In my quest to learn more about the Reformed tradition, I have been reading (slowly it seems) books by by Reformed authors dealing with the finer points of theology from a Reformed perspective. My latest literary conquest was Anthony Hoekema's book Created in God's Image (1986 Eerdmans). This is part of a three volume set on Reformed theology by Hoekema (the other two volumes being Saved By Grace and The Bible and the Future dealing respectively with the Reformed position on the doctrines of soteriology and eschatology). This volume treats the doctrine of Biblical anthropology -- or what the Bible says about mankind.
When it comes to Christian doctrines, anthropology does not rank very high on the list. Eschatology probably tops the list due in large part to the fact that is deals with end time events. This doctrine has been so sensationalized of late with Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth and LaHaye & Jenkin's Left Behind series. People never seem to lose fascination with future events. Following close behind is soteriology, or the doctrine of salvation. This is understandable considering that it deals with the gospel and how one is saved. Anthropology is different because it carries neither the centrality of soteriology nor the appeal of eschatology, but it is an important doctrine nonetheless.
One of the central pillars of Reformed Theology is Total Depravity (the first 'petal' in TULIP, an acronym that serves as a mnemonic for the distinctive features of Reformed Theology. Total Depravity is the doctrine that man is completely incapable of earning salvation based on his good works. Moreover, it is the doctrine that teaches mankind is not even really interested in pursuing a saving relationship with God. Total Depravity is a result of the fall in which the nature of man was irrevocably changed. The image of God in which we were created (Genesis 1:27) was marred beyond recognition so much so that we do not relate to God as we ought, nor do we relate to our fallow man as we ought. Total Depravity is an essential element in a Biblical anthropology. Furthermore, a proper understanding of the perfection of God's holiness and the depth of our sinfulness is also essential to a Biblical anthropology.
In this book, the late Dr. Hoekema lays out in great detail a Biblical anthropology. He spends a bit of time laying the foundation of the importance of anthropology (the doctrine of man). He also talks about man as a created person, and what that means (chapter 2). This isn't trivial as it plays an important role in our relationship with God. The next three chapters (3, 4, & 5) discuss to some length what it means to be created in the image of God. Chapter 3 traces the Biblical teaching of this truth; whereas in chapter 4, Dr. Hoekema gives a brief historical survey of being created in God's image by discussing the views of Irenaeus, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, and G.C. Berkouwer. Chapter 5 closes the section on being created in God's image by giving a theological summary of this teaching.
Dr. Hoekema then spends a considerable amount of space in the book talking about sin: Its origin, spread, nature and restraint. Chapters on the whole person and human freedom round out the books contents.
The book has a copious amount of footnotes which are included on the pages in which they're found (I find this aids in the flow of reading as you can easily check the references without having to turn to the end of the book or chapter). There is also a subjects index, an index of proper names and a Scripture index. This is easily the most thorough treatment on Biblical anthropology that I have read. Dr. Hoekema's writing style is readable, if dry and technical in parts. He brought to light many nuances of this doctrine with which I was not aware. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about Biblical anthropology from a Reformed perspective.