Anthropology (ἀνθρωπολογία, a discourse on man) is that part of scientific theology which treats of man, his nature, relations, etc., as distinguished from theology proper (the doctrine of God) and Christology (the doctrine of Christ). Theological anthropology distinguishes itself from physiological anthropology by viewing man not as a natural being, but in his relation to God. It may be divided into two chief parts: the doctrine of the original condition of man before the fall, and the doctrine of the fall and of sin which through the fall came into the human race, propagated itself, and took effect in every individual.
It must be admitted that a scientific anthropology is not possible in theology without physiological arthropology, that is, without a knowledge of the natural organism of man. But physiological anthropology is only the basis of the theological, and the completest knowledge of man in an anatomical, physiological, and even psychological point of view is unable to disclose the religious nature of man. All that we may learn of the latter in a psychological way is a view of man in his individualism, as a sample of the race; but only the history of mankind in connection with the revelations of God can open to us a full look upon his religious nature. It is therefore safe to assert that, as theology must be anthropological, thus anthropology must be theological; and Harless (preface to his manual of Ethical Theology) is right in recommending to theologians not to neglect the physiological researches on the nature of man. The question of body and soul (or, according to the Trichotomists, body, soul, and spirit), as well as the question on the origin of the soul (pre-existence, traducianism, and creatianism), belong to theological anthropology,only in so far as they may contribute to an understanding of man's religious nature. History knows as little of the original condition of man (state of innocence) as natural history knows of paradise. The true procedure of the dogmatic theologian will be to comprehend in his own mind the few but grand hints of the Scriptures on the subject (image of God), and then by exegetical, historical, and philosophical means, so to elaborate them as to show, behind the figurative expressions, the higher idea of humanity; for upon the correct comprehension of this idea depends the correct conception of sin, whether it is to be viewed as a mere negation, a natural deficiency, or both as a privation and deprivation, or depravation of human nature.
In Genesis we find the biblical narrative of the origin of sin, and this narrative is reproduced daily in the experience of mankind. Even when the full Augustinian idea of original sin may not be adhered to, the consciousness of an aggregate guilt of the race, in which the individual man has his part, is the true deeply religious view, confirmed both by Scripture and experience. Psychological observations, and the study of the Scriptures, complete and illustrate each other nowhere so fully as in the doctrine of sin. Paul, Augustine, and Luther spoke from their personal experience as well as from the depths of human nature. The abstract intellect may always lean toward Pelagianism, but religious experience attests that the intellect alone cannot comprehend the depth of sin (Hundeshagen, Weg zu Christo, 1, 136 sq.). — Hagenbach, Encyklopadie, 7th ed., p. 308 sq. SEE THEOLOGY.