Owen Strachan, Associate Professor of Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written a contemporary study on the doctrine of anthropology. The book is written with theologians, seminarians, pastors, and serious Bible students in mind (p. 6), although most of this material is accessible to the non-scholastic believer. While Strachan describes Reenchanting Humanity as a work of systematic theology (p. 6), it is not a typical systematic. Rather, the author wraps his study of humanity around nine themes or subjects, devoting a chapter to each. He believes the “major issue of our time is that of anthropology. Does the human person live in an ordered cosmos and have an appointed identity, or does he make his own identity in a world without God?…. My task is to equip the church to give an answer for the hope that lies within all who are in Christ” (pp. 3-4).
Strachan previews his nine subjects in the introduction (pp. 4-5) and reviews them toward the conclusion (pp 378-380). Pasting the two together, the theological dimensions addressed are described as:
- Imago Dei marking humanity as an enchanted race, given substance and meaning by God. The nature of man is spiritual, ordered around and toward God.
- Depravity results as mankind disenchants itself at the fall, resulting in sin and death.
- Work: despite being depraved, the Lord has given people something valuable to do, “We find great meaning and joy in working unto God” (p. 4).
- Sexuality: humanity is given sexual capacities to enjoy when used in a disciplined and orderly manner. Sadly, the church is under great pressure to downgrade its doctrine of sexuality.
- Race and ethnicity: while believers have unity in Christ, they tend, with all peoples, to divide along racial and ethnic lines. We must be reminded that these differences should not be viewed as problematic, but through doxological lenses.
- Technology: mankind has been given the gift of creativity; nowhere is that more evident today than in the realm of technology which offers both promise and peril. “We must resist technological delusions and the false visions of humanity they spawn.” (p. 280)
- Justice is consistent with the nature of God and should be practiced by the believer. While the ramifications of divine justice cause us to tremble, “Far from defeating our faith, the justice of God gives us hope in a fallen cosmos” (p. 5).
- Human contingency: to understand life as humans we must understand its limitations, temporalness, and mortality (p.5).
- Christ: “We conclude the anthropology by studying Christ the true man, thus ensuring that this is a Christological anthropology” (p. 5). “We as a redeemed people are headed somewhere we know Christ now, and we will worship Him as reenchanted beings for all of eternity… The heart of biblical anthropology is not Adam. Adam is a type, and Christ is the archetype” (p.380).
Reenchanting Humanity is a thought-proving, insightful, and engaging book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was bothered, however, by some quotes from questionable individuals. Quotes should strengthen one’s arguments by reinforcing them via experiences or well-respected scholars. So why quote N. T. Wright (p. 102) who undermines the biblical doctrines of soteriology, eschatology, and ecclesiology, or Andy Stanley (p. 172), who leads the attractional church movement today, or Richard John Neuhaus (p. 181) and Flannery O’Connor (p. 286), both Roman Catholics who rejected sola fide, or Sam Storms (p. 329) whose strong Pentecostal teachings distort the doctrine of pneumatology? Such quotes, in my opinion, harm rather than help Strachan’s positions. The author also accepts some aspects of the Cultural Mandate as applicable for today, although he does not fully develop this idea (p. 252). And he clearly embraces inaugural eschatology (pp. 262, 342, 345, 372-374), which skews the identity and mission of the church to some extent.
But with these few caveats aside, Reenchanting Humanity is an outstanding read which will challenge and inform any reader.
Reenchanting Humanity: A Theology of Mankind by Owen Strachan (Great Britain: Mentor, 2019), 418 pp, hard $26.70
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor/Teacher at Southern View Chapel