This week I wanted to join Derek Zoolander and ask the question, “Who am I?” By getting a little existential on you I hope to highlight one of, if not the, foundational building blocks for understanding the Christian Gospel which this blog continuously upholds. It is our anthropology.
Classically defined Anthropology means “the study of human beings.” It is the attempt to learn about and understand us. Often times on this blog we expand its use to reference one’s view of humanity, i.e. a high anthropology = people are good. However, we at Mockingbird hold that the Bible presents a disturbingly low anthropology in which humanity is completely sinful.
“Well, that’s very interesting, Sean. Thank you for that, but what’s the point?” The importance of one’s anthropology cannot be overstated. Our view of ourselves and others will inversely affect our view of Jesus Christ and His work for us. If we have too high a view of people, i.e. we think we are pretty good, and we just need a little bit of correction to get back on the straight and narrow path to improvement, then our view of Jesus and what He has done for us automatically sinks lower. If we did not need to be completely saved from death because of our complete sinfulness, then Jesus’ death was overkill, literally. All he had to do was instruct us and correct us, and help us up whenever we fall so that we could continue onward and upward. The cross becomes unnecessary when our anthropology gets too high.
The fact of the matter is we all start with a very high anthropology because we are sinful. We are born with pride that tells us, like Stuart Smalley, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” This view continues on until we are confronted with the very real fact that we don’t cut it in some way. Life has an uncanny ability to hold up that mirror that reveals that we are a bunch of posers.
For every part of our life in which we may actually be excelling, there is a part in which we know we are failing. It reminds me of the movie The Devil Wears Prada when Anne Hathaway’s character is lamenting to a friend that her relationship with her boyfriend is on the rocks and her
personal life is in shambles. Her friend replies with something like, “Congratulations, you must be doing your job. Anytime things start to go well at work, your personal life implodes.” The point is that we are failing, and the knowledge of that failure begins to crush us.
However, no matter how bad things may get in our everyday, we are still pretty skilled at convincing ourselves that we can do better, that we’ll turn it around somehow. For this reason we never quite expect the Bible’s diagnosis of us. When confronted with the demand for perfection in the Bible (Matt. 5) we are simply decimated. Romans 3:12 leaves no wiggle room, “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” In the face of this anthropology we know without a shadow of a doubt that we need nothing short of salvation. The cross is no longer extreme or some form of divine child abuse. Rather, it is the Good News that Jesus has suffered for us, so that we might be free. He has taken our low place in death and has lifted us up to life.