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Becoming Human: Meditations on Christian Anthropology in Word and Image

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136 pages, Hardcover

First published September 23, 2013

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John Behr

52 books78 followers

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5 stars
108 (67%)
4 stars
38 (23%)
3 stars
14 (8%)
2 stars
1 (<1%)
1 star
0 (0%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews
Profile Image for Carmen Imes.
Author 9 books274 followers
March 6, 2022
A lovely book of meditations on the incarnation. Father Behr suggests that it is in dying that we truly live -- dying to self, dying to sin, and dying on behalf of another. This is a book to savor.
15 reviews4 followers
October 25, 2020
How much do I like this book? Well, I briefly considered reducing all my previous ratings by one star so this one could have its rightful place alone at the top. It's that good. Read it slowly. Take time to meditate and absorb it. Reread it, because there's too much here to take in at once.

It's not necessarily an easy read, but it's accessible if you're willing to engage it. This is a serious work of theology and anthropology, but it's designed to be read as a devotional, not a textbook. It's a work of beauty.
Profile Image for Noah Raddatz.
5 reviews
February 27, 2022
A beautiful little book. Short and one would likely be able to read in one sitting but I think written more for meditation. I will likely return to it for this purpose.

Presents the uniqueness of humans as made in God’s image. The human being is the ‘glory of God’. Death to oneself is the starting place of the Christian life. One must die in order to live - for God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. Following Irenaeus, Behr teaches us that God created us to grow - not simply through procreation - rather, distinct from other bios. We were made to grow into Christ, to say Fiat, Let it be - this is what it means to become human.

I loved his presentation on male and female. That God made male and female to teach us to love one more than ourselves. It is the first ‘martyrdom’. Love of spouse teaches us to die to ourselves. Quite beautiful.
Profile Image for Dan Glover.
530 reviews49 followers
June 10, 2020
This is theological anthropology anchored in Christology, creation and eschatology. It is expansive yet compact, precise yet poetic. Behr shows that death has been given a new 'use' through the death and resurrection of Christ (and ascension and out-pouring of the Holy Spirit) such that the death of believers must now be understood as their birth into true and full life as human beings created in the image of their creator and formed into the likeness of Christ by his own shaping and life-breathing work. He shows this from Scripture and the teaching of the early church Fathers, and he illustrates it from the lives of the martyrs. These ideas were not new for me, having taken a class with Father Behr and having read lots of Peter Leithart over the years. But I read this not long after the death of a child of some close friends and, having lost some very close family myself (mother, son, grandparents, etc.), I was reminded that this is such an important personal truth for every Christian to hold close (especially when our culture likes to hide all discussion of death, even when a pandemic makes this impossible). Aside from the meditation on death-in-Christ being an essential part of the Christian calling to become fully who God intends us to be, this was a reminder that all good theology ought to be pastoral.
Profile Image for Marcas.
355 reviews
August 22, 2020
Fr John Behr is a noble successor to the late Fr Alexander Schmemann and provides us, in this beautiful and slim volume, with profound contemplation of key points in the Christian story as well as a fresh way of looking at the big picture.

The power in his approach is that his ideas almost seep into your consciousness like a pleasant aftertaste from a fine meal, so that there is a lingering and new appreciation of the familiar... turning over our ideas about the fall and God's supposed 'rescue operation' to a sounder view of God's providence.

His isn't a short and sharp writing style like GK Chesterton or Fabrice Hadjadj; however, when he takes aim it does hit you! Particularly prescient is Behr's approach to Male and Female, which is among the most profound and comprehensive insights i've ever came across on this topic, alongside aforementioned Hadjadj.
Profile Image for Scott.
52 reviews13 followers
September 30, 2013
This is a very short work by Fr John Behr, but don't let that fool you. There is so much to be had here in these short pages that he just didn't need any more.

Every page is packed with a poetic theology of a depth that is sorely lacking in the world today. This is something to be savored over time and meditated upon. Like his 'Mystery of Christ', 'Becoming Human' is a book you read once and then over the years come back to it again and again. Every time you do so you'll come across just one more thing that you didn't notice the last time.

This book is well worth the time, and recommended for anyone and everyone. You can't go wrong with this one.
Profile Image for Ben.
47 reviews9 followers
August 2, 2014
Stunningly simple, prolific and profound, elegantly designed. Fr. John Behr paints a mysterious and positively haunting picture of what it means to be truly human. The book makes use of a mixture of fonts and art work, quotes and allusions, that bring an abundant and eclectic, holistic, picture into view. Full review to come.
Profile Image for Stephen Lake.
170 reviews7 followers
October 16, 2016
This little gem is, for all intents and purposes, a synopsis in word and image of the course I had with Fr. John Behr at Nashotah House on the anthropology of the eastern church fathers. Rich reflection on what it means to be human--to find life in death, and our true identity in Christ Jesus. This book is a gift and would repay reading regularly (say, in Advent or Lent).
Profile Image for Russell.
3 reviews2 followers
July 10, 2022
All in all, John Behr argues that we are not truly human until we have died to ourselves and are reborn in Christ. This also goes for the Christian who is daily dying to themself; they are observing the cross, the tree of life where Jesus died, and observing Jesus, the savior of the world who rose again, who lived as the first, true human (Adam failed, Eve failed, Jesus surpassed all). The Christian who is not dying to themself is playing the roll of the stillborn child, yet the Church is there to mother them back to health.

Behr argues that the glory of God is in his creation: living human beings. Yet, no human is truly alive as a human when without Christ. God's glory is radiant in the one who is alive in Christ. All others are dead, though can be made alive by the blood of Christ. To be Human is not to be flesh and blood, male or female, but to be fulfilled by the substance of Christ's blood.

Likewise, Humanity is what God created, and thus our identity is bound to and found in Him. This concept was what gravitated me to the book, as at the time I was writing a paper on human dignity. I believe that there is an abundance of perversion and misconception and indignity in the world done to, done by, done for humanity. We've lost our minds and most definitely our hearts. The soul hangs on by the ghostly threads of time. But I, as a struggling believer – one who finds much inconsistency within his heart – need to look to Christ for my identity and ignore the false identifications the world implicates, and in such a motion I can stand hopefully and selflessly to love my brothers and sisters through and for the instilled dignity of the Maker.

There were some times throughout my reading where I stopped and pondered, "well that is very interesting, but quite the interpretation." Though I cannot remember the exact moments, and I failed to bookmark them, I would just caution (as with any book) to read critically. This condensed, little book has MUCH packed inside.
Profile Image for Caleb Watson.
123 reviews1 follower
January 2, 2020
This volume is presented in a very unique format. Certain passages may have a larger, and divergent font for emphasis, there are numerous images, and quotations throughout, and the prose is almost a stream of consciousness. It is clear that the author intended this to be a very meditative reading experience, given that the concepts are very loosely sketched out, and in some cases may even seem vague. I think that the intention is for the reader to reflect, and contemplate each page, rather than simply absorb information through the intellect. The books brevity permits it to be read in a single sitting, however, it’s impact will undoubtedly be more pronounced with a more deliberate reading pace.

The strengths and weaknesses of this volume will run along the same lines as Behr’s more expansive work “The Mystery Of Christ”. The Alexandrian method of interpreting scripture which is advocated by Behr serves this volume very well in its goal, namely to produce meditative reflection upon the work of Christ. However, the authors complete disregard for historical context, or authorial intent seems to be a step too far, though it is admittedly less pronounced in in this book. Ultimately, I think that “Becoming Human” is best suited for devotional use, perhaps incorporated into times of prayer. The themes which are sketched, and teased in this book will likely provoke curiosity, and appetite for Behr’s more comprehensive work.

Profile Image for Rae Slabach.
18 reviews21 followers
February 12, 2022
This book is tiny but mighty. The format, upon first cracking it open, reminded me of a Choice Books inspirational coffee table book, with colored, scripted fonts, and text laid out as if it were poetry. Don’t let the simplistic format fool you. Behr’s systematic exploration of Christian anthropology is rich and powerful. He wastes no words. Each line is thoughtfully chosen, and charts a path for understanding God’s project of creating humans (“Let us MAKE” vs “Let there BE”) and how this divine intention was perfectly fulfilled (“It is finished!”) in the human, life, and death of Christ.

This is a 5 star read for me. I found it illuminating and invigorating, esp in an era where it seems so many believers still view the body as bad; our mortal lives something to bear until we can shed them for eternity and some sort of ethereal being. 😅 Behr weaves such a different and profound picture of the humanity of Jesus and how His example lays the foundation for what it means for us to enter fully into God’s intent for His creation, by becoming - like Christ - fully human. What does this mean and how does it work out practically? Read the book for a compelling overview.
Profile Image for Jessi H.
161 reviews34 followers
October 10, 2022
This is a short but beautiful book. It's written from a Catholic theology, so some things I didn't necessarily agree with, but it was encouraging and thought-provoking. The insight on death as life and rebirth was especially powerful.

The reason I didn't give it 5 stars is the formatting. I liked the flow of the book (no citations; each chapter is meant to be read in one stream-of-thought/consciousness), but the paragraph formatting was distracting to me. It might not be for the average reader though.

This one will be staying on my shelf for a while.
Profile Image for Bennett.
64 reviews
January 29, 2021
Well written, patristic reading of what it means to be human through a willingness to enter into the suffering of the Cross, "using" death to our advantage in becoming truly human through Christ. Great insight, tightly packed and thematically broad, as he draws on scriptural texts and patristic authors with some contemporary application in our context of do-it-ourself individualism. Includes about 50 pieces of art and iconography that fit the theme of each page.
Profile Image for w gall.
247 reviews1 follower
January 1, 2022
A guide to becoming like Christ- Who is the very definition of what it means to be truly human- written in understandable language. The book moves along quickly, step by step, each step bringing forth it's essential truth in a crisp, compacted form. A small book that says so much! An amazing effort by an Orthodox Christian scholars, making the Way clear to those of us who are not scholars.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
13 reviews
December 12, 2020
“ Rather than thinking of the Incarnation of Christ as an event restricted to a long-gone past in a far-removed land, we should instead think of it as a possibility that is to be lived as an ever contemporary reality, here and now in those who respond to him.“
Profile Image for William.
72 reviews1 follower
July 18, 2019
I’m confused. I think I understood what he was saying but it didn’t make sense. Perhaps St Irenaeus is clearer?
60 reviews
January 3, 2020
Excellent. A recapturing of the Fathers and especially a rereading of the creation account(s) that is just beautiful.
13 reviews
January 29, 2021
A powerhouse of a small book requiring rereading. Beautiful illustrations and prose. Emphasis placed on the process of death to obtain eternal life. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Valerie.
359 reviews11 followers
April 3, 2022
Beautiful meditations and art that draw the reader into understanding of the Christian religion's meaning for being human. Thoughtful, compelling, and prayerful.
Profile Image for D Posey.
59 reviews14 followers
February 20, 2017
A nutrient dense text in a deceptively small package. This could be alternately titled "Meditations on Death" but the ideas and concepts are a much needed refreshment in a dry and shallow understanding of Christianity.
Profile Image for Ron.
25 reviews
December 19, 2014
In John's Gospel, Jesus says: "Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:24). I brought this book of meditations with me from home to read during a recent Manresa retreat. Although we are "in" this world, we need to somehow "detach" ourselves from the things of this world. We need to, as the Apostle Paul says, "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things" (Colossians 3:2). This book would make a great Christmas gift: it's an easy read, and combines a variety of text formats with icons, quotes from the Early Church Fathers, and scripture verses.

Profile Image for Kristofer Carlson.
Author 2 books16 followers
October 7, 2013
I've been doing some writing on the subject of Christian Anthropology, but after reading John Behr's slim volume, I don't know that I'm up to the task.

I certainly can do no better than John Behr. "The glory of God is a living human being." This first quote alone, from St Irenaeus of Lyon, contains so much theology that one could spend a lifetime studying it. That simple sentence encompases everything we know and everything we cannot know about ourselves, our relationship with humanity, and the reciprocity between us and God.

But wait, there's more!
720 reviews42 followers
December 10, 2013
This is a short read, but not necessarily an easy read. The book relies on using different type face and formatting to emphasize different thoughts. That can both draw attention to certain phrases or just be a distraction. Some very profound ideas which are also basic to an Orthodox understanding of Christ. An important teaching of this little book is that the incarnation is not just a past historical event, but is something we live today. The same could be said of the resurrection as well as of Christ Himself.
Profile Image for Jason.
23 reviews1 follower
October 10, 2013
I think his view of the role of gender in soteriology problematically ties him to a philosophical system that has been modernized within protestant theology...that of the dialectic. I do not think that Fr. Behr is married to the dialectic but this particular expression of Orthodox soteriology cannot escape it. Otherwise, I think that this underlying theme of "becoming human" can be found in his other work "The Mystery of Christ."
Profile Image for David .
1,223 reviews147 followers
February 16, 2017
Jesus is the true and first full human. What this means is that we are not human yet and only become human as we become more like Jesus. This little book is an extended meditation on those points. It is concise and profound, drawing on the depth of the church tradition. It is also ascetically pleasing in its presentation, with illustration and attractive fonts to emphasize points. Highly recommended.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews

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