Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Book Review: Becoming Human by Fr John Behr

Becoming Human: Meditations on Christian Anthropology in Word and Image
By Dr John Behr
St Vladimir's Seminary Press (2013)
ISBN: 0881414395
Price: £17.50 (Amazon UK)

A few years ago, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware stated that Christian Anthropology will be the key subject of our time. At the time he stated this, I had little interest in the matter due to my heart being set on Canonology. However, last year it seemed that I could not escape the topic, following a chance meeting with Dr John Behr of St Vladimir’s Seminary. 

 Having been given a copy of ‘Becoming Human’ as a gift by Fr John Behr at a recent conference in London, I originally intended to simply keep it on the shelf, however I decided to read a chapter each day to assist me in my Lenten reflection. 

The book is a small and simple collection of ‘meditations on Christian Anthropology’ though goes far more impacting in its analysis of the Biblical and Patristic texts with regards to the meaning of being human than a number of texts on the same subject. It starts with a focus on the words of St Irenaeus of Lyons, who stated that “The Glory of God is a complete human being” and takes that opportunity to ponder the nature of the complete human being, drawing from various saints and scriptural passages along the way, which can make the book appealing to readers with an understanding of Patristic Theology as well as those who are simply reading the text for inspiration and for a simplistic understanding.

The book will appeal to anyone who likes the simpler side of the Christian Faith and is happy to sit for 10 minutes with a book and an open mind. It is not designed as a significant study of anthropology, but as a collection of musings from a respected academic on Patristics and Anthropology. This may put some people off of the text if they are looking for something more substantial in the field, though it should make a good stepping stone for someone trying to get their head around an often overanalysed and underappreciated subject. With this in mind, I would certainly recommend this book to those who enjoy lighter reading, though would not expect it to gain as much appreciation from those who expect a dense academic tome by their bedside.

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