Christian Perspectives on Being Human
by J.P. Moreland
- Title: Christian Perspectives on Being Human: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Integration
- Publish Date: 4/1993
- Publisher: Baker Books
- Audience: Intermediate
- Kingdom Categories: Life of the Mind
A responsible philosophical and theological anthropology is essential for rightly viewing human persons and their dignity; it will try to best approximate what is real about being human. The contributions of philosophy and theology are meant to cohesively integrate in this area and provide an adequate basis for thinking about the human being from a variety of disciplines.
When I edited Christian Perspectives on Being Human with my colleague David Ciocchi, we set out to host a stimulating discussion on how to think about human beings from the advantage point of biblical worldview integration. We happily assembled a multidisciplinary team of voices from philosophy, theology, biblical studies, psychology, cultural anthropology, and medical ethics. Our book is a handsome preface and compliment to my later work with Scott Rae, Body & Soul (2000), and then also with my 2009 book, The Recalcitrant Imago Dei.
There are four parts to our book. Part one offers a succinct overview of how to think theologically about human nature. In chapter 1, my Biola colleague, Bob Saucy, provides a systematic theology perspective about human nature. Among the topics surveyed are the constitutional nature of a human being, the meaning of the image of God, a study of the various theological aspects of being human (e.g., spirit, flesh, heart), theological insights about human functioning, and the nature and effects of the fall of mankind.
In part two, and for chapter 2 and 3, we offer reflections about being human from the discipline of philosophy. I defend in chapter 2 a substance dualist view of the existence and nature of the soul, and I summarize a number of important background issues that help to clarify the different views about the existence of the soul. A number of arguments for dualism in general, and substance dualism in particular are given, and a major objection to substance dualism is evaluated. In chapter 3, Ciocchi argues that the concept of freedom plays an important role in our attempt to understand what it is to be a human being. This concept, he claims, is in effect a family of related ideas, including both freedom as a condition for moral responsibility (“free will”) and freedom as a characteristic of fully or ideally functioning personhood (“the freedom of personal integrity”). This chapter applies competing definitions of free will to certain theological themes, among them prayer and temptation. It also models the “integrative” usefulness of philosophy in assisting our development of theological anthropology when it uses freedom of personal integrity to help explain the experience described in Romans 7:14-25.
In part three, and for chapter 4, anthropologist Sherwood Lingenfelter reviews nearly a century of literature by cultural and social anthropologists on the subject of mind, emotion, culture, and the person. He shows how ideas of rationality, irrationality and nonrationality contribute to our understanding of the biblical concepts of “the natural man,” the “alienated mind,” and the “rebellious heart.” Chapter 5, psychologist Nancy Duvall discusses the relationship between psychoanalytic perspectives in psychology and Christianity. Duvall argues that, originally, some Christian thinkers utilized psychoanalytic theory by distinguishing practical, clinical helps from Freud’s metaphysical assumptions. However, with increasing research, clinical observations, and subsequent revisions in psychoanalytic theory, the description of humankind embedded in current psychoanalytic views are much more compatible with a Christian anthropology than was true of Freud’s original view. Lastly, in chapter 6, psychologist Keith Edwards analyzes human nature and functioning from the perspective of brain studies and neurophysiology. He stresses that there are mental functions which occur outside of conscious awareness that influence emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Edwards emphasizes how the nature of emotions is distinct from language and how emotions, beliefs and actions are interrelated.
Part four approaches questions about being human from New Testament studies, medical ethics, and education. In chapter 7, my Biola colleague and New Testament scholar, Walt Russell, argues that it is a mistake to use passages in Paul’s epistles (Gal. 5-6 ; Rom. 7-8) to prove that there is an internal struggle between a “sinful nature” and “new nature.” This wrong understanding, claims Russell, is rooted in viewing the flesh and Spirit antithesis in these passages psychologically, rather than in a redemptive-historical manner. Russell shows that Paul, rather than pointing to the internal strife between the parts of a person, uses “flesh” and “Spirit” to refer to the historical identities and behaviors of the total person. Chapter 8 moves into the field of medical ethics. Philosopher and Biola colleague, Scott Rae, shows how one’s view of human personhood is critically important to making medical ethics decisions both at the beginning and ending edges of life. Specifically, he shows that attempts to justify various forms of euthanasia are often dependent on a distinction between being a human being and being a person. But this is both philosophically problematic and inconsistent with the biblical teaching on the image of God. Finally, educator and Biola colleague, Klaus Issler, examines two discipleship concerns for the maturing of believers: educating a sensitive conscience and improving our moral decision-making. As part of this discussion, Issler offers a review of biblical terms for “conscience” and a three-component model of conscience. Effective growth in Christian character, says Issler, requires that we attend to how our conscience functions.
Christian Perspectives on Being Human not only includes informative, multidisciplinary presentations but after each chapter (with the exception of chapter 1), we’ve asked some of contributors to offer two brief responses to show the possibilities of how to think integratively about an area. Each chapter also provides a resourceful suggested reading list, along with helpful demarcation of whether a source is basic, intermediate or advanced.
Related Content: If Christian Perspectives on Being Human interests you, you might also want to consider the following:
- Body & Soul (book)
- Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview (book)
- The Recalcitrant Imago Dei (book)
- Scaling the Secular City (book)
- Christian Worldview Integration Series (book)
- Preview This Book
- Order Christian Perspectives on Being Human
- It offers a useful multidisciplinary perspective on what it means to be human.
- It is theologically smart and philosophically astute.
- It is educationally useful given the sort of interaction among contributors and the exchange of perspectives.
- It is handy, in whole or in part, for both upper-division undergraduate and graduate courses in anthropology from a Christian perspective
- It is well-researched and attentive to relevant scholarly discussions in the literature at the time
- It is unashamedly Christian in its biblical worldview orientation and not merely Christian in name or image only as it concerns the integration endeavor
Table of Contents: Introduction / J.P. Moreland 1. Theology of human nature / Robert L. Saucy 2. A defense of a substance dualist view of the soul / J.P. Moreland ; Responses: Nancy S. Duvall, Keith J. Edwards 3. Human freedom / David M. Ciocchi ; Responses: Nancy S. Duvall, Walt Russell 4. Mind, emotion, culture and the person: perspectives from cultural anthropology and scripture / Sherwood G. Lingenfelter ; Responses: David M. Ciocchi, Walt Russell 5. On being human: a psychoanalytic perspective / Nancy S. Duvall ; Responses: Keith J. Edwards, Klaus Issler 6. The nature of human mental life / Keith J. Edwards ; Responses: J.P. Moreland, Scott B. Rae 7. The Apostle Paul's view of the "sin nature"-"new nature" struggle / Walt Russell ; Responses: David M. Ciocchi, Sherwood G. Lingenfelter 8. Views of human nature at the edges of life: personhood and medical ethics / Scott B. Rae ; Responses: Klaus Issler, J.P. Moreland 9. Conscience: moral sensitivity and moral reasoning / Klauss Issler ; Responses: Sherwood G. Lingenfelter, Scott B. Rae Conclusion / David M. Ciocchi