Book Review: What makes us human?

Given my academic and personal interests in this question, I have been looking forward to getting around to reading Mark Meynell’s contribution to The Good Book Company’s excellent ‘Questions Christians Ask’ series; What makes us human? And other questions about God, Jesus and human identity. Following the familiar format of this great little series, this is a short, readable and accessible introduction to a vital question.

Mark shouldn’t need an introduction – if you’ve not read his books like A Wilderness of Mirrors or Cross-Examined, then you should. He’s well placed to write this little book. As Tim Thornborough, editor of this little series, notes in his introduction, “The good news is that the Bible has a lot to say about who we are, and what makes us human. It tells us we are creatures, not coincidence. It tells us that we are precious, not pointless… And ultimately, it reveals to us a man who is the measure of what it means to be truly human…” This echo, of value and vocation, Jesus and ourselves, resonates through the whole book, making this an excellent little primer for some of the big questions of the day.

Mark covers in six little chapters some of the key questions in this area – and I think does an excellent job at engaging with some huge questions in a biblical, balanced and nuanced way. Like a good orchestral performance, the book builds to a crescendo, focusing on Jesus, in the final chapter: The best of us: Why did Jesus become human? In this chapter Mark’s passionate blend of exegesis, hope for justice, and experience of love comes together in a celebration of Jesus. This is a chapter to stir us to worship, echoing the Easter story: “This is the kind of love human beings were made to give. It is the kind of love Christians are saved to give. The result of such love is true shalom – peace with God, peace with ourselves, peace with the world and creation“.

This is a book that stretches our understanding and forces us to engage realistically and holistically with what the Bible says about being human. This isn’t a book that ignores difficult questions, or divorces justice from love, or shies away from the full, glorious, challenging story of the Bible. Mark’s Doctrine of the Fall is helpful – and his Doctrine of Redemption, Resurrection and Re-creation is beautiful. As a short primer on a big question, this is a great example. I’d love people to read it and wonder at who God has made us to be.

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