To open our discussion of Anthropology, the doctrine of mankind, consider why this would be part of a theology series.  God created mankind, male and female.  He is the Source of life, Providential over all, sustaining all life.  In Him we live and move and have our being!  The study of questions concerning mankind must be done in connection with the primary questions of “Who is God?”  We understand who we are as His creatures, or not at all.  We err when we think what He has revealed concerning mankind is outdated, incomplete, or misunderstood by all previous generations.  

Created for a Purpose

This purpose remains hidden to those who do not know God.  But to us it has been revealed, we are created by God for worship! We worship with our whole being, with thought, word, and deed.  But like Adam, all mankind has exchanged this truth for a lie.  The lie of self sufficiency; of autonomy; of evolution; of the watchmaker God who sits back and wonders what will happen next; of pantheism; of mysticism; of agnosticism…there really is no end to the lies that ensnare humanity.  The truth sets us free (John 8)!  And as we abide in His Word, we experience this freedom more and more; and the growth He intends for us; and we will invariably come to view our ‘self’ from His glorious perspective. 

The Westminster Catechism beautifully teaches us that we are created to glorify the One True Triune God, and enjoy Him forever.  We are created in His image, male and female.  Different, but equal in worth in our standing before God.  As male, or as female, we image Him as no other created thing can.  No other creature has a soul, or is capable of knowing God personally.  I recommended the concise theology book by James Montgomery Boice in the post linked below; if you’ve bought your copy, he discusses this on pages 149-166.

Being created in His image includes our ability to think and reason; to freely act according to true knowledge–logically, ethically, morally, etc; to be creative and exercise dominion as those carrying out God’s desires in His created world; and the desire and ability to commune with God.  This was marred with the fall, but not abandoned–and is fully restored in people who are born again, in Union with Christ.   

Sidenote:  remember books have been devoted to this topic–and in the Reformed Systematic Theology series alone, the section on Anthropology is over 400 pages in length.  As a reminder, these posts are introductions, with book suggestions for further reading.

In Christ, we are created anew, all that matters is a new creation, created for good works, created to belong, having put on the new man  we are being renewed to a true knowledge according to the Image of the One who made us!  “Until Christ be formed in us” (See Galatians 4-6; Colossians 3).  

Consider these Questions from the Larger Catechism:

Q. 17. How did God create man? 

A. After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall. See Genesis 1-2; Matthew 10:28; Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24; Psalm 8

Q. 75. What is sanctification? 

A. Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God hath, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them renewed in their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.

Consider these questions, and search the Scriptures; what do they say of the image?  Our current culture wants you to wrestle with anthropological questions by looking inward.  The answers are found by seeking your Creator, in His Word.  Seek Him, and the wisdom He alone gives!  Apart from Christ, we are enslaved to various lusts and desires, and quite often people define their “self” by these sinful desires, or by our chosen vocations, or by any other means than by looking to Source of Life.  

Seek Him, with all your heart, soul and might!  Ask Him, “what is man?” (Psalm 8) and ask Him “what are Your thoughts about who I am?” (Psalm 139).  

If you are ready to begin looking at this doctrine, I recommend Boice’s Foundations book mentioned earlier; or Calvin’s Institutes, Book One, chapter one; Book Two, chapters one and two; Book Three, chapters one, three, and six; and Volume Two in the Reformed Systematic Theology series by Beake.

To consider this from the perspective of unlearning cultural contrariness, I highly recommend Carl Truman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self–a must read for all parents, and really anyone who is not planning to hide in a cave until Christ returns. I would also recommend the third book in David Well’s trio, Losing Our Virtue.  All three books are profoundly helpful, enlightening.  But this last one addresses our personhood specifically. 

If you are looking for a more devotionally enriching book, I recommend John Owen’s Indwelling Sin in the Life of a Believer 

“Keep a constant, humbling sense of the secret aversion to spirituality that lies in our nature.  To see its effects is a powerful inducement to walk humbly with God…Labour to fix in the mind a sense of the beauty and excellence of spiritual things, so that they may be seen as lovely and desirable by the soul; and this will weaken the cursed aversion of sin.  It is a natural, well-established principle that the soul of man will not keep cheerfully to the worship of God unless it sees the beauty and comeliness in it.  …let the soul therefore labour to acquaint itself with the spiritual beauty of obedience, of communion with God, and of all the duties of immediate approach to him, so that it may be filled with delight in them.”  (pages 33-35 of the Puritan paperback edition; pages 185-188 of volume 6 in the complete works)  

We are created, but we are also becoming.  We have our being and all our potential in Christ.  In, not apart from.  He brings us to God, presents us to God holy and pure and blameless, He will finish the work He has begun in us!   Over the next few weeks we will look at some topics that don’t have a fancy “ology” name:

Theology of Family

Theology of the Body

Theology of Work

Theology of Home, or Place

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash