Hans Schwarz Eerdmans 2013-12-01

Schwarz is professor of systematic theology and contemporary theological issues at the University of Regensburg, Germany. He has given teachers and students of theological anthropology a great gift. It is an encyclopedic and multidisciplinary treatment of the key issues in anthropology, an excellent resource for the scholar as well as the educated and interested Christian.

After surveying several approaches to anthropology, Schwarz defines his method: “This anthropology was written with a threefold emphasis: the biblical testimony, the historical unfolding by its major voices through the centuries, and the present affirmation of this tradition in view of rival options and of the factual evidence the various sciences have unearthed. It starts with our place in the world, ponders our freedom, and concludes with the premise that we are a community of men and women in this world and in the world beyond” (p. xii). In short, he integrates the teaching of the Scriptures, historical voices of the church and other disciplines, and contemporary experts in anthropology.

The book has three parts. In the first, “A Special Place in the World,” Schwarz examines the way the Bible, biology, and philosophical perspectives understand the existence and purpose of humans. “Human Freedom” deals with freedom and sin, particularly in relationship to the problem of evil, from the sciences, Scriptures, and Christian tradition. In the third part, “Humanity as a Community of Men and Women,” Schwarz discusses the distinction between and union of men and women, with particular focus on human sexuality, marriage, family, and even children and working spouses. A final chapter in this section, which perhaps should have been a fourth part, treats “Human Destiny.” Here he considers work and vocation as well as what Scripture and other voices say about life after death.

In his conclusion, Schwarz provides an excellent summary of his work in four statements. First, “humans are something special” (p. 383). This conclusion comes not simply from the biblical teaching of the imago Dei but from science and philosophy as well. Second, since humans are charged with caring for the world God created, “the issue of human freedom becomes decisive” (p. 384). He explains, “Any attempt to attain heavenly bliss by our own efforts is doomed to failure. In this respect we can only appeal to God’s mercy” (ibid.). Third, “though humans have an inherent tendency to be self-centered since they live under the spell of the fall, no human being can live by himself or herself” (ibid.). Humans need one another to be fully human and to carry out the God-given task of caring for his creation. Fourth, “humans are acutely aware of their own finitude. But humans not only recognize their finitude, they also yearn to overcome it and as a result they invent all kinds of schemes and ideas to try to do so” (pp. 384–85).

This book is highly recommended as an excellent resource. The author deals extensively and comprehensively with the literature on the subjects he addresses, and he does it with a clear and accessible style. Professors, pastors, students, and educated and interested laypeople will find it valuable.

About the Contributors

Glenn Kreider

Glenn R. Kreider

Prior to teaching at DTS, Dr. Kreider served as Director of Christian Education and then as Senior Pastor in Cedar Hill, TX. His research and writing interests include Jonathan Edwards, theological method, theology and popular culture, and our eschatological hope. Dr. Kreider believes that grace really is amazing; it is a thought that will change the world. He is married to his best friend, Janice, and they have two grown children and one granddaughter, Marlo Grace. He and Janice enjoy live music, good stories, bold coffee, and spending time together and with their rescue dogs—a terrier/greyhound mix named Chloe and a black lab named Carlile.