The twenty-first century has seen a surge of interest in theological anthropology as Christian thinkers tackle questions about human identity and essence. Cortez, assistant professor of theology at Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon, has written an insightful primer on the subject. He takes the reader through some of the more traditional questions of “Who am I?” and “What am I?” but he does not stop there. For Cortez, “theological anthropology can never be entirely descriptive. A description of human nature always both presumes and entails a prescription for human living” (p. 3). A philosophical groundwork is both important and necessary, but as Cortez rightly points out, it is not an end in itself.
The book begins with a brief overview of anthropology and then lists hard questions that range from creation to the relationship of race and economics to humanity. These questions help set the agenda for what follows. Cortez’s far-reaching view combined with brevity of treatment is intended to help readers understand how critical theological anthropology is to many areas of human life and existence. Of the many issues that could be discussed, Cortez chooses four that then become the main body of the book: Imago Dei, Human Sexuality, Human Situation (i.e., the body/soul relationship), and Free Will. A concluding chapter summarizes the book’s content and gives a suggested reading list for the reader interested in pursuing the topics further.
In each of these major sections Cortez gives a well-informed introduction to the topic, explores some of the major boundaries of the discussion, and then concludes with implications of the material discussed. Each chapter raises difficult and yet practical questions without feeling the need to give neat answers. Cortez explains, “The focus of this book, then, will not be as much on offering definitive conclusions as on modeling a way of thinking theologically about the human person” (p. 13). Those who are interested in a technical, in-depth, or exhaustive treatment of these areas will likely find themselves disappointed and would do well to look elsewhere. The real strength of this book is in its ability to guide its readers into the process of doing theology well. The introductory nature of the chapters sets the reader on a helpful trajectory for further study.
This book guides those who are perplexed not only by questions about the “who” and the “what” but ultimately the “why” of theological anthropology. This excellent introduction would be an outstanding resource for pastors, students, and other Christian leaders.
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