The conflicting anthropologies of the twentieth-century world pose increasing problems not only for Christianity but also for other world religions—and, in fact, for all mankind. Contemporary man nowhere falls into greater frustration than in trying to define who or what he himself is. (See “Man” in Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary for a range of alternatives so ingenious that the reader must somewhere suspect he is in a hall of distorting mirrors.)

But despite this confusion, certain patterns of conviction are settling noticeably over the present generation, and their implications are significant for the future of belief.

To fail to consider alien anthropologies can be costly not only to theology and evangelism but also to political and military policy. American military strategists looked to an impressive “kill ratio” in Viet Nam to bring a decisive turn in the war, however callously the Communists viewed the value of individual lives. But Marxist anthropology is not the only one to be reckoned with in Southeast Asia. In Buddhism, the self has no permanent identity or survival but dies and is reborn in every moment; physical death, in theory, is a liberation and but a stage in an ongoing process. This conviction can shape its own heroic view of military risk.

The problem of an alien anthropology is becoming increasingly acute today for any and all supernatural religion. In some religious outlooks, God has been defined in a way that forfeits all relevance of the divine for human existence. It is much more likely in our time, however, that belief in God is considered either a major asset, or a colossal liability, or perhaps an indecisive unavoidability, which in turn becomes a philosophical jumping off point for argument for ...

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