Anthropology in Context: Integrating Theological and Cultural Anthropology

Human embodiment exists within particular contexts. Because of this reality, a faithful theological anthropology cannot be developed without considering the contextual realities of embodiment. The question, “Who are humans?” cannot be answered independent of the context of human embodiment. This paper argues for a framework that integrates theological and cultural considerations for a holistic anthropology. Theological anthropology must be enriched by cultural anthropology because theology, like embodiment, does not exist independent of the contexts in which it is believed and lived out. This framework does not reject universal truths regarding theological anthropology, but argues these truths are always lived out within particular cultural contexts. This argument is developed over two main sections. The first section addresses the role context plays in shaping theological reflection (S. Bevan, H. Conn). Contextual influence is true for theological inquiry in general, and theological anthropology in particular. The questions and experiences of a context shape the development of the understanding of human nature. Distinctly Christian inquiries into human nature are not exempt from this reality. The philosophical framework of critical realism (N. Wright, P. Hiebert, C. Kraft) is provided as a framework of embracing the universality and particularity of theological anthropology. The second section develops a framework for integrating theological anthropology and cultural anthropology with the goal of providing a holistic anthropology. This section utilizes the philosophical categories of structure and direction (A. Wolters) along with adapted models of contextualization from various missiologists (C. Kraft, P. Hiebert, A. Walls). This integrated framework provides needed tools for developing a theological anthropology in light of the cultural realities of embodiment.

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