Difference, body, and race

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The nature of humanity, our relationship with each other, and our relationship with the sacred is the starting point for reflections on theological anthropology. For centuries Christians have wrestled with defining what makes us particular in light of our humanity yet at the same time interconnected with God's creation. Musings on this subject range from abstract philosophical speculation, to dialogue with the natural sciences, to a serious consideration of the diversity and complexity of the embodied human condition. Within systematic theology, the study of what it means to be human, created in the image and likeness of God, falls under the heading of theological anthropology. This has implications for both our relationship with our Creator and our relationship with each other. Theological anthropology speaks to humanity's relationship with the divine and its interrelationship within the human community. More recently, writings also look at our interconnectedness with the cosmos and the manner in which that shapes and defines the human condition. For every generation of Christians, the significance of our humanity is reinterpreted from particular sociocultural, historical, and political contexts. There is no one unified anthropology but various anthropologies that are shaped by the diverse communities that struggle to interpret God's revelation. Throughout the centuries speculation on the nature of our humanity has often ignored concrete, lived human life. In other words, decontex-tualized and abstract reflections on the nature of all humanity have dominated theological anthropologies of the past. More and more today we find critical, constructive theological voices that explore the nature of humanity in all its concrete messiness. The human as abstract essence is slowly unraveling. Instead, everyday lived religion becomes the starting point of contemporary theological anthropologies. In this chapter I offer a constructive, contemporary interpretation of theological anthropology rooted in the scholarship and insights of liberation and constructive theologians in the Americas. In my discussion I highlight three themes that are vital to understanding contemporary theological anthropologies today: difference, the body, and race. I will conclude with how these themes have implications for theological anthropology broadly understood in the contemporary context. Classic theological anthropologies have often emphasized our spiritual relationship with the divine and downplayed its implications for our concrete existence. Otherwise put, "The main focus of theological anthropology has tended to be the supernatural orientation of humankind as beings created (in the words of Gen 1:27) 'in the image of God' (imago Dei). As a result of this focus, the other, more material side of existence has been overshadowed, even obscured."1 This chapter is sympathetic to these concerns. Theological anthropology must remain firmly grounded in the contemporary situation and not fall into abstract speculation that ignores the very materiality of human life. This emphasis on the hybridity of human identity, embodiment, and race grounds this theological anthropology and challenges the discipline of theology to remain rooted in lived religious practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationQuestioning the Human
Subtitle of host publicationToward a Theological Anthropology for the Twenty-First Century
PublisherFordham University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780823257553
ISBN (Print)0823257525, 9780823257522
StatePublished - Jul 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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