Category Archives: Human Nature

LATC 2018 – Hans Madueme: “Man’s Heart is the Seat of All Evils:” A Theological Argument for Dualism

Rough notes on Hans Madueme’s plenary talk:


  • Philosophers and Theologians question the usefulness of dualism – in some circles physicalism is the standard position
  • According to some – physicalism makes most sense of the world, especially in light of the work of some neuroscientists – Both the OT and NT teach monism
  • Substantivalist accounts of the Imago Dei – lend themselves toward physicalism
  • In spite of these developments – traditional dualism has been and should continue to be the position of the global church20180119_113910


“Most laypeople assume our capacity to sin requires dualism – and I agree”

  1. Three accounts of physicalism that provide an attempt to say how moral responsibility is possible
  2. Look at biblical material of sin
  3. Argue that the biblical material requires dualism
    • Respond to one objection


Part 1

  • The hard problem of Consciousness
  • The “hard problem” on Sin
  • Three accounts: Green, Murphy, and Clayton


Part 2

  • Does Scripture have anything to say about human composition and sin?
  • Matthew 5:27-30 – The inner thought not the external act is the real location of the sin – there is an implicit anthropology here.
  • Romans 2:28-29 – Being outwardly Jewish is not sufficient – a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly – circumcision of the heart. This inward outward contrast is best understood with some form of dualism
  • Ezekiel 36 & Jeremiah 31 – The heart is understood metaphorically as talking about the inner person
  • Demons are immaterial creatures – and they are quintessential sinners – therefore one should think a body isn’t necessary for sin
  • Because we are embodied – sin has an embodied character but embodiment is not necessary for our sin



  • Physcialism can’t provide moral responsibility
  • Biblical data assumes doctrine of sin
  • One Objection – if one things theological determinism is true and still hold to moral responsibility, why not think physical determinism is true and hold to moral responsibility
    • First, theological determinism does not entail physical determinism
    • For the sake of argument lets conceded Calvinism entails physical determinism, this would be a problem if physical was all there is



  • Is this account too dogmatic? Is the problem that we have differing intuitions? But there are two main questions:
    • Does my Anthropology fit with current scientific findings?
    • Does my Anthropology fit with the dogmatic deliverances of the faith?
  • Most Christian physicalists acknowledge science cannot adjudicate the debate.
  • Not only is dualism more plausible given the reality of sin but also other doctrines: The intermediate state (Rev 6).
  • Does our theorizing actually preach, comfort the disturbed?
  • Our thoughts on this topic must also fit with our Christology

LATC 2018 – Adam and Christ: Human Solidarity Before God

The following are notes from Frances Young’s plenary talk.

Slime Mold

  • Japanese Scientist “trained” them to make their way through a maze
  • A self-organizing organism that is greater than the sum of its parts
  • Emergence & feedback mechanisms – do we need to reimagine ourselves as constituting an organism that is greater than the sum of its parts?


David Kelsey

  • Shares some common themes – but today we take up a feature that lies outside of Kelsey’s definition
    • Personal living body with an unsubistitutable identity
    • Rules out participation in Christ
      • “It is human kind that is some sort of corporate whole that exhibits the image of God. However just what this means is unclear.”


Corporate Personality (Whole of Humanity Represented both in Adam and in Christ)

  • Central to early Christian understanding



  • He took humanity that we might share divinity
  • Does he think of Christ’s humanity as that of a particular human man or humanity in general?
  • To grasp the sweep of his story we need to take account of his apologetic concerns
    • There is an oscillation in Athanasius’ work between Humanity and Soul
  • The Death of all was fulfilled in the Lord’s body – he somehow dies the death of the whole human race – its impossible to do justice to patristic thought without taking into account the corporate whole of humanity


Athanasius and the Corporate Whole

  • Passages reflect Platonist intellectual background – particular cases acquire a certain property by participating in its absolute form.
  • Because he is the TRUE Son – particulars can participate in this form
  • The body of Christ – passing through death and resurrection – is absolute humanity – renewed and recreated – the humanity of Christ is some kind of coproprate whole and Athanasius’ theological schema will fall apart without it.
  • Two-fold scheme – Solidarity in Sin and Solidarity in Christ


Charles Taylor and The Modern Sources of the Self

  • Contrast “modern” anthropology & this participation model
  • We no longer think of ourselves collectively
  • The term community has crept in but it is a way of talking about individuals who feel they are in the same boat – they think relationships are ultimately about themselves and their own personal commitment
  • “The Hunger Angel”


However necessary it is to counter individualism with the emphasis on our communal nature does not actually reclaim the human corporations that we find in the patristic sources.

See the book “Think like an anthropologist” – we are all interconnected – scientific study upholds a view of a universal human nature – the intertwining of narratives is a way in which the particular and universal interact

Back to Slime Mold

  • Through feedback mechanism individuals become part of a larger whole
  • By emergence we have the capacity to reappropriate something like the corporate personality of the patristics

LATC 2018 – Imago Dei: Theological Anthropology in a Hall of Mirrors

The following are notes from Megan DeFranza’s plenary talk.
*Disclosure: The following views are not my own but I believe faithfully represent the views of the speaker as best I could catch them in my notes.*

Imago Dei: Theological Anthropology in a Hall of Mirrors

Current context makes TA interesting because our current knowledge of our self is constantly changing.

Imago Dei

  • Substantival View: Rationality = soul
  • Functional View: “Let them rule” à “Let him rule”
  • Relational View: “Male and Female”


Relational Imago

  • Strengths: Women are fully included in the image // Men cannot image God without women // Recovering value of sexual/spousal love as an image of divine love
  • Weaknesses: Paradigmatic “other”/”Mother” = no room for real women, feminine diversity, female humanity beyond womanhood // Privileges “Spousal love” as paradigmatic of divine love, Devalues singleness // Spousal love become sexual love, sexualizes the Trinity, Devalues celibacy, asexuals, sexual dysfunction


Nashville Statement

  • Article 3 – Okay, an improvement on old views
  • We see the phrase “divinely ordained differences throughout the statement”, e.g. Article 5 – “anomalies” – “We should not sweep them or their differences under the rug”

Stories of Intersex and Faith

  • Showed a video of Megan Brukiewa and Jennifer Brukiewa
    • Megan had Androgen Sensitivity Syndrome // Intersex
    • Joshua Gallardo (Youth Pastor)
    • 5-2% born intersex (same as % with red hair)
    • David Burkiewa – we looked for answers, the right answers, in the Bible – Wants to be able to talk about these things.
    • Reassignment surgeries often happen in infancy – sometimes with emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual effects
    • Jennifer – God has a very specific purpose for Megan, she was not a mistake


Nashville Statement 6

  • They acknowledge some people w/multiple sex markers
  • Tell us JC recognized this
  • Remind us – they can live a fruitful life in joyful obedience to Christ
  • The authors draw a sharp line between those who are intersex and gay – but nowhere in the document are those who identify as transgender or experience gender dysphoria that they too are made in the image of God and can life a fruitful life pleasing to God – See Article 13 which calls “transgender self-conceptions” sinful.
  • Failure to acknowledge the fellow humanity/dignity of all is a weighty matter


Why it Matters

  • 57% have family who choose not to speak to them
  • 50-54% Harassment at School
  • 60% doctor refused health care
  • 69% homeless
  • Those who attempt suicide 41% vs. general population 4.6%


Telling the Truth About Sex and Gender

  • I am troubled about how Christians treat the “least of these” – vulnerability, those in danger physically spiritually emotionally, numerically
  • Binary (Male vs. Female) is typical – Reality (Male female – an area of overlap between) both in biological and Behavioral Gender Differences
  • Intersex and transgender represent the “least of these” as the minority group but also in terms of the vulnerable and harassed
  • What I do know is that the Good shepherd cares – this (Jesus) is the one whose image that we are called to be in

LATC 2018 – Nature, Grace, and the Christological Ground of Humanity

Rought notes on Marc Cortez’s LATC 2018 Plenary Talk

Christology as basis for establishing anthropology20180118_113512

  • Hedgie the Hedgehog
    • Why should Hedgie be seen as paradigmatic?
  • Establishing that JC is perfect human – how can we make the jump to making claims about true humanity….

Irenaeus as a conversation partner for thinking why JC should be the basis for our theological anthropology

  • Humans are made in the image of God
  • Jesus is the True image of God

How does Irenaeus unpack this? What are the implications? Four Claims

  1. TA must be rooted in the embodied humanity of Christ
  2. TA must be rooted in the eternal identity of the son
  3. TA must recognize the ontological and epistemological priority of Christ over Adam
  4. TA must be studied in such a way that does not completely bifurcate nature and grace (I did not fully catch this 4th point)


Claim 1

  • The very idea of an image requires an embodied form – the son must have a visible and determinate form
  • The body is intrinsic to the Imago Dei – Man not a part was made in the likeness of God. The perfect man consists of the comingling of soul and flesh
  • The fashioning of the human flesh is intimately connected to Christ – Humanity is patterned according to the pattern of the incarnate Christ
  • The imago is Christological in the sense that we see the reality that all persons are directed towards the Triune God
  • No biblical passages prove this but there is biblical warrant


Claim 2

  • What does it mean for I to claim that human nature in the manger is logically prior to the humanity in Genesis 1?
    • Means archetype of humanity exists eternally even though it has not been instantiated
    • Maybe it’s a divine idea – maybe Christ is the historical idealization of that idea
    • I never posits an eternal idea…. The archetype of humanity is always the person of JC himself (Does a Gnostic background inform why he never did this?)
  • Schleiermacher & James Dunn
    • Jesus just is the idea of humanity – the driving person behind the act of creation
    • This however may overshadow the son’s existence in eternity
  • The Son’s identity has been shaped eternally in virtue of the incarnation


Claim 3

  • Adam does not simply prefigure Christ – Adam was consequent on Christ – his humanity has been shaped by the archetype which is Christ
  • There is at least one sense in which Christ is ontologically dependent upon Adam
  • For JC to be fully Human he had to receive his humanity from Adam – to claim J could have received a different kind of humanity – would be problematic for our salvation – he would be instantiating a new kind of humanity rather than recapitulating the humanity which started with Adam
  • How come – looking at the ontologically secondary being (Adam) wouldn’t be a good way to figure out what humanity is all about?
  • I thinks we need to maintain C’s epistemological priority?
    • I says because Adam wasn’t perfect…. They are not yet complete and hadn’t fully grown yet
    • Even though Humanity was created in the image in the beginning we don’t truly see what humanity is until the advent of Christ
    • “Adam and Even give only a dim impression of what it means to be in the image of God.” – Boersma
  • Does this approach do justice to the canonical form of the biblical message about Humanity?
    • Don’t we already know what it means to be human when JC is born? The logic of cannon and creed seems to indicate we already know what it means to be human prior to the incarnation
  • We can know other things about humans….
    • Studying humanity in general can and should provide some insight into humanity (learn about the Mona lisa by studying a replica) – move is complicated by falleness of humanity (someone wrote all over the mona lisa)
    • The developmental account does not denigrate the fact that we can know something about humanity from stages prior to the incarnation. (Studying Marc Cortez as a 7th grader can give you some info about Marc Cortez today). This means we shouldn’t neglect the study of Humanity in its history prior to Christ


Claim 4

  • Doesn’t lead us to distinguish between Nature and Grace
  • This developmental model provides some basis for interdisciplinary studies of human nature
  • In addition to understanding humanity through the lens of the natural – we are required to study humanity in the state of Grace too



Although Hedgie might be the cutest hedgehog to ever walk the earth – it seems reasonable to claim that not hedgehog forms the epistemological or ontological basis for all other hedgehogs.


On I’s view of the Imago Dei we have something very different with the embodied humanity of JC. We have the actualization in history – the archetype – of humanity. For I that is the only adequate ground upon which to base a theological conception of the human person.

LATC 2018 – The Christian Doctrine of Humanity

This year LATC came back to Fuller Seminary. I will be trying to post my notes from the plenary sessions on this blog. However, this year I am helping to co-cordinate the event, so I may not fully catch all the talks or all the content of each talk!

 Plenary Speakers

  • Marc Cortez- Wheaton College
    Nature, Grace, and the Christological Ground of Humanity
  • Megan DeFranza – Boston University School of Theology
    Imago Dei: Theological Anthropology in a Hall of Mirrors
  •  Hans Madueme – Covenant College
    “Man’s Heart is the Seat of All Evils:” A Theological Argument for Dualism
  • Ian McFarland – University of Cambridge
    “The Upward Call:’ The Category of Vocation and the Oddness of Human Nature
  • Frances Young – University of Birmingham
    Adam and Christ: Human Solidarity Before God



Neuroscience and the Soul

During the 2012-2013 academic year, Biola University’s Center for Christian Thought brought together a number of philosophers, theologians, and scientists to discuss the relationship between traditional views of the mind and body in light of the contemporary findings of neuroscience. Neuroscience and the Soul: The Human Person in Philosophy, Science, and Theology (2016) represents the content of these discussions and conference. Edited by Thomas Crisp, Steven L. Porter, and Gregg A. Ten Elshof, the book is divided into three major sections: 1) recent debates in philosophy about the Mind-Body Problem, 2) recent debates about the bearing of contemporary brain sciences on the Mind-Body Problem, and 3) recent debates in theology about the mind-body problem. Written primarily for non-specialists, the sections are structured as a series of essays with responses and rejoinders. The idea behind this structure is that a thoughtful non-specialist could get a glimpse into the debates happening in the pages of academic books and journals, without needing to wade through vast and technical literature.


Section one begins with an essay by William Hasker in which he argues for the view that material composition cannot make sense of the unity of consciousness. Timothy O’Connor responds by arguing that conscious experience is a property had by materially composed persons, but is such that no “part” of the experiences is had by any of those persons, or is itself had by any of their parts

Chapters 4, 5, and 6 are an exchange between J.P. Moreland and Jason Runyan regarding top-down causation. Moreland makes a case against it while Runyan argues that there are no reasons for skepticism about the existence of top-down causation in nature. He explains that if one remains skeptical about top-down causation, complex systems theory may be able to do the work top-down causation aims at.

Section two begins with a friendly dialogue between Richard Swinburne and Daniel Speak. Swinburne argues that the scientific theory that mental events are caused by brain events fails the prediction criterion, thus we can never know that it predicts successfully without assuming its falsity. Speak responds by saying that an argument demonstrating a theory is not scientifically well justified, cannot, by itself, constitute a case against the epistemic credibility of the theory.

In chapter 10 Kevin Corcoran and Kevin Sharpe build an argument for physicalism from three neuroscientific case studies; but they concede the fact that consciousness seems to be very resistant to physicalist explanations. They conclude that despite the problem of consciousness, given the explanatory irrelevance of the soul, we should accept physicalism. Erick LaRock and Robin Collins respond by arguing that Corcoran and Sharpe’s commitment to physicalism is not actually warranted by the currently available evidence, and that it is contrary to the main preferences of science, namely simplicity and being true to the data of experience.

Chapter 13, written by Erick LaRock focuses on the so-called “hard problem of consciousness” that plagues reductive physicalist accounts of the mind. He argues that reductive physicalism cannot account for a robust account of consciousness. Corcoran and Sharpe respond to LaRock agreeing that reductive physicalism cannot account for the hard problem of consciousness; so they put forward a non-reductive account of consciousness.

Section three begins with Veli-Matti Karkkainen’s explanation and defense of “multi-dimensional monism,” the view that mind and body “each denotes the entire human being, while connoting some angle of vision on who that human is and what he or she is called to be.” (212) Stewart Goetz responds by raising worries about what Karkkainen’s multi-dimensional monism does for accounts of personal survival after death.

The final three chapters of the book are a dialogue between John Cooper and Brian Lugioyo. Cooper suggests that the turn towards physicalism among Christian scholars represents the prioritization of science over the Bible. Lugioyo’s response seeks to demonstrate that, in fact, biblical exegesis supports a monistic position and that a monistic interpretation for Scripture is healthy for the church’s ministry.


Neuroscience and the Soul is a fine collection of essays from a varied cast of authors. If the editors intended to give non-specialists a glimpse of current debates in the field, then they have certainly done their job. I wonder, however, if the purpose would have been better served if the authors hadn’t chosen to prioritize “traditional” accounts of the mind-body debate over newer accounts. As I note above, the structure is one long essay, followed by a short response, and an even shorter rejoinder. Most of the sets of essays (5 out of the 7) begin with traditional accounts. This means traditional accounts get the long form essay and the rejoinder. Naturally, it was the editors’ prerogative to prioritize whomever they wanted; however, if they really wanted to give readers a feel for the state of discussion in academia, they should have prioritized newer accounts, or at least should have tried to balance out the essays. Another critique one might make of the book, which is not unusual for edited volumes, is that some of the essays are poorer contributions than the others. For instance, I am unsure what Eric LaRock’s essay is doing in this volume. His main argument is against reductive forms of physicalism. Yet, one would be hard pressed to find any Christians in the field advocating for reductive physicalism. LaRock is arguing against a non-existent opponent. Also, I question the inclusion of John Cooper’s essay. Surely Cooper has written one of the most comprehensive accounts of dualism, Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting, but this work in its original form is almost 30 years old. It’s strange to think that the editors couldn’t find a more contemporary example of a Cooper-style defense of substance dualism.

Despite these minor drawbacks, I recommend this book for those looking to get their feet wet in the pool of Christian mind-body debates but don’t have time to go for a swim. It should also prove useful as an introductory volume for seminary and graduate students.

(Note: This was originally posted on Fuller Seminary’s Analytic Theology Blog.)

Book Note: Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies

In the last several decades, theological anthropology has witnessed a Christocentric turn. Whether it was Ray Anderson’s claim that “only the humanity of Christ… discloses the radical form of true humanity” (1982), John Zizioulas’s understanding that “the mystery of man reveals itself fully only in the light of Christ” (1975), or Millard Erickson’s belief that “Jesus reveals what human nature is intended to be” (1998) it seems as though the Christocentric turn in theological anthropology has made for a truly Christological anthropology. But what does it mean to say that one is doing Christological anthropology? Does it simply mean that Jesus sheds some light on our anthropology, maybe on our concept of imago dei or ethics? Or does it mean something more robust?

In Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies, a book which is now almost ten years old, Marc Cortez begins to give shape to the project of constructing a more robust Christological anthropology which moves beyond issues of the imago dei and ethics. A few years later, in 2016 Cortez went on to claim that a robust Christological Anthropology is one in which “Christology warrants ultimate claims about true humanity such that the scope of those claims applies to all anthropological data.” (2016) However, in Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies, Cortez doesn’t yet have that definition fully developed yet. Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies is something like a case study in which the method of doing Christological anthropology begins to get fleshed out.

So how does Cortez go about developing his robust Christological anthropology? He turns to the theology of Karl Barth. Cortez spends the first few chapters of Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies explaining why Barth believed that human nature must be explained in reference to Jesus. Cortez concludes that for Barth, Christ’s significance for anthropology is primarily grounded in (1) the election of Jesus Christ in which other humans are included and (2) the covenantal faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Building on these insights Cortez draws out eight features that he takes to be Barth’s anthropological commitments. At minimum, any Barthian Christological anthropology must include the following eight features:

  1. A strong concept of selfhood emphasizing humans as subjects constituted by particular relationships
  2. An inner life comprised of self-conscious experiences
  3. An understating of continuous personal identity that involves the body and the soul but is ultimately dependent on divine faithfulness
  4. An appreciation of humans as capable of initiating intentional actions
  5. Some view of mentality that allows a causal relationship with extra-mental realities
  6. An awareness of humanity’s determination and freedom
  7. A strong appreciation for the role of the body in every facet of human experience
  8. A recognition that all aspects of human life and nature are contingent realities

With these eight features in place, Cortez turns his attention toward the mind-body debate in contemporary philosophy. Cortez suggests that Barth’s eight Christological criteria for theological anthropology might help to evaluate contemporary proposals about the mind’s relation to the body. In chapter five he evaluates several physicalist options about human constitution. He concludes that for Barth, given his eight criteria, reductive physicalism is off the table. However, non-reductive physicalisms may have some promise if they can account for mental causation, consciousness, and the continuity of personal identity through death and resurrection. In chapter six Cortez turns to several dualist accounts of human constitution. He concludes, that a strong Cartesian dualism is a non-starter for Barth. However, some forms of what Cortez calls Holistic Dualism, might be promising if they can account for mental causation, personal embodiment, and the utter dependence of the soul on God for its existence.

Cortez’s evaluation of recent proposals regarding the mind-body relationship are quite helpful for several reasons. First, chapters five and six provide excellent summaries of various physicalisms and dualisms. These chapters help those not at home in these debates get a grasp on the issues being discussed. Second, and more importantly, Cortez makes a convincing case that given the eight minimalist Christological criteria some forms of physicalism or dualism might be legitimate options for Christians. This is something that people on both sides of the mind-body debate need to hear. In recent years I have encountered numerous theologians who claim that any form of dualism is sub-Christian because it doesn’t take seriously our embodiment. This might be true of some dualisms, but Cortez shows that this is not necessarily true of all dualisms. For example, emergent dualism gives a very robust role to the body; after all the mind “emerges” from a properly organized physical system, i.e. the body. Perhaps these theologians are simply unaware of the variety of dualist options and hastily assume that any talk of “dualism” must mean a form of strong Cartesian dualism.

Besides providing us with the conclusion that Christology can give us minimalist criteria for reflecting upon the relationship between the mind and body, Cortez makes several other important contributions to the field of theological anthropology. First he shows us that Christology’s contribution to theological anthropology need not be limited to ethics or discussions about the imago dei; it can be applied to other aspects of human existence. Second, he shows us that applying Christological insights to our anthropological understanding is no easy task. In all honesty, I wish he would have devoted more attention to the challenge of deriving anthropology from Christology. However, I can’t blame him for not doing this. I understand that this book was something of a first pass at a more robust Christological anthropology. Even still, I hope he addresses these challenges in his forthcoming book on Christological anthropology.

(Note: This was originally posted on Fuller Seminary’s Analytic Theology Blog.)