Anthropological theory can radically transform our understanding of human experience and offer theologians an introduction to the interdisciplinary nature between anthropology and Christianity. Both sociocultural anthropology and theology have made fundamental contributions to our understanding of human experience and the place of humanity in the world. But can these two disciplines, despite the radical differences that separate them, work together to transform their thinking on these topics? 

In Theology and the Anthropology of Christian Life (Oxford UP, 2020), Joel Robbins argues that they can. To make this point, he draws on key theological discussions of atonement, eschatology, interruption, passivity, and judgement to rethink important anthropological debates about such topics as ethical life, radical change, the ways people live in time, agency, gift-giving, and the nature of humanity. The result is both a major reconsideration of important aspects of anthropological theory through theological categories and a series of careful readings of influential theologians such as Moltmann, Pannenberg, Jüngel, and Dalferth informed by rich ethnographic accounts of the lives of Christians from around the world.

In conclusion, Robbins draws on contemporary secularism discussions to interrogate anthropology’s secular foundations and suggests that the differences between anthropology and theology surrounding this topic can provide a foundation for transformative dialogue between them rather than being an obstacle to it.

Tiatemsu Longkumer is a Ph.D. scholar working on ‘Anthropology of Religion’ at North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong: India.

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