The issues and problems surrounding our humanness are many. From freedom of conscience to our psyche, we as humans are a complex breed. In an interesting anthology, colleagues from various departments at Biola University have created a multi-faceted approach to discovering what it means to be human. Christian Perspectives on Being Human covers a huge range of topics from libertarian free will to a substance dualist view of the soul and everything in-between.
This volume does more than bring together colleagues, it offers a response from and a challenge to think more robustly across the various disciplines about the nature of our humanness. This form of writing helps the reader to have an array of perspectives on any given topic, allowing the reader to formulate his or her own conclusion after finishing a section.
This volume is well put together and the arguments logical and tightly woven. It’s hard to imagine that one could come at the topics from any other perspective than the ones fully fleshed out in the main articles. Though short, the articles pack in the research with clear explanations and a defining of terms hard to find elsewhere in similar treatments.
In my view the most helpful treatment of a subject is found in Chapter 3 in discussing Human Freedom. David Ciocchi brings the reader through various views of free will. He posits that a soft determinism is most logically compatible with the view that God is totally sovereign and man completely free in his will.
If I am a theologian who believes in soft determinist free will, then I will have no need of either reformulating my positions to eliminate apparent inconsistencies or of appealing to paradox should my reformulations fail to be convincing. This is because soft determinism and theological determinism are logically consistent. It is possible to affirm both that God has ultimate control over all events, including human choices, and that we human beings necessarily act on our preferences, that is, that we have free will in a sense that is compatible with determinism.
In leaving out historical treatments of this subject, such as those of Luther on the Bondage of the Will or Edwards on the Freedom of the Will, leads me to believe that the authors is not willing to deal directly with these men, or the space has not been allotted for the subject matter. Ciocchi does mention Edwards in the “Further Reading” section but as a fan of Edwards, I would have enjoyed a more thorough treatment of his treatise. This lack does not, however, detract from the subject matter in any way. The author does a fantastic job of presenting a very complex subject in relatively clear terms.
Christian Perspectives on Being Human is well worth the read. It brings together a top-notch set of scholars and allows them to play off each others strengths and weaknesses. In a format that allows the reader to grow and learn, I heartily commend this volume for an extended and deeper look on what it means to be human, and what it means to be part of a humanity created in the image of God.