Level 2: Theological Anthropology for the Informed
Okay, so you’ve read these and are ready for the next level of books to really test your chops? You should consider giving these a shot. I’ll try to segment them out into sub-disciplinary areas. I’ll start with anthropology more generally:
These books are academic and technical introductions to various views on human nature. They consider what humans are made up of. For example, do we have souls or are we just bodies? I could list many books here, but I think these four cover the main areas the best. The Ashgate Companion volume is unique in that it has far more chapters on theological aspects than the others. But if you had to pick just one to read, I’d go with The Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism because it engages in a point-counter-point sort of style with chapters for and against nearly every possible view on the nature of human persons. I’ve reviewed it in the past here. But all are highly recommended reading.
The next segment of works are all related to resurrection and the afterlife:
Cooper’s book is one of the most influential and powerful books on theological anthropology over the last several decades. He covers a massive amount of ground and is required reading for anyone wanting to think seriously about these topics. Turner’s book is the most academic of this bunch and has some abnormal explanations for how the resurrection takes place, but it is helpful on understanding the motivation for the resurrection and some of the background information. I’ve reviewed it here as well.
Next are two books that are more historical in nature:
Helm’s book covers much of the Reformation and Post-Reformation period and can make sense of a lot of the more technical theological literature, whereas Marmodoro and Cartwright’s book is for the Patristic and surrounding period. Their book has essays that can be very technical, but I think it is required reading to understand the trajectory of anthropology. I’ve reviewed it here if you want to weigh whether it’s worth pursuing.
Finally, these books are an assortment of more ethically inclined books—at least matters of ethical questioning today like gender:
I realize this list is woefully short for the anthropological challenges that pastors are confronted with on a daily basis, but these are good starting points. To be clear, some of these books are mostly inconsistent with traditional conservative evangelical beliefs. I’m not recommending these because they are always right but because they explain the topics well. For example, Mikkola is a feminist, and I disagree with her diagnosis and solution to the problems she works to solve. However, her summary of the issues and debates is marvelous. You’ll benefit from her ability to orient the questions that surround gender, enabling you to understand the language others are using when discussing the topic. So, even where you disagree (which may be most of it!) you’ll be better equipped to engage the ongoing debates. Consider also McKenney who also lands in a place that I think has its own challenges. Despite this, his survey of the possible responses to transhumanism is excellent. You don’t have to agree with his thesis to benefit from his summary of the varying solutions to the challenges. I’ve reviewed his book here.
Wherever you choose to start, don’t quit. We need more informed pastors and congregants who understand the issues of the day and how to apply the gospel to every situation.