The Big Picture

April 15, 2013 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Micro Macro 1I have often made the point, when teaching various Bible classes, that, in Christianity, theology and anthropology are inextricably intertwined.  You can’t really understand anthropology if you don’t understand theology and you can’t really understand theology if you don’t understand anthropology.

Here’s why.  Theology without anthropology undermines the gospel.  After all, the heart of the gospel is what God has done for us!  He sent Jesus to die and rise for us!  Without understanding the anthropological “for us” of the gospel, we are left with a system of theology that is more akin to Deism than it is to Christianity.  For without the gospel’s anthropological association, God is left distant and detached from the creation He formed.  Conversely, anthropology without theology also undermines the gospel.  It is theology, after all, that tells us who we are anthropologically and why we need Jesus.  And the verdict on who we are anthropologically is not good:

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)

Apart from an understanding of God’s verdict on us as sinners, we are all too readily tempted to think of ourselves as better, nobler, and loftier than we really are.  Thus, in order to truly understand the peril of our sinful state, we must understand what the Bible says theologically about our brokenness anthropologically.

I bring all of this up because I have been doing some thinking lately about the anthropological side of Christianity.  And what I have come to realize is that while Christian authors, pastors, and leaders will spend a lot of time addressing the anthropological side of Christianity on a micro scale, sometimes, macro anthropological concerns can get marginalized.

Here’s what I mean.  The Christian arena is replete with resources on marriage, addiction, finances, relationships and other personal, or micro, concerns.  And these resources are needed and, I would add, popular!  What is less popular in our day, however, are resources that address macro anthropological issues of cultural trends, power structures, injustice, and societally systemic sins as well as their broad historical and philosophic foundations.  Part of the reason I would guess these resources are less popular is because addressing macro anthropological issues is an inevitably more complex, convoluted, and academic exercise than addressing micro anthropological issues due to the sheer size and the extended historical timelines of these macro anthropological issues.  Furthermore, because it is the micro anthropological concerns that most directly and immediately affect us, it is easy to look at what only directly affects us right now than consider the broader concerns of our world over time.

But Christianity calls us to consider both ourselves and our world.  For Christianity, among other things, is a worldview.  And without understanding Christianity’s anthropological entailments on a macro scale and their insights into how we, knowingly or unknowingly, are shaped by the history, philosophy, and culture to which we are heirs and of which we are a part, we will inevitably have trouble, and ultimately be unsuccessful, in addressing and resolving our own micro concerns.  This is why so much of the language of the Bible is cosmic.  For God’s final promise is not only that He will only fix our personal problems, but that He will redeem our world.  In the words of the apostle John:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:1-5)

Make no mistake about it:  God cares about the micro.  He cares about your tears and your pain and your worries and your regrets.  But He will fix your micro concerns in His macro way: He will make everything new.  So perhaps we should spend a little more time thinking about “everything” that God will make new and a little less time thinking only about our micro concerns.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. revkev97  |  April 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Hi, Zach. As always, great post. Had to read it a couple of times, but great post nonetheless.

    I wonder about the emphasis, near infatuation, with the micro at the expense of the macro is precisely because of a fundamental misunderstanding of God’s verdict on us as sinners. The micro gives us a more favorable picture of ourselves, while the Biblical understanding of sin is that it is a condition and corruption into which we are all born.

    If we understand anthropology in a macro way, as God does, then all things must necessarily be made new, for the old is dying and corrupted.

    Just a thought.


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