Is a Functional View of Christian Anthropology Less Loving?

Still reading N.T Wright’s essay, “Justification: Yesterday, Today, and For Ever” (JETS, 2011). Wright is known for a functional anthropology whereby God wants to reclaim broken humanity as “kings and priests to God.” Basically, God wants to redeem humans so they can live and be and work in the ways God had always intended. He saved them to put them to proper use.

Some of his disputants have remarked that this understanding of humanity comes across as unkind and unloving – God just wants to use his creatures. Wright offers a helpful response and analogy:

When Jesus, showing his continuing love for Peter, tells him to feed his sheep, does that mean he does not really love Peter, he only wants to use him? Of course not. If a great composer has a child who is a brilliant musician, and the composer, out of sheer love for the child, writes a magnificent concerto for her to play, is he merely using her? Or is his love not expressed precisely in this, that he wants to celebrate and enhance her wonderful gifts? (427)

One thought on “Is a Functional View of Christian Anthropology Less Loving?

  1. Nijay, I’m a bivocational priest. I also work with persons with psychiatric disabilities. A couple of years ago I went to a seminar sponsored by the New York State Office of Mental Health about disability benefits. It was led by an officer of the OMH, who used to be pastor. He said that the warehousing of people with mental health problems has been debilitating. In times past they would have them work on state-run farms or employ them in jobs in state facilities. This was the norm until the state was sued. But his point was that human beings, as functioning, healthy persons, need some work, some vocation for their well-being. Human identity formation and health are largely a matter of community support and formation, which makes this “functional anthropology” a necessity in real life, and not a matter of opinion in a theological tome.

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