Category: (06) What is Christian Anthropology?

Anthropology is the study of humanity. Christian Anthropology is the study of  humanity from a Christian / biblical perspective. It is primarily focused on the  nature of humanity – how the immaterial and material aspects of man relate to  each other. Here are some common questions in Christian Anthropology:

What does it mean that man is made in the image and  likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27)? The image of God refers to the immaterial  part of man. It is that which sets man apart from the animal world, fits him for  the “dominion” God intended (Genesis  1:28), and enables him to commune with his Maker. It is a likeness mentally,  morally, and socially.

Do we have two or  three parts?  Are we body, soul, and spirit – or – body, soul-spirit? Human  beings were intended to have a relationship with God, and as such, God created  us with both material and immaterial aspects. The material aspects are obviously  those that are tangible and only exist as long as the person is alive. The  immaterial aspects are those which are intangible: soul, spirit, intellect,  will, conscience, etc. These characteristics exist beyond the physical lifespan  of the individual.

What is the difference  between the soul and spirit? It is important to understand that both refer  to the immaterial part of man, but only the “spirit” refers to the man’s walk  with God. The “soul” refers to man’s walk in the world, both material and  immaterial.

What is the origin of the  different races? The Bible does not explicitly give us the origin of the  different “races” or skin colors of humanity. In actuality, there is only one  race – the human race. Within the human race, there is vast diversity in skin  color and other physical characteristics.

Christian Anthropology deals  with who we are and how we relate to God. Whether people are inherently good or  inherently sinful is crucial in determining how our relationship with God can be  restored. Whether the souls of human beings carry on after death determines in  large part our view of our purpose in this world. Christian Anthropology helps  us to understand ourselves from God’s perspective. When we delve into this  subject, we get a clearer understanding of our fallen nature, and this leads to  a sense of wonder at the love of the Savior who saw our helpless state and went  to the cross to redeem us. When we accept that sacrifice and appropriate it as  our own, our natures are transformed by God who creates in us a completely new  person (2  Corinthians 5:17). It is this new person who can relate to Him as we should,  as His adored children.

A key verse on Christian Anthropology is Psalm 139:14, “I praise you  because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know  that full well.”

The Bible does not explicitly give us the origin of the different “races” or skin colors in humanity. In actuality, there is only one race—the human race. Within the human race is diversity in skin color and other physical characteristics. Some speculate that when God confused the languages at the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), He also created racial diversity. It is possible that God made genetic changes to humanity to better enable people to survive in different ecologies, such as the darker skin of Africans being better equipped genetically to survive the excessive heat in Africa. According to this view, God confused the languages, causing humanity to segregate linguistically, and then created genetic racial differences based on where each racial group would eventually settle. While possible, there is no explicit biblical basis for this view. The races/skin colors of humanity are nowhere mentioned in connection with the tower of Babel.

At the Tower of Babel, when the different languages came into existence, groups that spoke one language moved away with others of the same language. In doing so, the gene pool for a specific group shrank dramatically as the group no longer had the entire human population to mix with. Closer inbreeding took place, and in time certain features were emphasized in these different groups (all of which were present as a possibility in the genetic code). As further inbreeding occurred through the generations, the gene pool grew smaller and smaller, to the point that people of one language family all had the same or similar features.

Another explanation is that Adam and Eve possessed the genes to produce black, brown, and white offspring (and everything else in between). This would be similar to how a mixed-race couple sometimes has children that vary in color. Since God obviously desired humanity to be diverse in appearance, it makes sense that God would have given Adam and Eve the ability to produce children of different skin tones. Later, the only survivors of the flood were Noah and his wife, Noah’s three sons and their wives—eight people in all (Genesis 7:13). Perhaps Noah’s daughters-in-law were of different races. It is also possible that Noah’s wife was of a different race than Noah. Maybe all eight of them were of mixed race, which would mean they possessed the genetics to produce children of different races. Whatever the explanation, the most important aspect of this question is that we are all the same race, all created by the same God, all created for the same purpose—to glorify Him.