What is Man: Developing a Theological Anthropology from the Thought of Martin Luther King

“What is man, that thou art mindful of him?”
For some theologians and scholars, this question is the starting point for theolgical anthropology. It inspires one to further probe various Scriptures and theological texts that address this issue of defining humanity. For Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this question was the foundation and formation of his theological anthropology. On July 11, 1954, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a Men’s Day Address that answered this biblical question with theological and practical assertions. This message was shared numerous times within a five year period and published in his book, the Measure of a Man. With a major in sociology at Morehouse College and a doctoral dissertation focused on the personalism of God at Boston University, King’s sermons and speeches were grounded in theological anthropology. However, King’s work as a public theologian, pastor, civil rights activist, and statesman influenced his thought, which made his theological anthropology become practical. So how does one make their theological anthropology practical? This paper will analyze King’s published work, “What is Man?” in order to develop a “practical” theological anthropology. When developing a theological framework from King’s think tank, one will notice several categories that emerge, for example: Man and his worth, Man and his will, Man and his worship, Man and God’s wrath, and Man and his work. This paper will identify King’s understanding of the aforementioned categories and compare them to other theological anthropologist and their work to expand the conversation in this field of study. The paper will conclude with suggestions for developing a practical theological anthropology.

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