I opened up the idea of the Constitution of Mean in the previous post. I am posting now a research paper I wrote when in seminary. It is long, so I understand if you don't have time to read, but feel free to glance through. (The sources are listed below, but the footnotes did not copy over, so if you want to know which source a quote comes from, let me know). I believe the study of Theological Anthropology is important and has many ramifications:
THEOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY: A FOUNDATIONAL SUMMARY
The psalmist asks of God in a Psalm of worship, “what is man that you are mindful of him…?”(Ps 8:4). The question is at the core of humanity’s existence because within the question there is the acknowledgement that man is subservient to a God Who is mindful of man. How did this arrangement come into being, and what is the answer to this question, “what is man…?” The question is asked rhetorically, for certainly the Psalmist is aware of God having created humankind as written earlier in the Pentateuch. God had acted as the transcendent God in order to create a people for His own purpose and glory. The prophet Isaiah wrote of God’s ultimate calling of people from the ends of the earth unto Himself and in this call a reference to the purpose of creation is seen. He writes, “…everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isa 43:7). The formation of human beings speaks to the glory of God.
The issues of the constitution of man, how human beings are related to God, humankind’s ultimate purpose as creatures of God, and human freedom or lack thereof as a being connected to a transcendent and yet imminent God, are all questions that are necessary to understand theological anthropology. First, the study of theological anthropology is a necessary task because humanity’s nature in relationship to its Creator is of vital importance. Any being or existent thing speaks volumes about its designer. And in the case of humanity, since humankind bears the image and likeness of its Creator, then this image bearing speaks about the Creator as well as the creation. Human beings created in the Imago Dei are monument to the power and authority of God. Secondly, the relationship that humanity has with its Creator speaks to the ultimate goal(s) of the Creator. Ultimately, the human constitution and the eschatological ramifications of that constitution are of import as well. These are foundational aspects of the study of theological anthropology, and undertaking the task of theological anthropology is ultimately something that can lead to greater biblical understanding.
The Latin phrase Imago Dei is translated as Image of God. This phrase usually references a human being’s status as a creation made in the image of God. The Image of God is an individual’s status as one bearing God's resemblance, uniquely able among all of the living creation to have relationship with Him, and being one who is a son or daughter of God, dependent upon Him. The image of God involves an individual being one who is God's servant representative of dominion over all of Creation. Mankind was created in the image of God to display the glory, majesty and authority of God, and although not devoid of that original image, when a person restored to God relationally in Jesus Christ from sin, he or she is able to fully live and serve again in God’s image.
Hammett writes, “The most important fact one can state about any human being is that he or she is created in the image of God (imago dei). Many elements of our created nature are shared with animals, but only humanity was created with special deliberation (“Let us make” rather than “Let there be”) and with a special design.” The fact that a human being is an image bearer is of unmistakable ontological importance, for at the helm of humanity’s history is the Creator God. The first Biblical reference to the Imago Dei is in Genesis 1:26. There the text reads, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” An individual is said to be image bearers of the Creator and as such, as Hoekema writes, “… is a representation of God who is like God in certain aspects.” Within this verse a person is made in the image and likeness of God, and it is this image that sets mankind apart from the rest of creation for here in this sixth day of creation, humans are made in the image of God as opposed to the other creatures being made in or after their own kind.
Later in chapter five of Genesis, the writer gives a rearticulation of the creation of humanity in the “likeness” of God. The text reads, “…When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.” And then, just a verse or so later, the first man, Adam is seen as fathering a son, “in his own likeness, after His image…” It is this furthering of the text that sheds some light on what it means for individuals to be made in the Imago Dei. Adam is pictured as a creation that is made in the image and likeness of God. Then, Adam’s progeny is seen as bearing Adam’s image and likeness. The implications here are at least two fold: 1). Adam’s offspring are like him and 2). Adam’s offspring continue to bear the Imago Dei since Adam is made in the image and likeness of God, and then his descendents are in his image and likeness. Grudem writes, “It is evident that every way in which Seth was like Adam would be a part of his likeness to Adam and thus part of his being “in the image” of Adam. Similarly, every way in which man is like God is part of his being in the image and likeness of God.” This fact makes man distinct from all other creatures and parts of creation. This attribute of humanity’s beginning impacts not only who a person is, but also what a person does.
One other crucial passage in which the Old Testament references the Imago Dei as it relates to humankind is in Genesis chapter nine. Here, the reference relates to the value of humankind specifically because of humanity’s image bearing status. The text reads, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” The text reiterates the image of God upon humans, and here is gives (post-fall) a connection to humanity’s distinction because of the Imago Dei. Within these three Genesis passages, there is a reference to human beings being created as male and female and also a reference to humankind’s dignity. As part of the original creative order, before the fall of humanity, maleness and femaleness were designed, and inherent to gender is sexuality and gender expression. This aspect in someway relates to humankind bearing the Imago Dei. Also, within the Genesis chapter nine passage, there is a reference to the dignity of humankind and the status of humanity within the created order. And particularly within this passage is a relational component to how human beings should treat one another. The continuation of the generation of persons, which would include the image bearing of God, is seen in the gender of humanity as expressed in the Genesis passages as well as in the dignity of human beings as expressed in the prohibition of murder. Both of these relate to the nature of the Imago Dei in the human race. One must also see in connection with the image bearing status of humanity that an attribute listed (perhaps not as a definition of the image, but as a function of that image bearing) is that people are to have dominion over creation. Other aspects of humanity’s likeness to God could be postulated and could include moral, spiritual and physical aspects.
Church history is full of differing views on what it means for individuals to be made in the Imago Dei. Some such as the Reformers Luther and Calvin held to a substantive view, which conceived of the Imago Dei in human beings as a quality. This view would see an aspect of an individual, such as moral reasoning, or spiritual distinction as that individual bearing the Imago Dei in quality. Others such as Karl Barth held to a relational view, which sees a person’s bearing the Imago Dei as an expression of that person’s relational nature, specifically in interpersonal relationships, both with God and with one another. A third view is the functional view that believes the Imago Dei in a person is largely an aspect of that individual’s function and task. A dominant aspect within this view would be the human race’s dominion over creation, a task that God specifically gives to the first man and woman in the Genesis narrative. This view had some historical connection as it was held by Chrysostom. In addition to these three historical views, there are other avenues by which one could view the Imago Dei. Shults uses the distinctions of functional, existential and eschatological in his work on relationality and the imago dei. A particular focus here is on the state of being and ultimate ontology of the individual.
The Genesis narrative provides the proposition that people are made in the “image” and “likeness” of God, but the essence of those two words is a topic for great debate. It appears that the general principle is that humankind “is like God and represents God.” However, what is the primary essence of the Imago Dei upon humanity? It could be a quality or identity, or it could be a function, such as task to relationship. Perhaps, it could be a conglomeration of both concepts. Erickson sees some validity in each of the views, but ultimately sides with the substantive view. He writes:
“…the image should be thought of as primarily substantive or structural. The image is something in the very nature of man, in the way in which he was made. It refers to something man is rather than something he has or does. By virtue of his being man, he is in the image of God; it is not dependent upon the presence of anything else. By contrast the focus of the relational and functional views is actually on consequences or applications of the image rather that on the image itself. Although very closely linked to the image of God, experiencing relationships and exercising dominion are not themselves that image.”
This appears later in at least two relevant New Testament passages. In 1 Corinthians 11:7, humankind is to do a specific task or function predominately because of being made in the image of God. The text reads when speaking of the covering of the head that, “For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God…” Within this New Testament passage, there is another reference to people being image bearers of God, and because of that substance or essence, they are to perform a certain function. Another such passage is James 3:9, where James writes while speaking of the tongue that, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” Humanity’s functions and relationships are placed in light of and individual’s substance or essence within the Imago Dei.
In terms of the nature of the image of God in human beings, perhaps a question still remaining is whether the terms “image” and “likeness” are simply two identical expressions used to describe the same concept, or whether there is a distinction between the two. If these two words have slightly different meanings, or at least emphases, then this could shed light on the issue of meaning of the Imago Dei upon men and women. The specific meanings of the words “image” and “likeness” are the topic of much discussion, and although very similar, there is a variety of opinion on the exact meanings of these two words in the discussion of theological anthropology. Hoekema writes:
“The words translated as image is tselem; the word rendered as likeness is demuth. In the Hebrew there is no conjunction between the two expressions; the text says simply “let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Both the Septuagint and the Vulgate inset an “and” between the two expressions, giving the impression that “image” and “likeness” refer to different things. The Hebrew text however, makes it clear that there is no essential difference between the two: “after our likeness” is only a different way of saying “in our image…If these words were intended to describe different aspects of the human being, they would not be used as we have seen them used, that is, almost interchangeably.”
Augustine himself did not see a distinction between “image” and “likeness”. Since the early centuries of the church, there has been the view that these two words (tselem-image) and (demut- likeness) were to be understood in different ways. Some have speculated that this is because of the addition of the word “and” between the two words in the LXX. Matthews, who views the terms as interchangeable writes, “Further support for understanding the terms as interchangeable comes from a ninth-century statue recovered from Tell Fekheriyeh (ancient Sikan) in Syria that bears a bilingual text in Assyrian and Aramaic. As a part selem and demut are used with the same meaning in reference to the statue.” Similarly, scholars like Grudem believe the distinction between the two words is very narrow, but others see a distinction between the emphases of the two words that adds differing areas of meaning. In every scriptural reference to the Imago Dei, it could be argued that the primary focus is the glory of God.
Imago Dei and the Kingdom of God
Peter Gentry sees a connection between the words “image” and “likeness” that could shed light on the meaning of the entire text. He writes:
“… the term “the image of god” in the culture and language of the ancient Near East in the fifteenth century B.C. would have communicated two main ideas: (1) rulership and (2) sonship. The king is the image of god because he has a relationship to the deity as the son of god and a relationship to the world as ruler for the god. We ought to assume that the meaning in the Bible is identical or at least similar, unless the biblical text clearly distinguishes its meaning from the surrounding culture.”
For Gentry, the usage of these two words in the context of Ancient Near Eastern language is a demonstration of different emphases that the human race has within the Kingdom of God the Creator. Gentry sees the usage of these two words as a marker that points to a person’s relationship with God and the world. “Image” in his view points to humanity’s relationship to God in an individual being a “servant king”. “Likeness” in his view, culturally and linguistically would speak to humanity’s relationship to God as a son. Matthews echoes aspects of this view when he writes, “Mankind is appointed as God’s royal representatives (i.e., sonship) to rule the earth in his place.” In Luke’s gospel, the idea of people being children of God is pictured in the Lukan genealogy of Christ, where in Luke 3:38, Adam is said to be a “son of God.”
So it appears that Gentry blends concepts within the previously mentioned historical views on the nature of the image of humankind. He speaks of the essence or substance of a person, but views that individual as a relational being, not in functionality first, but in essence. He also speaks to a person’s function, but that this function flows out of an individual’s essence of substance. Gentry writes, “Man is the divine image. As servant-king and son of God mankind will mediate God’s rule to the creation in the context of a covenant relationship with God on the one hand and the earth on the other. Hence the concept of the kingdom of God is found on the first page of Scripture.” Here, a blending of ontology and functionality is seen in context of eschatological implications. By looking into Ancient Near Eastern linguistics, Gentry seeks to expose the words “image” and “likeness” in the language and culture of the day, specifically with reference to kings creating or carving out a likeness of themselves in a statue and placing that statue in a distant location to represent their rule over that location. This explanation seems plausible and yet at the same time incomplete without the full range of explanations for the Imago Dei within Christianity. A strength of Gentry’s work is the connection to the cultural and linguistic applications of the day, as well as to the overarching covenantal redemptive historical theme of Scripture. Matthews seems to arrive at a similar view of sonship and rulership however, while holding to the interchangeability of the two words “image” and “likeness”. The focus on the Ancient Near Eastern word usage does however provide richness to the study of the meaning of humanity’s image bearing of God. Even before the fall of humankind into sinful rebellion against God, the kingdom of God is seen with the human being as God’s chief agent.
Imago Dei and The Fall
The question of the human race’s retention of the Imago Dei after the fall is one of great importance, not only in the area of theological anthropology, but in other areas of systematic theology as well. In the Genesis nine passage seen earlier, people are prohibited from taking the life of one another and the image of God is referenced. And in both of the New Testament passages examined earlier (1 Cor 11:7 and Jam 3:9) there are certain issues discussed, both with references to the image or likeness of God. All of these references occur after the fall of the human race, which takes place in Genesis chapter three. This would seem to indicate that however the Imago Dei has been affected by the fall, it remains existent in every human being. Yet in all three of the historical views of the nature of the image of God in the individual (substantive, relational and functional), implications of how the image of God would be affected can be surmised. Grudem writes, “After the fall, then, we are still in God’s image—we are still like God and we still represent God—but the image of God in us is distorted; we are less fully like God than we were before the entrance of sin.” Shults contends that there is not even a distortion of the image. Others seem to take a middle approach such as Hoekema who suggests that a person is still a bearer of the image of God (in essence and perhaps substance) but now functions wrongly as an image-bearer.
Although a full discussion of the doctrine of sin is beyond the scope of this work, the implications of sin upon theological anthropology are immense. Another system of theology that is involved is soteriology. The overarching theme of Scripture is the redemptive historical act of God in saving and renewing His people. However, the image of God is center-stage in this redemption in the person of Jesus Christ. Both 2 Corinthians 4:4 and Colossians 1:15 declare that Jesus is the image of God. And it is in Jesus Christ that being made in the image and likeness of God is seen in perfection. And not only is Jesus an exemplar of the original design of humanity, he is also the redemptive agent through which humanity is fully restored into the image and likeness of God as it was before the fall. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:8 that Christians are being changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ, and in Romans 8:29 we see that God has predetermined that believers be conformed to the “image” of Jesus Christ His Son. So Jesus is indeed an exemplar and display of the image and likeness of God as He Himself is the God-man, but he is also the agent through which people are changed. His redemptive work on the cross propitiates the wrath of a just God toward sin, and it expiates that sin, thereby canceling that sin and moving that individual into the lifelong process of sanctification whereby that individual is being changed and renewed, “in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col 3:10).
Therefore, the image motif of Genesis is instrumental in the redemption motif of the New Testament (which is an overarching theme of Scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments). This is of importance because salvation is not simply a forgiveness of sin, it is a complete restoration of the Imago Dei. And with this restoration comes the intended outcomes of functionality within the kingdom of God. Ultimately—eschatologically—people shall bear the image of Jesus Christ Himself (1 Cor 15:49). Often times, salvation is pictured too incompletely within the realm of “where you go when you die”. The theme of Scripture however is that the image bearers of God have become distorted and have ceased to function correctly as image bearers, and it is Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is the source of final restoration. The human race becomes what it was, and through it all God gets glory as Creator and Restorer.
The Nature of Human Freedom
One issue that arises in considering the fallen nature of people and the full range of what that means is the issue of the nature of human freedom specifically after the fall of humanity into sin. From the early years of the church, the issue of human freedom has been a source of continued debate and discussion, often times in peaceful conversations, and at other times in bitter division. This debate in modern times, at least in evangelical circles, tends toward a discussion of soteriology. Specifically, the issue of predestination vs. a person’s “free will” in salvation often takes center stage in the discussion. While this is indeed an important discussion, this issue comes as a result of a larger issue regarding the nature of human freedom which has been a part of Christian thought since the days of Augustine and Pelagius and even before. Central to this discussion is not simply salvation, eternal destiny, or the Ordo Salutis, but whether a person in his or her own ability is able to make any decision freely.
By the second century, there were several major theological movements developing which directed the thought of academics and the church alike. Burns writes, “By the middle of the third century, the two movements which produced the dominant anthropologies of the ancient church had begun to flourish: asceticism and Christian Platonism. Although these two tendencies were sometimes integrated both in practice and in theory, they actually involved significantly different perspectives on the human situation…” As these two tendencies developed and interacted with one another through their respective adherents, the dialogue on theological anthropology and specifically on the nature of human freedom ensued.
Asceticism, which taught the practice of self-discipline, specifically evident in the denial of certain bodily pleasures, influenced the debate in a number of specific ways. Of particular focus within asceticism is the issue of a person’s environmental surroundings. There was an acknowledgement of evil and good, and the manner in which humanity could seek good would be through proper environmental surroundings, which included the denial of specific appetites, choices and even social structures. Of course, this led to some forms of monasticism among many of its adherents. Of particular interest to the issue of human freedom is how the original Adamic fall has influenced human decisions throughout the following generations. For the Christian, the challenge is choosing to serve God in an environment bent away from God. Burns writes that within this view, “The person retains the internal resources of human nature: the light of reason to recognize the good, and the freedom to choose it.” So within the ascetic tradition, a person maintains his or her original freedom of nature and choice. In fact, this idea is central to this theology and it can be seen in the attempts at good choices through good actions. And it is through multiple choices that a person can come out from under a fallen nature and return to a level of righteousness. The grace of God plays a part in the entire equation, but of particular focus is a person’s self-determination. “The freedom of self-determination to good or evil, which is the inalienable divine image implanted in humanity at its creation, stands as the foundation of this anthropology.”
Gregory of Nyssa would further this connection between self-determination and the image of God. His view was that human freedom is central to choice and the choice of specific virtues, and if humans cannot choose certain virtues, then they are unable to share in the divine image because virtue is a part of the divine image. This tradition continues to modern times in a variety of circles. One tradition influenced by this early ascetic movement, and particularly the monastic desert fathers it Eastern Orthodoxy. Harrison writes, “In the Eastern churches, both in ancient times and today, grace and human freedom go together. Grace does not conflict with out capacity to choose but brings our freedom to fullness of life, creativity, and activity.” This movement would have profound impact upon Christianity up to the present day, and it would be a base of theological anthropology for men like Pelagius who would continue to assert that humanity’s nature is free and that self-determination is not hindered by the intervention of a Sovereign God. Pelagius and his counterpart Augustine would disagree over this issue and that disagreement has continued down through ages through men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jacobus Arminius and Jonathan Edwards.
With a particular grounding in the Greek philosophical stream, Christian Platonism while sharing some basic propositions with asceticism held to an altogether different view of anthropology specifically as it related to human freedom. “Christian Platonism identifies the divine image in humanity not as the autonomy of self-determination but as rationality, the human capacity for knowledge of God.” While there is a level of human choice within Christian Platonism, the focus on anthropology is different in that a particular focus of the Imago Dei is not predominately choice, but knowledge—rationality. The Christian life within this tendency is one of growing in desire for God and through the grace of God, which is seen as predominantly a helping agent, an individual can grow in union with God. Of influence here as well is the Platonic view of the dualism between the material and the immaterial—the body and the spirit. Freedom from the bodily or fleshly prison was a large part of Platonic thought. The focus is less on human choice and self-determination anthropologically because of the focus on desire, and more on that of earned reward.
Implications and Early Church Figures
Due to the differentiation in focus, the primacy of human freedom within the Ascetic stream was not as dominant within the Christian Platonic stream. This led to the consideration of soteriology out of a focus on anthropology. While a view of salvation is not the only implication, it is certainly a dominant piece. The issue of a focus on soteriology coming out of a particular view of humanity’s human freedom is that there is indeed a connection to the Imago Dei. While the Ascetics and the Christian Platonists differed in the level of focus on human freedom, they also differed in aspects of their views on the Divine image within the human race by implication. Viewing salvation as something that has impact on the divine image within an individual—for both sets agreed that there was a type of union with God or Christ to include an expression of the divine image—makes theologizing about salvation an anthropological issue. Differing adherents arose in the second to fourth centuries from within these tendencies to further the discussion of theological anthropology as it related to the nature of human freedom.
Irenaeus. A focus of Irenaeus was the disputation of Gnosticism particularly within his teaching and writing as it related to the negative view of the body. Unique to his anthropology was a view that humanity was created in immaturity and needed to grow through constant decisions between good and evil. Irenaeus maintained that humanity’s nature was free largely because of the need to be good and to mature through evil and good. While predating the dominance of the Ascetic and Christian Platonism movements, Irenaeus’ adherence to areas of both of these streams can be seen. Perhaps it could be better stated that it is likely that Irenaeus influenced both of these streams that would occur a century or so later.
Gregory of Nyssa. According to Harrison, Gregory of Nyssa considered human freedom an important part of what makes people image bearers of the God. His anthropology as it related to the nature of human freedom results from his view of what being an image bearer of God means for the individual. Influenced by the Ascetic tradition, Gregory focused on aspects of human merit because of a focus on human capacity. He wrote, “…would the Lord really command us to do something that is beyond our nature and issue a commandment whose enormity oversteps our human capacity? That is not possible.” This would ultimately be a view that would contradict Augustine in his understanding of how the grace of God affects the human being’s desire or awakening of desire for God.
Pelagius. Pelagius maintained that the human will remained intact after the fall and he specifically viewed that salvation was possible by human merit apart from a full reliance on the grace of God. He wrote, “We do either good or evil only by our own will; since we always remain capable of both, we are always free do to either.” He was involved in an ongoing debate with Augustine regarding the nature of human freedom and he held that the result of human salvation was initiated as well as sustained or lost in and through the will and ultimately the effort of and individual.
Augustine. While influenced by some aspects of both Asceticism and Christian Platonism, Augustine’s predominant emphasis that the individual was unable to complete good in an of himself or herself, including the initial work of salvation. Burns writes of Augustine’s view that, “Before God grants a person the love for Himself, that person exercises no option for good; once God brings this love to perfection, the person will not actually choose to turn away.” This would be exactly the opposite of Pelagian thought and it would be the primary influence of the later work of many of the Reformers like John Calvin and Martin Luther as well as the foundation for the intellectual work of many a Christian thinker like Jonathan Edwards. However, his view (Pelagius) is at odds with later Reformed thinkers such as Hoekema who writes when speaking of an individual’s spiritual inability that, “…the unregenerate person is unable apart from the special working of the Holy Spirit to change the basic direction of his or her life from sinful self-love to love for God.” While this issue is often thought of when considering the Ordo Salutis, the implications of a person still bearing the Image of God while being able or unable to have relationship with God, his or her Creator without divine intervention has direct implications for the particularities of theological anthropology, specifically the Imago Dei.
Continuing Developments and Ideas
Although the above-mentioned figures are predominantly related to theology and/or the early Christian church, their ideas also greatly impacted epistemological study. Growing out of the intersection between natural theology and revelation, they studied theological anthropology. There were of course many other figures that added to or sought to dispute their various thoughts, but these individuals in the early patristic period set a foundation in place for much theological discussion that would follow. Martin Luther in the 1500’s espoused the view that a person indeed had a will, but that that will was in bondage due to sin, and much like Augustine before him, he viewed the injection of divine grace as absolutely necessary in order for that person to come to faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, the period of the middle ages displayed a return to the Augustinian and Pelagian debate. Luther’s thought while impacted by Augustine was also formulated to discuss the views of certain theologians that had lived just a few centuries before him, namely Peter the Lombard (mainly Augustinian) and Thomas Aquinas (whom Luther viewed as semi-pelagian).
However, not only did they impact Christian theology, there was the larger impact on the area of the nature of human freedom in general even as it related to other areas besides theology such as that of philosophy at large. Jeeves writes:
“The topic of free will and choice has a very long history in the writings of philosophers. A reference to such writings alerts us to the fact that it is a problem to know how were should define freedom of choice. Relevant to out present discussion is the philosophers’ reminder that there have been two distinct definitions of freedoms, often referred to as the liberty of spontaneity and the liberty of indifference…The liberty of spontaneity is often referred to as a compatibilist view of freedom. This is because it is compatible with determinism. The liberty of indifference is referred to as a libertarian view of freedom.”
In addition to these two freedoms, there is full determinism, which could be seen as directed by any number of things (i.e. a Divine Being, Nature, Biology, Social and Cultural norms, etc. ). Branching out into other fields, the issue of the nature of human freedom in regards to determinism, compatibilism, and libertarianism also arises. Martin et al. discuss the implications of human agency or choice in the field of psychology. Unlike many in their particular field, they argue that, “human agency cannot be reduced to purely biological and/or cultural determinants, yet must be understood as arising nonmysteriously within appropriate developmental, historical, and sociocultural context…humans can be both determined and free, and not merely in the sense of demonstrating voluntariness in their activities.” They seek to counter some of the reductionistic thought within the field of psychology and related areas that view a biological determinism as the main indicator of behavior, thought, emotions, etc.
Of course, the impact of this discussion could continue to other areas and indeed has during the history of thought. Not only are theology, philosophy and psychology interconnected in this area, but other sciences and humanities as well. However, as it relates particularly to theological anthropology, these larger terms are of distinct importance. And once again, in connection with theological ideals, these terms have a bearing on the original issues of those early church fathers because unlike certain tendencies in secular thought, Christianity sees a continuing relationship of the individual to God even as it relates to eternal life. And within this continuing relationship of a person to God is the issue of restoration of relationship because of the fall. This of course is interconnected with the study of mankind’s freedom because choice is impacted in some way by the fall of the human race into sin. Therefore, the intersection of theology and the larger themes of determinism, compatibilism and libertarianism become apparent.
Bruce Ware deals with this concept in his groundbreaking work dealing with the issue of God’s sovereignty and the nature of human freedom. Ware first takes the earlier idea of Molina (1535-1600) called middle knowledge wherein God is said to know everything that will be as well as all the possibilities of what could be but are not and connects with it compatibilism whereby God directs the circumstances of humanity so that a person will choose what God desires, but that that person is still responsible for those decisions since it was indeed his or her choice. This idea combines God’s utter and complete Sovereignty with humankind’s responsibility for decisions without placing persons in a completely deterministic existence. Ware points to passages such as Acts 2:23 and Proverbs 16:33 to show God’s complete control over all of existence. He also discusses Ephesians 1, where the doctrine of predestination and election are laid out with great power. He extends his discussion of God’s control to not only humanity’s ontological reality, but also to nature, life and death and much more. The view that Ware posits is entitled “compatibilist middle knowledge” and it can take on a Reformed theological emphasis without the criticism that God simply determines every decision thereby leaving an individual without freedom. In Ware’s view, a person exhibits choice, but God’s will is fully accomplish leaving God completely and sovereignly in control.
Psalm 135:6-14 (ESV) reads: "Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses. He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and of beast; who in your midst, O Egypt, sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants; who struck down many nations and killed mighty kings, Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan, and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel. (13)Your name, O LORD, endures forever, your renown, O LORD, throughout all ages. (14)For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants."
In this text, God is clearly seen as the Sovereign, Omnipotent One who "does as He pleases." Both direct, deterministic actions can be seen, as well as indirect actions (compatibilist middle knowledge) inferred. His direct intervention in the cosmos is seen, even through the inference that God directly causes meteorological events. His direct intervention in the lives of men and women is seen and given the mention of Pharaoh combined with the Genesis context of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, compatibilist middle knowledge is an element of this idea and not simply complete determinism alone. His Sovereignty over salvation is seen in the last sentence, verse 14. God's deterministic actions and His compatibilist middle knowledge are all for the glory of His name.
The list of biblical texts on the issue of the nature of human freedom and the sovereignty of God is enormous. Reaching back to the thinking of Augustine, texts such as: John 6:44 where God is seen as the One drawing men to salvation; Acts 13:48 where Gentiles believe in the gospel, but only because they were previously appointed; Romans 3:10-11 where God declares that no man seeks after God; Romans 9 where God’s sovereign choice is displayed and Ephesians 1 where the anatomy of God’s predestining work is discussed, are all a part of a backdrop which displays God’s control over salvation even in terms of the irresistible nature of grace. However, within the biblical context, there is the call for persons to come to God volitionally as well such as in Joshua’s call for people to choose to serve God (Josh 24:15) and in Jesus’ call in Matthew 11 for people to come to Him for rest. It cannot be denied that there is a call to make a choice, and yet as a backdrop to that call, God is seen as sovereignly in control of the call, the process, and the outcome, not to mention the issue of predestination and even the inferred theological doctrine of limited atonement or particular redemption.
Summary Conclusions on The Nature of Human Freedom
Perhaps Ware’s compatibilist middle knowledge theory is exactly the answer to the seeming theological quandary. From Augustine and Pelagius to the present day, the issue of human freedom has been a key aspect within theological anthropology. And although one must focus on the anthropological aspects of the nature of human freedom, other areas of systematic theology will connected. In fact, if one focuses solely on the anthropological question(s) when seeking to understand human freedom, the inquiry could be become stilted or anthropologically focused. For an individual to be made in the image of God as a created being, means that individual is a dependent being. Therefore, any accurate theological study of anthropology will have as its backdrop a biblical understanding of God. God and specific revelation would then become the rubric for study regarding theological anthropology and not simply a quest to understand humanity through natural theology. The anatomy and doctrine of sin, an understanding of biblical soteriology, and an understanding of the God of the Bible are necessary systems to consider before one can fully understand theological anthropology, and specifically the nature of human freedom.
In connection to human freedom are also the eschatological implications of humanity’s existence. The Imago Dei, the nature of human freedom and the ultimate eschatological reality of humanity are all interconnected. With the biblical assertion that an individual exists past death, there is a need to understand the constitution of human beings but also the potential of an intermediate state after death and before final resurrection.
The Human Constitution
Paramount to this type of study is the understanding that what Scripture teaches about the Image of God does not stay within theological anthropology alone, but affects other areas of Systematic Theology as well. Connecting anthropology and soteriology for example through the study of the Imago Dei is also an issue when the human constitution and the intermediate state are considered. As it relates to the human constitution, there are several theories; namely the trichotomous, dichotomous and monistic views. The issue then in thinking about the nature of humanity is that of the individual’s constitution—of what makes up a human being. An analysis of the biblical view of anthropology will show that there are physical and nonphysical aspects to an individual, and how those aspects interact is what must be considered when undertaking the task of understanding theological anthropology.
Scripture is full of references to both material and nonmaterial aspects of humanity. There are various words used to describe them. Of particular interest to the issue of humanity’s nature and constitution, the words for the nonmaterial aspects of humanity become important to understand because they are less clear than the words for the material aspect of the individual (body). In Hebrew, the word that has many meaning but usually translated as “soul” is nephesh. Within the Hebrew mindset, this word was a non-material word, but it could relate to many different aspects of the soul, and therefore it should not be seen only in a platonic sense of the word “soul”. Another important Hebrew word is ruach. This word has many meanings and contexts as well but generally could refer to either “breath” or “spirit”. This can be seen in Genesis 2:7 in the early formations of mankind. As it relates to the words translated as “soul” and “spirit”, there are corresponding Greek words that appear in the Greek New Testament, but also in the Greek Septuagint. The word usually translated for “soul” is the Greek word psyche. However, this word can also have varying meaning. Bauer et al write, “It is oft. impossible to draw hard and fast lines betw. the meanings of this many-sided word.” The Greek word often translated as “spirit” and most often in correlation to the Hebrew word ruach is pneuma and it too has a similar “breath” and/or “spirit” definition. Although original language words particularly the word for “body”, are a part of the conversation, certain views often become differentiated based on the words for the nonmaterial aspects of man.
Summary of Views
Trichotomy. Within the trichotomous view of the human constitution, the human being is made up of three distinct parts: (body, soul and spirit). The body is seen as the physical component of an individual, whereas a division is seen between the soul and the spirit. In support of this view, there are multiple scriptural references that are used. A primary text would be 1 Thessalonians 5:23 which reads, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here, for the trichotomy view, the listing of all three words (spirit, soul, and body) is a proof text for a tripartite human constitution. Another such text would be Hebrews 4:12 which says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Here the argument is made that the text actually speaks of a division between the words “soul” and “spirit”. However, the trichotomous view seems to take the usage of words literally and does not seem to see interchangeability between words such as soul and spirit.
Dichotomy. The dichotomous view would indeed see a division between the material (body) and the nonmaterial (soul/spirit), but it would see the nonmaterial as a unified part of a sort of two part or dualistic system. Grudem, a proponent of this view writes, “Scripture Uses “Soul” and “Spirit” Interchangeably. When we look at the usage of the biblical words translated “soul” (Heb. Nephesh and Gk. Psyche) and “spirit” (Heb. Ruach and Gk. Pneuma), it appears that they are sometimes used interchangeably.” Adherents to this particular view would also hold that the reference to multiple nonmaterial aspects of a human being could simply be a use of emphatic synonym listing. This view in particular is also easily connected with the issue of the Christian’s intermediate state upon death. Specifically, this concept is that though the body is dead, but that the nonmaterial soul exists temporarily in bodiless form until the final resurrection of the believer at which time a glorified, resurrection body would be given to the individual.
Monism. Within a monistic framework, there is no division between material and nonmaterial. Erickson writes, “In the monistic understanding, the Bible does not view man as body, soul, and spirit, but simply as a self.” Within this system, there is no room for any type of dualistic system, much less a tripartite emphasis. However, because of the lack of a division, this view does not hold open the possibility of an intermediate existence between death and the final resurrection due to the fact that human reality is a physical reality.
Holistic View(s). There other terms that are used to express aspects of these views, or combinations of the views. Hoekema asserts that both the Trichotomous and Dichotomous views of the human constitution should be rejected in favor of a viewing the human being as a whole. However, given the possibility of an intermediate existence, he would also reject a full monism as well. This then connects us to the further aspects of anthropological study that he takes up as well as those like Cooper, who embrace a Holistic Dualism when thinking about the death of a believer prior to full consummation at the resurrection he or she in Christ. Hoekema espouses what he terms “psychosomatic unity” in which the individual is thought of as a whole, and that there is not division, but rather human existence is a holistic reality. Where Hoekema would differ from the monistic view would be that he sees the intermediate state between death and final resurrection as a biblical. Therefore, he allows for a nonmaterial type of existence for the believer, but the emphasis is not on dualism, but on holism. For Hoekema, this also provides a greater emphasis on the reality that true life is a bodily existence, and that the intermediate state is not a final consummation. Cooper seems to have a similar view but chooses to maintain the word “dualism” to show the differing aspects of the material and nonmaterial parts of mankind. Hoekema prefers his own phrase because of the holistic or unified focus. He writes, “My preference, however, is to speak of man as a psychosomatic unity. The advantage of this expression is that it does full justice to the two aspects of man, while stressing man’s unity.” It appears that in this view, an individual is one being with two aspects (material and nonmaterial). Cooper maintains his choice of words specifically because of his treatment of the intermediate state. Could it be that if aspects of Hoekema and Cooper were merged and they are correct, then an individuals’s intermediate state prior to the resurrection is time with Christ, and yet is not a full return to the Imago Dei of Eden? The overarching theme of Redemption from Genesis to Revelation is that of people being “saved”, but further than that, it is God being the primary character of the story by returning His image bearers back to who they were created to be…(Rev. 21:5a)…
The Intermediate State And Subsequent Implications
It is clear that there is indeed a material and a nonmaterial aspect that makes up the human constitution. As created beings, people are dependent on their Creator and the hope of the Christian life is that there is eternal life with God (John 3:16). There are multiple views of what happens to an individual upon death, and these are directly connected to one’s view regarding the constitution of the human being. While there are a variety of views that would deny any existence between death and resurrection (monism) as well as views that would deny the consciousness of the individual between death and resurrection (soul sleep), Scripture is clear in its teaching that there is some type of conscious reality in between death and the consummation of all things and resurrection of the body into eternal life. Luke 23:43 references Christ’s assurance to the repentant thief that there would be a relational existence even that very day upon death. The book of the Revelation speaks of deceased saints existing in a conscious, even active reality before the resurrection. The Apostle Paul speaks to the issue within the context of the constitution of the human being when he states that when an individual is absent from the body, he or she is present with the Lord. And while there is not a wealth of biblical data to depict what that reality will look like, there is the evidence that there is a nonmaterial, conscious reality that exists in between death and the resurrection where the believer is in the presence of the Lord.
This Scriptural truth is directly connected to one’s view of the constitution of the human individual. The monist who sees no division at all in the human being cannot conceive of an intermediate state. However, the trichotomist may have difficulty in explaining biblically which nonmaterial parts of an individual are present during an intermediate state (soul or spirit). The dichotomist would have no difficulty here except that he or she would have to concede that either there is an immediate glorified body at death,which would go against a wealth of biblical teaching on a final resurrection (Rom 8), or that the intermediate state is an existence that is not fully whole until the final resurrection.
While there is merit in considering each of the views regarding the constitution of an individual human being, it appears that Cooper and particularly Hoekema have much to add to the understanding of the human constitution. Hoekema provides for the biblical teaching of an intermediate state while avoiding the platonic type dualism that can exist in some forms of a dichotomous view. He also speaks to how a psychosomatic unity view provides for a holistic view of Christian ministry as well, and yet does not embrace a monistic view of the human constitution, which would deny the teaching of an intermediate state. Cooper provides a good defense against a monistic view of the human constitution and gives a hearty treatment of the reality of an intermediate state. He writes, “Thus the Bible indicates that humans do not cease to exist between death and resurrection, a condition sometimes euphemistically termed “soul sleep,” or that final resurrection occurs immediately upon death.”
Theological anthropology is a vast and broad topic, and one that must be undertaken with scholarship and biblical faithfulness. Any attempt to fully understand the intricacies of the doctrine of anthropology, and of humanity in general will invariably fall short. However a proper study is fruitful not only for academic pursuits, but for a variety of practical reasons, Christian ministry perhaps being the foremost. Necessary to the study of theological anthropology is a study of the humanity’s relationship to its Creator, specifically in a study of the Imago Dei and the related area of the Kingdom of God and humanity’s fallen nature. Further aspects of study would need to include a treatment of the human being’s agency or freedom as well as that individual’s constitution. This research is meant to be a summary of these topics and like all attempts, will likely fail to be fully exhaustive. Yet, theological anthropology is properly understood in the context of biblical revelation including an utter reliance on the glory of God in all things. And given the complexities within theological anthropology, the complexities of the God of theological anthropology are much greater. Indeed the psalmist is correct when speaking to God, “what is man that you are mindful of him?” (Ps 8:4).
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