Over the course of the nineteenth century, transatlantic intellectuals slowly revised theological anthropology, or the doctrine of humanity seen in light of the divine. Gradually, elite discourse deposed humanity from its lofty estate and centering it within a naturalistic account wherein likeness to animal fauna became the central evaluative lens. Durst argues that theological anthropologies across the disciplines increasingly shifted focus away from classic confessional themes such as the soul and the image of God, and toward the methods of natural theology and intuitionism. This occurred in the form of challenges to theology in biology, phrenology, transcendentalism, anti-theology, Christian socialism, intuitionism, and religious experience. The human soul and human sinfulness also found a revised articulation in terms increasingly shaped by the cultural authority of science. An ascendant subjective approach to human nature emerged whereby religious experiences, not theological claims to truth, assumed prominence as the central measures of religious life.
Dennis L. Durst is associate professor of theology at Kentucky Christian University.
Chapter 1: Historical Prologue: What is Man that Thou art Mindful of Him?
Chapter 2: The Human Design in Natural Theology
Chapter 3: Friedrich Schleiermacher and a Theology of Intuition
Chapter 4: Darwin’s Decentering of Humanity
Chapter 5: The Anti-theologians
Chapter 6: The Hard-headed Science of Humanity: Phrenology and Religion
Chapter 7: Social Christianity and Social Humanity in an Inhumane World
Chapter 8: The Natural World and the Human: The Transcendentalists
Chapter 9: Perils of the Soul in Nineteenth-Century Thought: Metaphysics and Morals
Chapter 10: Original Sin, Degeneration, Theology, and Science
Chapter 11: William James Seeks to Save Religious Experience
About the Author
This book shows clearly how important thinkers in the nineteenth century wrestled with the problem of human uniqueness. With thorough research and patient exploration of the era's bold new ideas, Durst explores strengths and weaknesses of the many attempts to replace traditional Christian understandings of the human person. Careful attention to science, theology, philosophy, and psychology aid Durst in articulating traditional Christian positions while at the same time crediting insights from Friedrich Schleiermacher, F. D. Maurice, William James, and other major thinkers.
Many accounts trace the modern demise of the divine. This book poignantly exposes the consequent demolition of the human with an impressive multidisciplinary synthesis that is dazzling in detail.
Dennis Durst has written an important and accessible history of how the theological anthropology of human nature has fared in a rapidly changing world and in the face of scientific and philosophical upheaval. The subject requires a rich understanding of multiple disciplines, which Durst provides. This book's readability, fairness, and hopefulness recommend its place on the shelves of anyone asking the question of what it means to be human.
Dennis Durst has provided a clear, wide-ranging, and fascinating multi-disciplinary account of how Christian beliefs concerning the unique nature of humans were challenged and redefined by nineteenth-century intellectuals. His examination of the impact of thought leaders from Schleiermacher and Darwin to Nietzsche and William James illuminates the evolution of theological anthropology in the past two centuries and ends with a call for the reappropriation of a deep sense of the glory of the human.