20 Sep

Charles Sherlock, The Doctrine of Humanity: Contours of Christian Theology (InterVarsity Press, 1996)

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 09/20/03

"Perhaps the most basic problem with the idea of the image of God as a religious faculty in humans is the assumption that it is an individual, rather than a relational and personal, reality. Behind this is another assumption, that the image of God can be defined as an entity in itself, and so be identifiable within an individual. Again, once an individual interpretation is assumed, the question of gender arises sharply: given that women and men are different, does one possess the image more than the other? These types of questions lie behind much contemporary discussion of the image of God." Charles Sherlock, The Doctrine of Humanity

In The Doctrine of Humanity: Contours of Christian Theology, Charles Sherlock observes that the great diversity of peoples and cultures in the world makes it challenging to think or speak of a singular human nature. To have an understanding of what it means to be human is important, though, and in The Doctrine of Humanity Sherlock investigates what the Christian faith affirms about being human in order to equip people who are formulating just such an understanding. The essential affirmation about being human that the Christian faith makes, he writes, is that ". . . to be human means to be made 'in the image of God'. This visionary, enigmatic answer is explicated in Christian understanding by pointing to Jesus Christ, who is both 'the image of the invisible God' (Col. 1:15) and the image of perfect humanity (Heb. 2:14-18)." Sherlock spends the rest of the work studying what this means, and what human experience reveals about being human.

The Doctrine of Humanity contains two foci, the latter of which is subdivided. Focus 1 is theological; it explores the bible's affirmation that humans are made in the image of God. Its chapters discuss what it means to be made in the image of God, and how being image bearers is understood both in light of Christ and in Christian thought historically. Focus 2 concentrates on the reality of human experience and existence, both communally and personally. The chapters in 2A examine human relationships in society, those relationships within the natural world, and human culture; the chapters in 2B highlight human uniqueness, being a woman, being a man, and human beings as embodied and sensual persons. [Posted September 2005, ALG]