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Anthropology and the Religions of Man

1. Anthropology is the study of man, but the study of man begins with the study of God (His Revelation). “Anthro-” is man, and “-ology” is the study of. Therefore, anthropology is the study of man.

The first thing to note is that this study potentially encompasses everything that man does. Indeed, I have found areas under “anthropology” to include sociology, economics, social science, psychology, political science, education, history, geography, medicine, sociology, and Latin American studies (and by implication, the study of any or the races or cultures of man). This inclusion, then, is virtually a pursuit of an entire worldview. As such, it is unavoidable that cosmology is at its foundation. Indeed, anthropology is the study of the conflicts of the only two cosmologies that exist: Biblical Christianity and humanism by that name and all the religions that mankind has been able to construct (with Satan’s help) over the centuries.

As cosmology, some of the first principles of Biblical Christianity can be named. (1) “In the beginning God created the heavens the earth.” God existed prior to man. If He existed before the universe was, then all power is derived from Him. (2) God created man. Therefore, the Creator is superior to man in knowledge and power. A creator is always superior to what he creates.

These simple first principles of cosmology require the most profound decision that any man or group of men can make: who and what is God. Then, as Creator, what does He require of them? Thus, the God of the Bible stands against every other cosmology that man can ever devise or imagine. One need go no further than the first chapter of Genesis for these conclusions.

A Christian may challenge, “Jesus Christ is The Issue for mankind, not the creation of man.” My brothers and sisters, this challenge is truncated. The issue of Jesus Christ has no meaning apart from Genesis 1. I will grant that often the burden and conflicts of one’s sin brings a person to salvation in Jesus Christ. However, all coherent philosophies (all religions, including Christianity are philosophies) must have a basis in a cosmology, because all systems must have an origin. Perhaps, nowhere is this conflict seen more clearly than in the debate about Christian missionaries. (See below.)

The Christian should note that even apart from the issue of sin (Genesis 3), Genesis 1:1 places God against all other belief systems. From that origin, then, the specifics of creation, the Fall, Jesus Christ, and all other Biblical truth follow.

The religions of the world are too complex to define here, much less to discuss. However, as I have stated, there are at the most basic root, only two religions. The more that one knows the particulars of Biblical Christianity, especially those worked out in the historic creeds (e.g., Apostles,’ Nicene, Athanasian, etc.)—as these were worked out against the prevailing heresies of the time—the better one is able to see the errors and heresies in all other religions.

The case can be made that anthropology and its accompanying social sciences are actually products of the influence of evolution, as they are attempts to “know” and solve the problems of mankind from a non-Biblical perspective. As long as Christianity dominated the West, the problems of mankind were defined and discussed relative to the Biblical understanding of Creation, The Fall, salvation in Jesus Christ, etc. However, Evolution gave the Enlightenment the “scientific” basis upon which to construct a worldview without God. These social sciences are in the main products of that change in philosophy. As we will see, there are Biblical principles for a construct of social sciences.

2. The first and continual challenge is always about God’s veracity, and many, if not the majority of Christians today, had rather listen to the Angel of Light than study and deduce answers from God‘s Word! The Serpent said to Eve, “Did God actually say…” (ESV). The greatest issue that men and women face has not changed since that question. The question is simply, “What has God said?” vs. “What has anyone else (including fallen angels) said?”

I know that I am perhaps being too persistent here. However, Christians often make many issues too complex. Choose any question about truth or ethics, and there is ever and always only one question, “What has God said, and what has anyone else said.” If II Timothy 3:16-17, II Peter 1:3, and the unity of Scripture are true, then every question that man can pose has its first principles in God’s Revelation.

In too many instances, the cry of the Reformation, sola Scriptura, has not even been applied, “Sola Scriptura for what?” In the most conservative of Christian circles, Biblical answers are ignored, even aggressively attacked. While the theonomists and reconstructionists may not have every answer right and do not even agree among themselves, theonomists are at least trying to address every problem from a Biblical perspective. Too many, if not most, “evangelicals” give answers that are as damaging to the Kingdom of God, the Church, and mankind in general, as any influence of Satan and his minions since the serpent first spoke to Eve! (For sound evaluations of theonomy and reconstructionism, see Biblical Worldview Areas under Reconstruction and Theonomy: Reviews.)

I am fully aware of the strong indictment that I have made here. I will give two gigantic examples: poverty and medical care. Since Lyndon Johnson, the U.S. government has conducted a War on Poverty that has spent the largest sum of money for any cause in the history of the world, perhaps $50 trillion or more. What has resulted from this expenditure—a worsening of the problem! That is always the result of answers founded in humanism (non-Biblical Christianity)—huge costs with no chance of success or the problem made worse. Relative to medicine in the United States, $2 trillion is spent yearly (as of 2007) for a net negative effect* on the health of the American people. And, that negative effect excludes abortion which modern medicine vigorously defends as “sound medical practice!” For more explanation of this paradox, see: Medical Efficacy, Average Life Expectancy, and Health of Nations (book) by Leonard Sagan.

Now, for our particular concern here, where are the evangelical voices analyzing and decrying this enormous expenditure that degrades men and women, as creatures made in the image of God? Sure, there are a few who address the subjects, but largely this issue is ignored by Christians selfishly focused on their “personal peace and affluence” that Francis Schaeffer addressed and decried 40 years ago. Where are the powerful denunciations of this cruelty from the pulpits of our land? Where are any such cries of cruelty, even in “still small voices,” consistently and widely? As an historical reminder, the pulpits of American rang more loudly than the Freedom Bell against the injustice of our English oppressors for issues that pale in comparison to modern concerns!

Yet, among the theonomists and reconstructionists, this issue and many others are always front and center of their discussions. They indeed need to be heard and analyzed more closely.

3. The issue of evangelism. “OK, Ed, you have been severe on Christians about social issues, what about evangelism and missions. Is not the salvation of souls more important than problems of economics?” I am glad that you asked that question.

God has never divorced the issue of evangelism from all His other commands. I have argued elsewhere on this website that The Creation Mandate, The Great Commission (The Gospel), The Kingdom of God, and the mission of The Church are one and the same. (See The Kingdom of God.) Within the Great Commission itself, God says, “teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” So, I simply make the claim that “all things” includes not only the message of forgiveness in Jesus Christ, but the entirety of Scripture which includes commandments about social justice, as well. That is, The Gospel is the entirety of a Biblical worldview.

1-3 Summary. Anthropology is both simple and complex. Anthropology is simple in that there are only two competing ideologies on planet earth: Biblical Christianity and all others. The complexity comes from the integration of the Bible alone as a coherent system of truth and ethics (righteousness) and its practical application to all worldview areas. The primary problem of Biblical anthropology today is not its complexity, but its being ignored by those who claim sola Scriptura. These theologians are quite familiar to complexity in theology and are quite well equipped to handle it. The problem here is that they truncate the fullness of The Great Commission.

Possible practical application to evangelism and missions. Missionaries have found that some cultures do not have the problem with guilt and awareness of sin that we experience in the West. (That is not to say that every culture does not have its “taboos.“ See Henry…, “Anthropology,” in References.) But, all men should be concerned with their origins, ethics, and future (especially after their own deaths). Perhaps, there could be a richness in evangelism as much in the translation of Genesis and later the Gospels that supercedes the current focus on the Gospels alone.

4. The most dominant belief system (religion) in the West is that of scientism. Scientism is the philosophy that only through the natural sciences may truth or knowledge be obtained. Therefore, all the solutions to mankind’s problems are to be found in the “sciences.” (For a Biblical use of the word “science,” see What Is Science?

It is no accident that all the “-ologies” listed under Number 1 above have been called “social sciences.” Until the Renaissance and its cosmology in Darwinism, answers to the problems of mankind were sought in religion. Now, make no mistake, scientism is a religion. But, scientism is rarely discussed as a religion. While humanists rail at the supposed “evils of Christianity,” the evils of scientism and its effects stagger the imagination.

I have already presented the evil of the War on Poverty and the deception that masquerades as modern medicine. Others evils of scientism are widespread and legal abortion, Medicare and Medicaid, state-sponsored and dictated education, imprisonment as rehabilitation and payment of debt to society, euthanasia in the Netherlands, HIV/AIDS and an epidemic of sexually transmitted, etc., etc. In fact, modern science, masquerading as a non-religion, is one of the leading causes of suffering and death in the history of mankind. This result has been far more devastating than the witch-doctors of Third World countries at whom these modernists laugh.

And, amazingly this monolithic religion of science has no clothes. That is, science can say nothing about morality, nor even determine its own experiments and application. See the Worldview Area of Science and Technology and its Summary Principles.

The modern church is thoroughly indoctrinated with scientism. Secular psychology dominates the most conservative Bible colleges and seminaries throughout the world.

Various forms of evolution, “old earth” theories, and distortions of Genesis 1-11 are prevalent in these institutions and churches, as well. The god of medicine (the health and attempted preservation of the body) is worshipped and receives more than a tithe of American income (16 percent). And, so on.

If my conclusion is correct, then the modern “evangelical” church continually violates the First Commandment, “not to have any other gods before God Himself.” A god is a god whether it is a wooden idol before which one bows down or an “enlightened” ideology of modern science. As I have said often, no wonder the American church is unable to affect its culture. It blends (syncretizes) Christ with the idol of modern science.

If the modern Church is thoroughly infiltrated with scientism, what hope is there for non-Christians to discover the best (Biblical) solutions for humanity? “Let judgment begin at the household of God.”

5. The physical world (matter) is not inherently evil. This heresy is best countered by the Nicene, Athanasian, and Chalcedon creeds, and later the Westminster Confession of Faith, in Christ’s taking upon Himself in His Incarnation, a fully human body. As completely sinless and holy, He could not have been incarnate in something that was inherently evil.

Man is composed of both a material body and an immaterial soul.* Again, the body is not inherently evil, but through the sin nature apart from regeneration, the most central being of man, is heart, is only oriented towards selfishness and evil (its depth and breadth of application limited only by God’s common grace).

Man was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) which is man’s ability to think and reason. See my thoughts on The Image of God.

(*I have not the length here to discuss the immaterial components of man. However, simply, my position is that the spirit, soul , heart, and mind are all part of the immaterial component. This is the bipartite view.)

6. Everything material in the universe, along with the fallen angels, is radically different from the original creation. Only God and the righteous angels are unchanged in history. The “normal” state of existence for the universe and for mankind was the period of time before The Fall of Adam and Eve. But, their Fall, along with the Flood, greatly affected the material universe, as well as men and women. See Summary Principles of Creation, etc..

The radical change is most demonstrable in men and women. All are “dead in trespasses and sin” (Ephesians 2:1). “All come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “All our righteousness is as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). “There is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10).

The answer to this “fallen nature” is regeneration of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3) and belief in Jesus Christ as “the only name under heaven by which men must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Since these worldview areas are addressed to Christians, I present only the basics of what is wrong with the human race and what the Answer to this problem (The Fall and man’s sinful nature). But, the radical nature of these distinctives in understanding the human race and its pretended answers in its various philosophies and religions must not be underestimated.

7. Man’s value and his treatment by other men is solely determined by the cosmology of those who have authoritative power. If man is an animal and “dogs (or any animal) are people too,” then why should man not be treated with the same ethics as animals? Why should man not be euthanized when his usefulness and chronic diseases of aging become costly? Why should unborn babies not be aborted? Why should people not be managed as herds of cattle? Why should any individual have rights over those of the group? Why should populations not be controlled in any way that “works,” regardless of what it does to choices within families?

Within American society, it may be that the religion of evolution in its ethics and application has gained more consistency than that of Biblical Christianity. The remnants of a fading Biblical ethic, a weakening Constitutional basis of law, and a few voices of Biblically knowledgeable Christians is all that separates us from the horrors of Nazi Germany, Stalin’s communist Russia, and the other totalitarian regimes of history.

8. On a Biblical basis and “according to the good pleasure of His will, the most basic division of mankind consists of the regenerate and the unregenerate. The Scripture uses various names for these groups: sheep and goats, wheat and tares, those of light and darkness, those of the Spirit and the world, etc. This distinction is so simple as not to require further comment. Yet, its application is virtually ignored by the regenerate in their applied ethics and “social justice.”

No man or woman can be “fully human” (to the extent that such is possible in his or her earthly existence) until they are regenerated and practicing consistent obedience to God’s commandments. Perhaps, this error is most pronounced by Christians who are psychologists and psychiatrists. Rarely, do they concern themselves with the “heart status” of their “clients.” Yet, the difference in the regenerate and the unregenerate should be the most profound difference to be found among men and women. (I say “should be,” because most Christians have not been educated fully to develop their regenerate status.) See Summary Principles of Psychology, etc..

9. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). No more really needs to be said. The modern notion that boys and girls, men and women are essentially the same except for their sexual organs (and some choose to change those!) is foolish and absurd. The Scriptures are replete with the roles of men and women for which they are naturally designed, even though they may struggle with these roles because of the Fall.

10. The concept of predestination is logically inescapable. While both Christians and non-Christians rail against the idea of God’s total predestination of the lives of all men, including the elect and the non-elect, some concept of predestination is inescapable. Whether one chooses the dominant influence of nature (one’s genetic and spiritual composition) or nurture (parents, education, etc.) or a combination of the two, no person is ever given a choice of these total influences. All decisions that are made at any point in the course of one’s life, are predicated on nature and nurture over which the individual had no “choice,” OR are predicated on God’s predestination of all things. There are no other choices except supernatural intervention by other gods.

Perhaps because of hubris, notable philosophers and many laymen (in contrast to these learned philosophers) have tried to defend the notion that any concept of fairness (whether Christian or otherwise) requires man to have free will. But, as we have just presented, such a position is indefensible logically.

The beautiful nature of Biblical Christianity is that it is always consistent with the structure that God has given to man’s mind. Predestination is inescapable. Only in Christianity is man given a Personal kind of predestination. All other forms of predestination are impersonal, fatalistic, and blindly cruel. One wonders at the impact of evangelism, if Christians were to witness on this basis, instead of the simplistic devices now used.

11. Atheistic models of anthropology have proven false. (A) The Noble Savage in a pristine, sin-free paradise has been found by voyagers to the New World (and archeologists since) to practice human sacrifice in the most horrible ways with tens of thousands of victims. (B) The idea of man progressing from a simple language of grunts and single syllable words is false. The most backward tribes on the earth have been found to highly complex languages, more complex than those of modern man in some areas. (3) The architectural construction of the pyramids, statues of Easter Island, the stones of Stonehenge, and other “wonders” of the world give a profound genius to “primitive” peoples.

If one works from the Genesis model, mankind is actually degressing, not regressing in intelligence. While much of this model is still being worked out in archeological finds (many are already impressive), there are even evidences within recent centuries. Without computers and with quill pens, Augustine, Calvin, Luther, and others did scholarly work in both depth, breadth, and volume that virtually no modern scholars can match. Their education by their late teens exceeded the graduate level of many students today. The Biblical model fits again!

12. Soteriology or doctrines concerning salvation. It is not my purpose here or on this website to present systematic theology except as it relates to principles of worldview and to areas that I believe have been neglected by conservative theologians either in doctrine or application. Thus, I leave the doctrines of salvation to the theologians of your persuasion.

However, Creation (Genesis 1-2), The Fall (Genesis 3), our Biblical ancestors and history (Genesis 4-5), Noah and the Flood (Genesis 6-9), and the immediate post-Flood history and Tower of Babel (Genesis 10-11) are first principles of a truly Biblical anthropology. Throughout this website, these are both discussed in their application to particular areas of worldview and assumed where they are not explicitly discussed.

Those readers who have spent much time on this site know that I come from the Reformed and Presbyterian persuasion where the Gospel is best summarized in the Westminster Confession with its Larger and Shorter Catechisms. Logically, these documents are the most consistent and coherent with a Biblical worldview. I truly believe that the application of sound principles of hermeneutics within the parameters of formal logic would bring all the regenerate into a greater agreement.

13. The chief end of man. The primary reason that man was created was and is “to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.” Or, in the words of the answer to the first question of the Shorter Catechism, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

Anthropology and Religion References

Books

Adams, Jay E. “The Doctrine of Man,“ A Theology of Christian Counseling: More than Redemption. Zondervan, pages 94-138. Discussion on the bipartite-tripartite issue.

Anderson, J. N. D. Christianity and Comparative Religion. InterVarsity Press, 1973.

Clark, Gordon H. Predestination. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1969.

Hodge, Charles. “Anthropology” in Systematic Theology, Volume 2, Part II. Eerdmans, Reprint 1986.

Priest, Robert J. “Cultural Anthropology, Sin, and the Missionary.” In God and Culture: Essays in Honor of Carl F. H. Henry, Eerdmans, 1993.

Online Resources

http://www.biblicalworldview21.org/bmei/jbem/volume1/num4/the_image_of_god_and_the_practice_of_medicine.html

On the image of God by the author of this www.biblicalworldview21.org website

http://www.biblicalworldview21.org/Worldview_Areas/COR_Link_Social_Action.asp

Coalition on Revival Sphere Document on Social Action

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/AskPastorJohn/ByTopic/105/1418_What_does_John_Piper_mean_when_he_says_that_he_is_a_sevenpoint_Calvinist/

John Piper’s short defense of “This is the best of all possible worlds”

CDs Online for Purchase

Within this Collection of History Tapes are a number of lectures on anthropology.


 

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