Over a cup of tea earlier this week I joked to a friend that I’m currently enjoying my ‘Eastern Orthodox’ theological phase. This is probably fair – since noticing the IOTA conference (paper submitted, fingers crossed), just before Christmas, I’ve been reading a little wider and deeper into the theology and practice of the ancient Eastern church. Today’s book was recommended by a former colleague, and deals with one of my favourite topics. Becoming Human: Meditations on Christian Anthropology in Word and Image is a powerful and evocative book by John Behr.
Clocking in at around one hundred pages, and packed with illustrations, this is less an academic treatise (though it contains a helpful number of thoughtful reflections and observations, both on theological topics and more explicitly on biblical texts) and more of a book to enable a reflective, prayerful meditation on what it means to be human, and made in the image of God, who is Christ.
Behr has written a powerful and thought-provoking book, designed for slow reading by someone looking to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. Whilst it represents an orthodox Eastern Orthodox theological anthropology, it also makes a helpful and readable introduction to a biblical theology (That is, the whole spectrum of the big Bible story of what it means to be human) on the subject. Behr deals with death, God’s sovereignty and free will, and the male/female binary of creation, among other relatively controversial topics.
It took me a few weeks – in snippets and thinking slowly – to read this book. I think that this is entirely appropriate. This is a book that can contribute a range of helpful perspectives to academic theological discussion – but is also one I would recommend to thoughtful Christians of all stripes, who want to think about what it means for them (as a part of the Church) to become both more like Jesus and more human. Bluntly put, in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m warmly recommending this book.