? and Why do I exist? He also considers the creaturely and divine nature of humans, the body-soul relationship, and the beatific vision. Farris concludes that humans are souls and bodies and are designed to experience the presence of God. They are appropriately understood in their creaturely context as divine image bearers, yet their goal is union with God.
An authentic tour de force, this book is your one-stop resource for theological anthropology, for students and professors alike. Farris demonstrates the fecundity of a broad evangelical Reformed tradition--in constant dialogue with the broader Christian tradition--for a wide array of topics related to the nature of humanity. He articulates a comprehensive anthropology adequately grounded in a doctrine of creation, yet without neglecting either Christology or eschatology.
Adonis Vidu, Professor of Theology, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
What, who, and why am I? Few questions are more complicated and important to answer. In An Introduction to Theological Anthropology, Farris offers a bold, lucid, and comprehensive vision of the human person as an embodied soul whose identity and purpose are found in the vision of God. Unapologetically evangelical and Reformed, this introduction is a valuable resource for both teaching and research.
Joanna Leidenhag, Lecturer in Theology, University of St. Andrews
In An Introduction to Theological Anthropology, Joshua Farris retrieves the best of the Christian tradition's reflections on human persons while interacting with various challenges of the twenty-first century. His work is attentive to questions arising from modern theology, philosophy, and the natural sciences. It addresses those questions from a broad Reformed and evangelical perspective in a style that will be accessible for many. Farris provides an engaging, integrated work that I look forward to using in my classroom.
Mary L. Vanden Berg, Jean and Kenneth Baker Professor of Systematic Theology, Calvin Theological Seminary
With An Introduction to Theological Anthropology, Joshua Farris gives the Christian theological community a sorely needed text. It pays careful attention to biblical, theological, and philosophical scholarship, all of which are relevant to this very complicated area of theological research and teaching. Because of this, Farris's book evidences the sort of interdisciplinary sensitivity demonstrative of the theologian who takes seriously that theology is the queen of the sciences. This text's methodology and content guarantee that I'll use it in my courses.
J. T. Turner, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Anderson University
Joshua Farris is a leading figure in the resurgent field of theological anthropology. In this excellent volume, he distills years of first-rate research into a lively and informative introduction to the subject. This introduction is philosophically savvy as well as theologically substantive in its content and argument. Farris begins every chapter with scriptural and cultural material to prompt initial questions, which he then brings into conversation with the catholic or holy tradition. Along the way, he expounds the body-soul relationship, creaturely and divine purpose, beatific vision, and deification, boldly pointing the way for Protestants committed to a robust account of theological anthropology.
Jerry L. Walls, Professor of Philosophy and Scholar in Residence, Houston Baptist University
What's a theologian, whose speciality is God, doing making claims about the nature of humanity? Isn't Reformed theology, with its doctrine of total depravity, itself a crime against humanity? Farris's book responds to these and other contemporary questions, arguing that humans will be able to answer the big questions about meaning, identity, and destiny only insofar as they can position themselves in relation to God and to the story of God's relationship to humanity attested in Scripture. To an age poised between modern confidence in science that reduces humanity to its materiality and postmodern suspicion of fixed forms that throws open the Pandora's box of human plasticity, Farris calls for a reconsideration of the biblical narrative and a retrieval of the way the church has traditionally interpreted it. While not shirking the contemporary challenges--their name is Legion--Farris here lets Jesus Christ, the God-man and light of the world, illumine what it means to be human.
Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Farris offers an eminently analytical account of theological anthropology that will appeal to readers from a variety of Christian denominational backgrounds. Don't be fooled by the textbook appearance: this volume contains plenty of incisive engagements with both historic and contemporary perspectives that both esteem and plague the human condition. This is a kaleidoscopic theology and philosophy in ten jam-packed chapters.
Paul Allen, Academic Dean and Professor of Theology, Corpus Christi College
Joshua Farris has written a very helpful book on a timely topic. Contemporary discussions of the nature of humans are fraught with confusion and opacity. Yet theology has much to offer to alleviate these plights. With clarity and charity, Farris treats a myriad of pertinent topics in this principled introductory text. Scripturally grounded, historically informed, philosophically savvy, and scientifically engaged, this book offers a provocative and compelling theological vision for humanity's place in God's cosmos.
James M. Arcadi, Assistant Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
First, this book is commendable for the sheer scholarly force and breadth of its presentation. While he acknowledges the need to limit the depth with which he addresses each issue, Farris has left few topics unaddressed in these pages. He is clearly an expert in the field of theological anthropology as both his own prior publishing record and the evidence of research in the present volume make clear. He seems to have admirably struck the balance between introducing the major topics in an objective way without being entirely noncommittal in his assessments... Interested students of theology and seasoned theologians alike will benefit greatly from Farris’s work in this book. It serves as a stimulating and enjoyable foray into the major issues of Christian theological anthropology and opens up countless pathways for further rigorous thought, research, and development.
Kyle D. Claunch
Associate Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Throughout Farris does not simply present a range of positions without himself committing to theological conclusions. He stakes claims. Yet, he does so only after fair presentation of the strengths and weaknesses of varying alternatives. The book is thus more than just an overview of a menu of anthropological options... Overall, the book is an especially useful introductory text to acquaint one with the current state of issues in theological anthropology. It offers many criticisms, analyses, and conclusions which, even if one disagrees with them, are still formidable and thought-provoking contributions to both the hoary debates of theological anthropology and fresher ones that have emerged more recently.
So, how should the biblical-theological student interact with this book? As mentioned, it would make a great main text for undergraduate students to introduce them to the wide range of issues in theological anthropology. His treatment covers far more ground than other works such as Marc Cortez’s Theological Anthropology: A Guide for the Perplexed, making it an ideal resource. Therefore, those considering what textbook they should use for classroom type settings should give serious consideration to it. For those unfamiliar with the terrain of anthropology and many of the philosophical disputes yet interested in beginning to understand them, Farris speaks in an understandable way that would allow anyone to understand the issues. Ultimately, while I have criticisms of the book, I think it provides a readable reliable guide to the topics and is especially useful for classrooms.
Jordan L. Steffaniak
The success of Farris’ method is seen particularly within his initial treatments of personal ontologies (30), evolution (51), and the imago Dei (image of God, 79). By briefly surveying the common understandings of human ontology, ranging from reductive physicalism to substance dualism, Farris brings the theological data to bear upon the subject. Not only does he give a compelling account of substance dualism by pointing to the continuity of personal identification through stages of change (36), Farris also points to a theological understanding found in scripture that ties this dualism to the creational narrative by which humanity is understood in relation to God (46, 81)... Overall, Farris’ large undertaking serves as a successful introduction to the vast field of theological anthropology. Readers are not only exposed to the in-depth conversations of ontology, Christology, culture, and the like, but also invited to expand and explore the avenues Farris has left open. This book is an essential recommendation to any reader in need of a guide to traversing this important and growing question of what it means to be human.