Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Identity

Today I made a comment on Byron's blog where he spoke about our faith has to be a faith within the body and not a private internal faith. I commented about identity and how for me I am looking deep within and without as to my identity.

Who am I? Is something I have been asking myself as I come to terms with sickness stripping away my capacity to work, study, and even fellowship as I previously have done.

Much of our Christian identity comes about from our ability to do stuff! Such as leading, preaching, helping at church. Our vocational work; whether it be Christian or Secular. Even our identity as a parent and spouse, friend and neighbor is affected.
It has caused me to stop, think and realize how much my identity has been in what I did and what I plan or rather planned to do - rather then who I am in Christ.

Have you ever asked yourself Where does my identity truly come from?

21 comments:

byron smith said...

Yes, whatever other problems it has caused, the traditional notion of the 'soul' has helped guard the dignity and worth of those whose bodies are broken or failing. I think there are better ways of doing this, but it's important to acknowledge the significance this notion has played and the ways that the rejection of a 'soul' can play into materialist assumptions of instrumental worth.

Craig Bennett said...

I hold to the traditional notion of us having a soul in that we are tripartisan in nature.

I like how you have phrased "Guard the dignity and worth of those whose bodies are failing"

The more that society accepts the practice of aborting broken life as being the norm - the more pressure it creates to devalue life for what it is.

What do you think are some of the better ways to guard the dignity of all life?

Craig Bennett said...

I found some of my notes that I took from Stanly Grenz "Our Nature as Persons Destined for Community" Theology for the Community of God. USA Broadman and Holman 1994 p 196-233

In regards to this reader I wrote,

I disagree with where the origin of the soul came from and how the creationism understanding of it could allow for abortion as the fetus was not yet a person.

byron smith said...

I think a relational concept of the imago Dei has better prospects, particularly insofar as it includes the whole person in community (primarily with God, but also with others). If you accept the traditional notion of the soul, do you also accept rationality as the imago Dei and the inherent immortality of the soul?

Craig Bennett said...

I'm not sure what you mean by rationality as the... but what I think you mean by it is that because we are rational people we are in Gods image.

My understanding of our being made in Gods image is that we are made in and for community which comes about from a deeper understanding of the Trinitarian relationship.

Yet I also think that made in Gods image goes deeper than that in that we are physically made in His image, male and female...and therefore we too are tri in nature. Body, mind/soul and spirit.

Jesus suffered rejection and separation within community on the cross. From both the other 2 members of the Godhead and people.
He also suffered mightily in his human form made in the image of God - pain, suffering, thirst, confusion, tiredness and in the end gave up his spirit.

I think we tend to stray away from image in a physical sense, yet perhaps that is what causes us so much confusion in how Jesus could be fully man and fully God. I believe that Jesus was fully human because we were originally made in his image and when he was born became born again in his fleshly nature though casting aside the fullness of his divinity.

There are a few stories within the OT that point to the physical nature of God, the angels of the Lord, the Lord who walked with Adam and Eve, the Lord who appeared to Abraham and even Melchizadek who could be considered to be representative of Christ.
Scripture promises us new and perfect bodies points to what image means in a holistic way.

Craig Bennett said...

I should have said, Scripture promises us new and perfect bodies, as well as shows us being in perfect community with both God and each other.
Therefore our being made in His image goes deeper than accepting one theory over the other, and needs approaching in a more holistic way.

Paul said...

It's said in psychological circles that what the most important person in your life thinks of you will determine how you view yourself, your self esteem.

We can recognise that our identity comes from God, who created us and loves us to no end. Or we can make other people most important in our lives and have our self-identity, self-esteem and emotions blown around randomly by the wind.

Craig Bennett said...

Good points Paul.

Recognition of God's love is true yet I think that is the starting point.

Scripture makes clear the various roles that also make up our identity. Such as calling men to work hard and look after their families. Be good fathers, spending time with the kids teaching them the way to go. Spending time nurturing his wife etc.

There is also the sense of vocational calling in doing the work that you know you are called to do and are good at it.

So I think there is some validity in having part of our identity formed in what we do and those around us, though it is unhealthy when those things become the sole identifying factor of our existence.

byron smith said...

Sorry for being obscurantist. Imago Dei = image of God (in Latin, as it is often used this way to indicate a reference to a technical idea).

My understanding of our being made in Gods image is that we are made in and for community which comes about from a deeper understanding of the Trinitarian relationship.
This is basically what I meant by a relational understanding of being made in the image of God.

A few questions for clarification: why do you equate mind and soul? What do you mean by "physically" when you say we are made "physically" in God's image? Are we meant to identify one of our three parts (or are they aspects?) with the Father, one with the Son and one with the Spirit, or is it simply the number three that is important? If we are made in the image of the Image (the Son), then why are we in three parts if the Son is just one of the three members of the Godhead?

Peace.

Craig Bennett said...

You have asked some difficult questions Byron.

What do you mean by "physically" when you say we are made "physically" in God's image?I think that often the flesh/ body is downplayed in any discussion of the image of God. Which is detrimental to having a full understanding of what image truly is.

So our fleshly body is but one aspect of the image of God.

Are we meant to identify one of our three parts (or are they aspects?) with the Father, one with the Son and one with the Spirit, or is it simply the number three that is important?

If we are made in the image of God, we need to engage with the thought of how we represent the 3 natures / persons of God.
Also though in any di or tri conversation there is danger of leaving the 3 identities separate whereas Paul would speak in a more holistic understanding of the body.

If we are made in the image of the Image (the Son), then why are we in three parts if the Son is just one of the three members of the Godhead?

Is Christ fully Himself without the other 2 members of the Godhead? For us to truly be made in the image of God, we have to somehow represent the fullness of the Godhead.

I think a lot of thought about Christ lacks from a Spiritless Christology. Christ was ushered into being through the Spirit, ministered in the fullness of and was resurrected again through the Spirit. Within the eternality of the Godhead, does and did Christ continue working through the Spirit?

byron smith said...

I take it that being made in the image means not that we are like the Trinity, but that we are like the one who is the Image. That is, that our identity is complete "in Christ". This is not without the Father or Spirit, since we are truly ourselves when, like and with Christ, we cry "Abba, Father" in the power of the Spirit.

Craig Bennett said...

I think your last post raises some different questions that need addressing.

1.) In whose image did Adam reflect before he sinned?
2.) In whose image do unbelievers reflect?
3.) In whose image do we as Christians now reflect?
4.) In whose image will we reflect when we are resurrected and given new bodies and new heavens and earth?

We need to decide who the author of Genesis means when he says that we were made in the image of God.

If he is speaking of the pre-fallen Adam,could Scripture be speaking of something different than us crying out to God "Abba, Father"?

I think the original intent of being made in God's image has to reflect the fullness of the Godhead at the time of creation. Perhaps we need to look forward to the resurrection to be able to look back and truly see what it meant to be made in His image?

I like what you have said about our being in the now regarding our "identity" being complete in Christ.
Could identity and image be two different Scriptural themes?

a)Image being our whole body (Flesh, mind, spirit/soul??)

b)Identity as in who and what we were made for and that being relationship?

byron smith said...

1) Christ, the Image of God
2) Christ, the Image of God (by common grace, the created image is not erased)
3) Christ, the Image of God (by grace, we are growing into such reflection)
4) Christ, the Image of God
:-)

I think the original intent of being made in God's image has to reflect the fullness of the Godhead at the time of creation.
Remember, Christ is the fullness of God - it's not as though we're missing out on part of God by being made in the image of the Image.

Perhaps we need to look forward to the resurrection to be able to look back and truly see what it meant to be made in His image?
Yes, though we have (some) access to the future now, because we can also look back on the resurrection (and experience something of its power now).

Image being our whole body (Flesh, mind, spirit/soul??)
Does soul go with mind or spirit in your schema?

I'm still unsure whether you want to suggest that Father, Son and Spirit are each to be paralleled to one part of us? If so, which is which and why? If not, why not? And does this imply that they are interchangeable?

Peace.

Craig Bennett said...

Good answers.

Yet if Christ is the fullness of the Godhead, why then is there a father and the Holy Spirit?

In which capacity does he fulfill the requirements of being the total image of God? Is it when he is ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit doing what he sees the father doing?

Perhaps this then is what Adam did before the fall?

Does soul go with mind or spirit in your schema? I think it is more to do with the mind than the spirit. But I'm not sure. I thought I had taken some notes on this but can't find them. This is one of the things I have just discovered I can't remember...sorry if that frustrates you because it certainly does me.

I'm still unsure whether you want to suggest that Father, Son and Spirit are each to be paralleled to one part of us? If so, which is which and why? If not, why not? And does this imply that they are interchangeable?

I think that because Scripture says we are made in Gods image, then we have to be made in his complete image. Also scripture uses the terms soul, spirit, flesh and so we must have those things.

byron smith said...

In which capacity does he fulfill the requirements of being the total image of God? Is it when he is ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit doing what he sees the father doing?
Exactly. Each member of the Godhead never acts alone. My point is simply that our identity is "in Christ" (which means by the Spirit and from and to the Father, but nonetheless, there is a filial shape to our humanity).

I think that because Scripture says we are made in God's image, then we have to be made in his complete image.
Christ is the complete Image of God. Yes, he exists by the Spirit and for the Father, but it is Christ who images the Father.

Also scripture uses the terms soul, spirit, flesh and so we must have those things.
It also uses the terms body, heart, mind, bowels, self, human and many more. I wonder whether these might not be so much parts of us that we "have", but whether each might refer to our whole being considered from a particular angle or in a particular context.

Craig Bennett said...

I agree that we are the image of Christ and that Christ is the perfect image of God.

A question to ask then is does the flesh / humanity of Christ mirror our humanity or does our flesh mirror that of Christs?

byron smith said...

Our humanity mirrors Christ's (cf. Romans 5.14 - note that Adam was a photocopy of Christ, not the other way round). Yet flesh is something Christ became (John 1.14); he was not flesh from the beginning.

I still think we are made in the image of God (the Father), but that Christ is the image of the invisible God.

Craig Bennett said...

Our humanity mirrors Christ's (cf. Romans 5.14 - note that Adam was a photocopy of Christ, not the other way round).

I agree with you. Its interesting though how Jesus is referred to as the 2nd Adam.

Yet flesh is something Christ became (John 1.14); he was not flesh from the beginning.

I don't think you can exegete that Christ was not flesh from the beginning from John. His argument was for something else to prove that Jesus was in fact God come as a human, born of a human. His epistles bear witness to this in that he said listen to no spirit if they deny Christ came in the flesh.

I still think we are made in the image of God (the Father), but that Christ is the image of the invisible God.

This begs more questions. In what way did Christ form the image of the invisible God? Was His representation separate from His flesh or did He fully represent the invisible Father in the fullness of His being including His flesh?

Also in what way do you think Adam and his generations recognize and walk with God?

byron smith said...

Its interesting though how Jesus is referred to as the 2nd Adam.
In 1 Corinthians 15.45 he is called the 'last Adam' and then in 47 the 'second human'. They are both interesting phrases.

I don't think you can exegete that Christ was not flesh from the beginning from John.
This is commonly how it has been understood. Have a look for instance at Barth's various discussions of the passage in his Church Dogmatics (esp I/2). This reading is based on the difference between the verbs in verse 1 and verse 14 ('was' vs 'became'). Theologically, it also seems quite problematic to assume that the Son was incarnate prior to the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Was His representation separate from His flesh or did He fully represent the invisible Father in the fullness of His being including His flesh?
The latter.

Craig Bennett said...

This is commonly how it has been understood. Have a look for instance at Barth's various...

I agree that in reading John he does say Jesus became flesh or in other words was God become man.

What I meant by not being able to exegete it was to take that passage and apply it to the whole understanding of Scripture. If John was answering gnosticism in his writings then he was primarily making his case that God became man born of a woman. And not that Christ had no flesh before the creation of the world.


The latter.

Its an interesting discussion about the nature of Christ and has been the last few thousand years. If Christ fully / totally represented the invisible father in every way including his flesh than it does point to Christ having flesh before the creation of the world.

Certainly it would seem that the various Christophonies throughout the OT would support such a belief, such as the 3 strangers who spoke to Abraham and Melkelzidek.

What makes the Gospel even more powerful though is even if Christ did appear in a fleshly form in the past he was able to do so at will.
The power of the Gospel shows us that He humbled Himself to be born as a child totally casting away His divine power and ability to rule until His time came. Which is the point I think John is getting at.

byron smith said...

If John was answering gnosticism in his writings
As I understand it, this position is generally less popular amongst scholars these days than it once was. At most, he might have been answering proto-gnosticism.

the various Christophanies throughout the OT
Ah, but to call them Christophanies is to have begged the question. Why do we think they are Christophanies?

If Christ fully / totally represented the invisible father in every way including his flesh than it does point to Christ having flesh before the creation of the world.
Why?

totally casting away His divine power
Did he cast away his divinity? Or is it that his humility is itself the expression of the kind of power God exercises?