The first Sunday of the month, from February-June, we will be hosting a seminar on different topics that Christians today need to engage with others.

Our goal is to equip the body of Christ to thoughtfully engage the world around us, not only to offer lectures on topics people find interesting. We would love to see people commit to the entire initiative. Join us in this endeavor!

 

May 1st – Identity – led by Jonathan Holmes, Pastor at Parkside Church in North Canton, Ohio. See below for some thoughts on identity.

 

September 4th – Science or God? – led by Dr. Ransom Poythress, from Houghton College in New York

 
 

A Thought About Identity 
by Paige McBride

 

Eve was the image of God (1:27). She and Adam had the privileged role among all the other creatures, to be walking, talking reflections of their Creator. While all of creation sang God’s glorious praise by realizing His eternal power and divinity to us (Romans 1:20), human beings were the only creation granted such a prestigious status as God’s very image. What is an image? An image is something that represents a reality. It is a reflection of something or a portrayal of something. So as the image of God, we are His representatives, those who are made to reflect and portray Him on the earth. The declaration that humankind is the image of God means that we cannot understand “the self”—our identity—apart from its proper relationship to God because we were made to reflect and represent Him. Therefore, to “know yourself” necessitates first that you know how you relate to God. If we are the image of God, then in some sense it is more important that we understand who God is than who we are because we cannot reflect something we don’t know. Being the “image of God” means that the self is essentially dependent. It must go outside of itself to define itself. It cannot find meaning only by looking inward. And it will make no sense of itself if it insists on obscuring that which it is dependent upon. In other words, if we persist in our ignorance of God, we cannot make sense of the “self” because to be a “self” is to be the image of God. It is only in remembering humanity’s God-given identity that we can understand the danger of Satan’s temptations in Genesis 3:5. Eve’s identity was to be defined by her purpose: she was to communicate something about who God is by being His image. She was made to point to Another. It was only in fulfilling this purpose that she would flourish. 

Knowing this, in his second attempt at deceiving Eve, the serpent tries to distort the goodness of Eve’s designated identity as God’s image. This time around, he does not even deny the fact that God forbid the fruit (like he originally did in verse 1); instead, the snake dangles a false identity in front of Eve as if her God-given one was insufficient or inadequate. In doing so, he insinuates that God has hidden intentions behind forbidding the fruit. He admits that God did indeed say not to eat the fruit, but it only was because God knows that “when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:5). Instead of questioning God’s commands like his first attempt, he questions God’s goodness. He makes God look like the bad guy. He wants Eve to take on a new theology, one in which God is seen as capricious and selfish, withholding the true goods from His creations. Apparently, the role He gave them as image-bearers was not generous at all, it was a scheme to keep them from becoming His equals. According to the serpent, God’s commandments were the way in which God suppressed Eve’s full potential to be just like Him. He could keep His unique superiority by forcing Eve to follow His rules. So the serpent reveals Eve’s “full potential,” she can be just like God. How can Eve be just like God? Recall in chapter one of Genesis, where God repeatedly and creates and then “sees” that it is good. Who has the authority to define what is good in chapter 1 of Genesis? God alone. So now the way Eve can assert a God-like status is to be the arbiter of what was good. She believed could “see” and determine certain things to be good, just like God did in chapter 1. It was this allure of self-exaltation—her ability to be like God—that got Eve, hook, line, and sinker. 

She likely still remembered that God said not to eat the fruit, but now she does not see God as one with her best interests in mind, but as one who restrains her from reaching self-actualization. The reality of God’s command is powerless when her vision of the Commander is warped in such a way. And not only does she take on this new theology, she adopts a new anthropology—a new view of humanity. When she confuses the identity of God, she also confuses the identity of herself. She now does not identify human beings with the purpose of reflecting God, but sees their goal as assuming the role and status of God. She ceases to believe she was who God said she was and began believing she could be whatever she wanted to be. The devil, in one foul swoop, has convinced Eve to believe lies about God and herself in order to secure her disobedience. She rejects her essentially dependent identity, as God’s image, for an identity that she can  engineer on her own. In that moment for Eve, God and His commands seem uncompelling, even worse, they seemed to her to be the enemy to her most “authentic self”: the self that can be like God, who is essentially independent and autonomous, who can define good and evil. God’s authority was now the obstacle she had to tear down to establish her own authority. And while she may have thought she was stepping into freedom and empowerment, she had actually just secured her demise. 

Eve believed that she could determine who she was. She believed that she could define her identity. She believed she could be like God, even when God had already given her a definitive designation, not as God, but as His image. In pride, she trades the paradise of being God’s reflection, for a lie that tells her she can be whoever and whatever she wants to be. In other words, she embraced “her truth” instead of The truth. She “finds herself” by looking within and disregarding the standards and labels of another. Is this starting to sound familiar? It is the typical advice you would get today if you face an identity crisis of any kind. People tell you to look within, to focus on yourself, and to ignore any outside expectations of who you ought to be. But this very advice is a continuation of the original mistake of Eve. 

Building your identity completely independently is the biblical explanation of what is really wrong with humanity: we think we can decide who we are, and when we do that, we believe ourselves to be God. We think we can take on His role as the ultimate “see-er” of the world, defining what is good, beautiful, and right, and what it means to be a self. And that is not just a shift in theology, anthropology, nor philosophy, it is the epitome of arrogance. Be weary when you hear people say “You can be whoever you want to be!,” for they do not realize what they do when they make such a proclamation. Genesis would have us think twice before we buy the lie that there is freedom and empowerment in defining yourself on your own terms. Behind such a belief is a mistaken theology and an arrogant view of humanity. And not only that, but behind such beliefs are empty promises. They are a ploy of the deceiving serpent. He wanted Eve to think self-creation was good for her. But that was merely a trick. Self-creation did not lead her to freedom, it led her to shame. If we want to think of ourselves in healthy ways, we must start with this crucial recognition: we are not God, we are His image. And that is good.