Fall-Centered Theological Anthropologies

Assumed Audience: Theologically-orthodox Christians, or folks interested in things that theologically-orthodox Christians think.

However, such theological focus on human beings’ weakness becomes problematic when it serves as the primary, and therefore the theologically determining, conceptual framework within which the anthropological implications of God’s relating to humankind are worked out. The basic structure of theological anthropologies worked out in that context is a God’s grace/humans’ sin” structure: The central Christian claim about God is that God relates to reconcile in the very odd mode of incarnation leading to crucifixion and resurrection (call it saving grace”); therefore, the central Christian claim about human beings is that they must be in a condition of weakness, damaged integrity, lost freedom, or disease so profound (call it original sin,” fallenness,” bondage of the will’) as to require such an astonishing mode of divine relating for it to be overcome in the full actualization of human subjects. The apologetic force of this sort of anthropological project requires this structure. It has, however, the systematic consequence that Christian claims about other ways in which the triune God relates to all that is not God — for example, to create and to draw to eschatological consummation — are theologically marginalized.

That is not to say that these claims about other ways in which God relates to humankind, and their anthropological implications, are necessarily denied or ignored. It is to say that they are assigned the logical status of background beliefs. It must be acknowledged within this structure for theological anthropology that the central Christian claim that God relates to human beings to reconcile them when they are estranged assumes the validity of the logically prior claims that the God who relates to reconcile is also the God who relates to create human beings and relates to draw them to eschatological consummation. Nonetheless, according to this structure for theological anthropology, what Christian theology is chiefly about is the articulation of the central claim that God relates to reconcile and save fallen and sinful human beings. The systematic consequence for anthropology is that the anthropological implications of other ways in which the triune God relates to human beings are themselves assigned the logical status of background beliefs. They are marginalized.

 —  David H. Kelsey, Eccentric Existence: A Theological Anthropology, p. 114