Category: Theological Anthropology
In week 4 of #TMHWeBelieve, Bruxy led us in looking at two related topics: anthropology (humanity) and hamartiology (sin).
In a previous post I discussed the basic concept of human dignity as image-bearers of God. I’d like to tease that out a bit further, however, with a look at the Hebrew language used in this phrase. Typically we translate the Hebrew word צלם (tselem) into English as “image” or something similar and that is even the language I used in the previous post, but that could allow us to look past something helpful if we aren’t careful.
The starting point for any discussion of theological anthropology – how we understand humanity from the perspective of God – is with the creation account. There it makes this radical statement:
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
(Genesis 1:27 NRSV)
I probably only read about 15 books in 2013, but the most impactful and most interesting by a significant margin was Disunity in Christ by Christena Cleveland. I love psychology. I love theology. I love the church, even when I simultaneously hate the church for a lot of our stupidity and brokenness. So a book that uses social psychology research to help explain why the church is so divisive and how we can do better? That’s pretty much my perfect storm.
I can’t count the number of times that I’ve judged other Christians as inferior. I’m not sure I could even count the number of times I’ve done that this week. Especially since I finished my M.Div. and especially when the conversation is online with those I may not talk to often otherwise, it is an incredibly easy approach to fall into. As Cleveland puts it, I sort people into Right Christian vs Wrong Christian. Maybe a few get put in an Undetermined category but that typically doesn’t last long. My criteria for Right Christian tended to be like Cleveland’s: egalitarian for sure, living below your means in order to give to those with greater need, supportive of LGBTQ people, environmentally-conscious, thinks of the Gospel in terms of social change, emphasizes God’s love rather than judgement, etc.
Note: Spoilers will follow in this review.
Warm Bodies is honestly one of the most interesting – if not necessarily the best – movies I’ve seen in recent years. The acting is good, directing is good, they did some great use of lighting and colours, but ultimately it is because of an atypical storyline that is actually compelling: It is a zombie love story, I knew that much going in. But it is more than that, too.
The General Plot
The movie begins with the main zombie R – he can’t remember what his name was but he remembers it started with an R – giving an internal monologue about how much he hates his new “life” as a zombie. He just shuffles around all day. There is no meaning to anything. He introduces us to his friend M, and then clarifies that by “friend” he means that they look at each other a few minutes a day, occasionally grunting and sometimes managing a single actual word. Zombie fans know that’s already giving zombies a bit more humanity than most zombie movies – any others that I know of – but it isn’t really a stretch either.
A recent uproar happened on Twitter when a Reformed thinker declared that we should be making it clear to our children that they are broken, terribly terribly broken (although I’m paraphrasing, there was a repeated emphasis similar to this). It brings up two questions: what is a biblically accurate view of humanity? And what is good to be telling our children (not always the same thing)?
I’ll take the second question first since it is easier and more unanimous amongst anybody who knows anything about the topic. You should not tell your children, ever, that they are terribly terribly broken. It doesn’t mean you tell them they’re perfect, and I suspect the tweet was in response to helicopter parenting which tries to keep all suffering and criticism out of their child’s life. If that was the case, he probably had a point and just conveyed it in a brutally unhelpful and wrong way. Yes, help your children realize that they will suffer in the world and that they will cause suffering through their own mistakes, but telling them that they are inherently broken is never going to help any child, leading them only to depression or other mental health issues.
You’ve most likely heard the phrase that humans are the image-bearers of God. The phrase comes from Genesis 1:26 where it declares that God made male and female in their (see my post on whether this is a hint about the Trinity) own image. The same idea is echoed by James and Paul in the New Testament. Some theologians, particularly in the Reformed camp, argue that the image of God is no longer a part of us, having been lost in “the Fall” so that we are now totally depraved. They would say that when James and Paul use the same language, it is because after and only after we have followed in the way of Christ have we taken on the image again. Therefore it is only this group of predestined believers who are image-bearers of God. I would argue that everyone is an image-bearer at their core but that we are broken to various degrees and that shaping our life like Jesus is fixing the breaks. Practically speaking, there isn’t going to a lot of difference in how we live our lives. Whichever side you’re on, there is still a gaping question: what does it mean to be in the image of God?
A lot of people really like their zombies. Zombie movies, zombie TV, books on how to survive the zombie apocalypse, large groups of people taking zombie walks, and more. A couple of days ago I finished watching the first two seasons of The Walking Dead off of Netflix. I’ve never been too crazy about zombie entertainment, but the second season of TWD completely had me hooked. Plus yesterday was Halloween, so it seems like a good time to look at our fascination to zombies. Why do we love these stories so much? I’m going to hypothesize three things. First, a quick one: we are attracted to the concept of resurrection in general. Second, I think many of us are afraid that we are a little like zombies ourselves in the sense that we all have times of just drifting through life. The third I just stole from The American Jesus who released this post with a different take on it: we like to “zombify” our enemies with labels so that we don’t have to treat them like humans.
Earlier today I found myself thinking about the 1st Century Jewish sects and comparing them to 21st Century Christian denominations. There are generally accepted to be four sects of Judaism in this time period: Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes. Although they were all of the same faith in the big picture, they also held some different views and particularly some very different emphases as to what is the most important aspect of the Jewish life. In that sense, they’re a lot like Christian denominations today. Then I started seeing parallels between those sects and today’s denominations.