Tag Archives: marc cortez

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.


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.)

Review of Christological Anthropology in Historical Perspective by Mark Cortez

Cortez, Mark. Christological Anthropology in Historical Perspective: Ancient and Contemporary Approaches to Theological Anthropology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, pp. 272, $27.99, paperback.


Marc Cortez is currently associate professor of theology at Wheaton College. His prior works include Theological Anthropology: A Guide for the Perplexed (T&T Clark, 2010) and Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies: An Exercise in Christological Anthropology and Its Significance for the Mind/Body Debate (T&T Clark, 2008). As the title of these previous monographs indicate, Cortez has an interest in theological anthropology. The recently published Christological Anthropology in Historical Perspective: Ancient and Contemporary Approaches to Theological Anthropology represents his third full length contribution to this field.

What makes us human? This is a question upon which much ink has been spilled. Most studies attempting to answer this question have tended focus on one of several topics: 1) human origins, 2) ethics, and 3) the imago dei. What Cortez brings to this already oversaturated field is a rethinking of the methodology upon which so many of these studies are founded. Cortez’s approach to theological anthropology is strictly Christological.

You can read the rest of the review at the Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies.