October 20, 2017

Who Are You?

One of the most powerful things a culture does is to form people’s view of who they are.

It passes on assumptions about the obvious elements of identity — nationality, gender, age, and class, for example, and what these mean and how people are to act given them.  But people absorb from culture something even more important.  Who are we?  As humankind, I mean.  What motivates us, and what is our purpose?

Mostly people don’t think very deeply about who we are. They take for granted that what they absorbed from their culture is correct and obvious.  But their unconscious preconceptions direct all their choices in public and private spheres.  Education, governance, family, vocation, even clothes and architecture are based on what people believe about themselves.

Our Western American culture doesn’t have just one preconception of humankind.  There are several metaphors concerning what human beings are like; I’ve listed six.  These six may seem to be contradictory or even mutually exclusive; however, since they are held subconsciously, an illogical mixture of several or all metaphors sways many people.  Each view has some truth to it, but do any of them completely encompass what we are?  Do they reflect God’s view of us?

It might be helpful for you to take a break at this point and read Psalm 8.  Then consider the best answer to the question the psalmist poses:  “What is man?”

O LORD, our Lord,

How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

(Psalm 8, NASB)

Man as Cog

Lives there a man with aught inside
Who hath not felt a surge of pride
To be a part of this great scheme,
A humble cog in this machine?

(Barcalo, Edward J.  “When Men Work Well.”  The Rotarian September 1937: 31-32.  Google Books.)

This commonly held view equates people and machinery.  People acknowledge it when they talk about what makes someone “tick.”  The industrialists and efficiency specialists of the last 150 years ordered their world by it.  Stephen Hawking expressed it in this way, as Chaplain Mike quoted in a recent post. Hawking claimed that the mind is just a computer, which is after all a machine, and when a person dies, the mind logs off and shuts down.

According to the metaphor, human beings may be cogs in a larger machine, or they may be a self-contained mechanism.  Either implies that their existence is strictly material and their purpose is work.  If the work is physical, the metaphor is often a factory assembly line; if mental, the computer is the central image.

Man as Cog affects many aspects of society.  Schools are designed to replicate the sort of efficiency that works in factories; children are given laptops when they should be given laps.  Farming tries to force the land to accept the same economies of scale that seem to have worked in industry.  Businesses treat workers as interchangeable parts and think that’s the only way to be efficient.  Efficient — that word is best used for the workings of a machine that has minimized friction and maximized energy use.  Is it really appropriate for people?

There is some truth in Man as Cog.  People were made to do work of some sort, as a machine is.  A machine is complex, as human beings are.  Sometimes men or societies break and need to be repaired, just as a machine does.

But the metaphor falls short.  Machines don’t have relationships or love one another.  Nor can everything about the human condition be “fixed” by the great Mechanic in the sky. There is more to mankind than just the work that society wants done.  Life is more than energy, and death is not just the off switch.

(Strangest of all, how can people explain themselves by means of something that they themselves have made — when that thing, which they are supposedly like, cannot itself create another machine from scratch?)

Man as Cog doesn’t satisfy, and art is filled with human expressions of dissatisfaction. T.H. White’s The Sword and the Stone, The Police’s Ghost in the Machine, the legend of John Henry — these all refuse to see mankind reduced to a mere machine.

Man as Chemistry

Well, if people aren’t mechanical, maybe they’re chemical.  Certainly chemicals work in people to create feelings of happiness or sadness, hunger or satiety, exhaustion or energy. People whose chemistry is imbalanced cease to “be themselves.”  Manufactured chemicals can alter feelings and perceptions.  The words change over the generations, but when people explain or excuse behavior because of nerves, neurasthenia, hysteria, or the vapors, they are accepting this view of mankind.

There seems to be some truth to this point of view, too.  But how far are you willing to go?  Some scientists, most notably B.F. Skinner, have insisted that the whole of the human person, physical as well as what seems to be mental or spiritual, is merely a product of chemical impulses.  There is no mind, no conscience, only reactions conditioned by evolution and environment, over which people have little or no control.

That’s too reductionist.  Human beings have mind and conscience, as well as some sort of free will and power to choose.  But however despicable this point of view is, it’s hard to refute.  It’s easier to claim that the mechanical image is wrong — people are obviously not just mechanical bodies, they also have minds.  But if the mind itself is just a result of chemical balances or imbalances, how can we use it to argue for a different understanding of man?  (Of course, the same argument can be turned back on Skinner and his ilk — if what they are saying is true, then why should anyone listen to them?  They can’t be claiming any actual insight or creativity, just chemical reactions.)

Read Brave New World, and A Clockwork Orange, if you can stomach it.  Those books offer an alternative view to humanity as just the substrate of chemical manipulation.  Their answers, however, may not be the alternative you want.  What’s your alternative?

Man as Careerist

“So, what do you do?”  It’s the first question asked in social America.  You are what you do — in your career, of course, not in your spare time.  “Spare time” itself is a telling concept.  Your spare time is the tiny, unimportant residue of freedom left when your career is done with you.

Man as Careerist pops up often in education these days.  The directors of educational policies don’t exclaim with Hamlet,  “What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!”

No, this is what they say:  “Providing a high-quality education for all children is critical to America’s economic future. Our nation’s economic competitiveness and the path to the American Dream depend on providing every child with an education that will enable them [sic] to succeed in a global economy that is predicated on knowledge and innovation. President Obama is committed to providing every child access to a complete and competitive education, from cradle through career.”

Like Man as Cog, this view grants humankind value according to output.  People exist to the degree that they contribute to the economy.  The goal of society’s investment in individuals is competiveness and success — for the society.  Educators and politicians who advance this view do seem to care about people, in that they want them to get good work and provide for themselves.  But tell me this.  What is their plan for those people who are not now or never will be competitive, successful, and critical to America’s economic future?

I don’t even want to suggest what this view looks like when taken to its Final Solution, but you can read in C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength about the N.I.C.E’s attitude toward the unemployed and elderly — the “undesirable elements” of society.  (It might interest — or worry — readers of Lewis to know that Britain does currently have a N.I.C.E.:  the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence calls itself that.  Don’t bureaucrats ever read books?)

Man as Consumer

Want to show how much you care?  Use this credit card, and part of what you spend will go toward earthquake victims/veterans/orphans/charity of your choice.  Worried about the economy and wondering how you can help?  Buy something, ideally something expensive.  Need to change your life? Pay for this program/book/video course/makeover.

Man as Consumer is the most widely evident presupposition today.  According to it, any need mankind might have can be satisfied by spending money and owning stuff.  If people don’t have enough money to buy stuff, they can charge it.  People who live where there is little money and no credit don’t even count, because if humans are consumers, the poor can’t be entirely human.

Someone pointed out to me recently that schools no longer teach home economics.  Now they teach “Consumer Science.”  Instead of learning how to make a home, food, clothes, or anything else useful or beautiful, students are taught how to buy them. According to this view, it is more important to know how to pay bills than to create something.

Of course people do and must consume things, but is it as a consumer that Man was made in the image and likeness of God?  This is an insidious view of mankind.  Most people don’t think that Man as Consumer is fundamentally correct, but many Westerners still take it for granted.  It’s hard not to.  Unless people are fanatically counter-cultural, they can’t distance themselves from advertising, labeling, signage, and other tentacles of the all-consuming beast.

A limited but very challenging view of an alternative society founded on something other than Man as Consumer can be found in Ursula LeGuin’s The Dispossessed. I recommend that you read it, but I’m hesitant, after what I’ve just said, to suggest that you run out and buy it!

Man as Citizen

Only anarchists, extreme libertarians, and followers of Ayn Rand deny that individuals have an obligation to society.  Most people are happy to acknowledge that obligation and even believe that their faith directs them to be good citizens.  But is that all they are?  Is their relationship to the state the highest good?  Is patriotism the greatest virtue?

One society founded deliberately on citizenship as the highest good said this.  Read it carefully; don’t just let key words pluck an emotional response.  “The principle of all sovereignty rests essentially in the nation. No body and no individual may exercise authority which does not emanate expressly from the nation.  Liberty consists in the ability to do whatever does not harm another; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no other limits than those which assure to other members of society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by the law.”  God has been replaced.  There is no higher good than the nation, and mankind derives meaning from its relationship with the state.

This quotation is from the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.  The French Revolution both preceded and followed that document.

Interestingly, our modern American society seems to be equally motivated to rebel against this view and to accept it.  Like PeeWee Herman, Americans like to think of themselves as rebels and loners; they have to follow their hearts, be true to themselves, be rugged individualists — because that’s what citizens of the greatest nation on earth are supposed to do.

Man as Child of Nature

This view holds that mankind is inherently good, and all problems are imposed from outside.  Just let people do what they want.  Relax.  Get everything out in the open.  Buck the system.  Stick it to the man.

The recent news reflecting this philosophy comes from Canada, where parents are raising a “genderless” child.  No one outside the family knows if it is a girl or a boy.  The parents’ idea is that it will grow to be a true, undistorted person, because gender is an externally imposed construct, and natural internal development will lead to true personhood.

I once interviewed the parents of a kindergartner who were considering sending their daughter to the school where I was teaching.  “What is your philosophy of child-rearing?” I asked.  “Well,” said the father, “we’ve believed that our daughter would one day want what was right, so we’ve never said no or stopped her from doing what she wanted.”  I looked at him blankly for a moment.  He went on:  “It’s not working.”  Well, yes.

Man as Child of Nature is a powerful view in our culture, but of all of the preconceptions it seems the farthest removed from common sense.  Still, it has some truth in it.  People were created to be good, and there are ways that society corrupts human nature.

All six of these metaphors are partly true.  Partial truth is what makes all them so powerful.  But partial truth ends up being a distortion, even a lie.

We human beings need to know more completely who we are, why we were made, and what our purposes are.  One step in the process of knowing is to expose assumptions that lurk in the subconscious and recognize the degree to which they control us.  Were any of the six viewpoints I described above familiar to you?  Do you see ways that they affect our personal habits and cultural institutions, perhaps even our churches?  Have I missed any?

Psalm 8 answers the question “What is man?” this way:  “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet.”  The Westminster Catechism asks a similar question: “What is the chief end of man?” Not to be a machine, or a bundle of chemical reactions, or a worker, or a shopper, or a patriot, or a noble savage: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”

Now here’s the challenge:  How would government, schools, families, churches, vocations, dress, architecture, entertainment, and food be different if everyone really, in the depths of their being, believed this view of man?

 

 

Comments

  1. Well, maybe a touch of all those things.

    But what stands out for me is that I am ‘man as sinner’.

    Not just the friendly sinner-lite kind of man…but the full blown heavy duty, don’t really want to stop sinning type sinner.

    In dire need of a Savior. Thanks be to God He has shown me who that is.

  2. (1) In many circles, to write “man” when one meant “humanity” would be seen as quaint if not sexist. Is this usage common in anglophone Evangelical circles?

    (2) The “Child of Nature” (not “Son of Nature”?) category seems primarily concerned with the nature / nurture debate, and then takes aim against particular types of nurture. Shouldn’t there be a more well-formed category for the biological? What about genes? What about primate behavior? We are, after all, tropical African apes.

    (3) Of course more than one approach can be worthwhile. (Notice that most of these categories correspond to well-known academic disciplines.) Whether theology (or certain kinds of theology) is one of those worthwhile approaches–equal to, say, chemistry–is a very dubious notion. Certainly you would object if we were speaking of Vedic Science, a subject apparently taught at the (accredited!) Maharishi University of Management.

    • Re (1): Aren’t you nitpicking a little bit about the use of the word man? If you want to extend yourself to four syllables each time you describe the race of humans, go ahead. Using the word man doesn’t bother me.

  3. I know who I am as a failed evangelical. A failure of a Christian who is skeptical to many things related to God. Someone who was open about my sins in a society and culture that punished honesty. I just couldn’t bear to lie to fit into the evangelical culture and pretend to have all my stuff together. In the eyes of the evangelical church largely a failure. In addition those sectors of evangelicalism that are worshipped – missionary work, having children and rearing them in a Biblical way, marriage, plugging into the evangelical church model, converting many, etc.. are idols that backfired in my life when I tried.

    1. Am I the successful misionary that I saw celebrated on stage in many evangelical churches? No. Others would head off to India, Africa, South America and tell wonderful stories write letters, and then come back and tell the world, “Look what we did for God and look at the results!!!! Praise God!!” No in my case “my missionary attempt” was taking a job that took me to a combat zone. Doing a short stint in South Asia and wondering how I got there, and came back intact, and having experiences that didn’t come close to what others would say. When I was in Afghanistan I contacted my parents regualarly, even though the time was short, just to keep my parents calm and tell them I am fine. But could I give that glowing report that others have given? No….not even close.
    2. I know for many evangelcials marriage and having kids is an idol. I remember one guy I know physically sighing and telling me that now that he was engaged and scheduled to be married that he is in the “club” and it took the stress off his faith. Well geez I’m in my mid 30’s and despite efforts unfortunately it still hasn’t happened. So what next?
    3. Plugging into an evangelical church model. Some do it so simply and talk about it richley. I can’t tell you how many times I heard about these fantastic Bible studies, guys ministries, retreat expereinces, etc.. and I would be scratching my head and saying, “What happened? That didn’t happen in my small group?” And then the walking out of church on a regular basis where you beat yourslef up becuase you are not doing “as spiritually well” and can’t tell the same wonderful stories others are sharing.
    4. Converting others…ugh this didn’t happen as often as I liked. Some poeple would tell stories and I always felt far inferior when it came to evangelism. There were sometimes I tried evangelism on the National mall in DC or elsewhere. Still had the crap kicked out of me and could never measure up.

    Yes evangelicalsim…I know who I am, and I also know that despite all the efforts and attempts I can not even come close to living up to your “Christian model” Thanks for the charming and incredible memories ‘evangelical Christianity”, as you provided 10 years worth.

    • Eagle,

      You’ve made the first and only step that will set you free in Christ. “I am a sinner without ability in myself to be anything but a sinner.” When Paul wrote, “This is a true saying and worthy of acceptance by ALL, Christ Jesus came to save sinners of whom I am chief.” I don’t think Paul meant for us to set around meditating how he was the chief of all sinners. The saying that we need to accept about ourselves just as he did is that, yes, Jesus came to save sinners and I AM THE WORST ONE I KNOW!!! This is the place to start to come to the point of fully, completely depending on Jesus for being seen as righteous before our Father.

      I cringe when I hear a person say, “At least my sins aren’t as bad as so-and -so’s.” The reason we are not suppose to judge others is that we have no right and would know so in our hearts if we took the apostles advice of viewing ourselves as the chief sinner we know.

      Tim

    • David Cornwell says:

      Eagle, the good news is that “living up to your “Christian model” won’t and cannot ever happen. That “Christian model” is just the Law in another form wrapping its chains around you. Those who judge by this law are lost in another world of their own making.

      We “live up” through faith in the Resurrection of Christ who brings us up with Him from the land of the dead.

      My view…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      1. Am I the successful misionary that I saw celebrated on stage in many evangelical churches? No. Others would head off to India, Africa, South America and tell wonderful stories write letters, and then come back and tell the world, “Look what we did for God and look at the results!!!! Praise God!!”

      And according to JMJ/Christian Monist, most of those “RESULTS!!! PRAISE GOD!!!” were BS. Evangelical Missionaries “Must Provide Own Support” and NOBODY will support a LOSER Missionary, so they pad their resume as a matter of survival.

      2. I know for many evangelcials marriage and having kids is an idol. I remember one guy I know physically sighing and telling me that now that he was engaged and scheduled to be married that he is in the “club” and it took the stress off his faith. Well geez I’m in my mid 30′s and despite efforts unfortunately it still hasn’t happened. So what next?

      You do what the Jews did after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and scattered Jews all over the Empire: You survive, live with it, and plug on. I’m in my mid-50s; since the rest of the Cal Poly Gang got married almost 30 years ago, I’ve been on the outside looking in while they Focus on their Families. The only female I emotionally bonded to over 25 years ago didn’t bond to me, and it still hurts.

      3. Plugging into an evangelical church model. Some do it so simply and talk about it richley. I can’t tell you how many times I heard about these fantastic Bible studies, guys ministries, retreat expereinces, etc.. and I would be scratching my head and saying, “What happened? That didn’t happen in my small group?”

      I can tell similar stories of SF cons, where I always seemed to be on the other side of the building from where the fantastic cool stuff was happening.

      4. Converting others…ugh this didn’t happen as often as I liked. Some poeple would tell stories and I always felt far inferior when it came to evangelism. There were sometimes I tried evangelism on the National mall in DC or elsewhere. Still had the crap kicked out of me and could never measure up.

      See “Wretched Urgency” by the original Internet Monk. And my comment to (1) above. I suspect a lot of those Soul-Winning notches in Bibles are more padding on the resume. When it becomes a game of Who Has the Most Notches on Their Bible, some guys are gonna pad the numbers.

    • Radagast says:

      Am I a successful missionary…

      More foreign to us Catholics since usually the religious vocations are seen doing this… I new two couples who were evangelical in a former prayer group and their stories about short missionary trips (usually teaching English) intrigued me… then I began to meet new fundy converts who… within a few months of conversion would be off selling their goods and moving their families overseas… saw the damage it did to their children… and concluded it was more for selfish zealousness than for God… I believe evangelicals should have a rule that newbies should not be able to go on missionary work for at least a couple of years… until they cool down a bit…. I think also there should be a leveling of expectations about vocation… Single on the same level with married on the same level with religious – equally important. Because if everyone is a missionary or evangelist or preacher nuthin else would get done….

      Converting others… to me usually means pulling Catholics away from the faith…. unless you are converting secularists… usually to me it just means pulling Christians from one pot and putting them into another.

      Generally when I read all the expectations of doing in evangelism I get exhausted. It seems you have to work so hard to please some human… the ultimate level seems to be preacher or missionary… I don’t know…

  4. dumb ox says:

    Not all atheists view humanity as machines.

    Pragmatism has reduced evangelicalism’s view of humanity to not much more than machines or perhaps moralistic animals.

    It is odd to hear that atheists view humanity as machines when creationists point to mini-machines in human cells to prove intelligent design.

    And not all atheists are antagonistic against religion. Many atheists see an important role religion played in the development of humanity: the uniqueness of human self-awareness led to a search to the questions of estrangement and non-being; this led individuals into tribes. When tribalism threatened the extinction of human existence, religion opened the way to selfless love for all humanity. They see the symbols of religion as emblematic of the ultimate concern.

    In contrast, evangelicalism seems to continue to look more like the Brave New World. The church growth movement continues to push the elderly, poor, depressed, and weak out the door in order to pander to materialistic, pretty, nice suburbans. Defense of God results in dehumanization emphasis on dogma and ethnic cleansing of dissenters and the doubtful. The godless liberals defending the poor are the enemy.

    I don’t doubt that there are atheists who see nothing in humanity but machines and animals, but it is clear that many who believe in “God” still seem to believe that those who die with the most toys win, that the poor are mindless collectives who want to take those toys away. Both have cynically abandoned any hope of an ultimate concern and have settled for idols of materialism, tribalism and selfishness.

    I think there is greater hope in building dialogue with atheists who believe there is a ghost in the machine without forcing them to abandon such ideals without crediting God; or in continuing to defend alleged theists who reduce God and humanity into objects. There is always hope of that someone like Camus would come to faith. But if faith is a gift, perhaps that gift is already at work in the heart of the atheist.

    • Damaris says:

      You’re right, dumb ox. I hope I don’t seem to imply that the six views above are held exclusively by atheists or other non-Christians. They’re found across all belief systems, as you say.

  5. The many facets of human beings is heavy on my mind and heart. I was just informed of a truly evil old family secret, but the people involved are all dead. I am having a hard time reconciling my memories of these people with the severity of the evil in their deeds, as I was never hurt by them personally. If you can shoot a few prayers for peace and understanding this way, I would be very grateful.

  6. It seems to me that Joni Mitchell mentioned or referenced almost every one of these definitions, as well as the prefatory question, in her (extraordinarily-composed) song “Woodstock.” Google the lyrics if you don’t know or remember them.

    • Radagast says:

      Ah.. an old rocker – you rightly did not reference CSN&Y as tha authors….

      • @Radagast:

        But CSN&Y were intimately involved with the circumstances that led to her writing the song while bemoaning the fact that she couldn’t attend but had to settle for TV and news reports. Yet, as David Crosby or Graham Nash said, she perfectly captured its essence. Watch JONI MITCHELL: WOMAN OF HEART AND MIND, a Life Story, if you haven’t yet seen it. Or read GIRLS LIKE US (about the lives, loves and losses of Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Carly Simon and their effect on music and musicians).

        • Radagast says:

          Eric,

          I am right there with you – all three great singer/songwriters (and I can do some of ’em on my acoustic)…

  7. I really understand the man as consumer, it’s like we’re all drinkin’ the kool-aid and we don’t even know it! As a culture, we are so accustomed to being manipulated by pretty, shiny things that, at some point, always fail us, and having it “done” to us in church is the new “normal”! It still fails us though. We want to “experience” what those in the pictures are experiencing, we want to feel what those people shared last Sunday, we want, so desperately, to be a part of the group, as Eagle was sharing above but, we so often miss the mark and then think there’s something wrong with us. But, what’s missing? In my very humbled and not educated opinion, we’ve had our eye on the wrong ball and that’s what has to change.

    When I’m constantly looking at other Christians and comparing myself, I’m doomed! When I’m looking at people period, I’m screwed, how can I ever measure up? When I’m looking at the consumerism in our country, I fall flat every single time, I can’t keep up! I tried to keep up, for 20+ years I tried, it brought me to bankruptcy, both financially and morally. It killed my family, my marriage and myself. I’m not even close to being interested in finding that same kind of consumerism in a church I decide to go to, it makes me nauseous. For instance, the church I tried last year, it is a church plant and it’s a little over 2 years old now. They already have new signage, pointing you in their direction on main roads through my neighborhood on Sunday mornings. New signs. New colors. New logo. New font. UGH! It wreaks of corporate marketing and I can’t stomach it. I can’t. I just can’t.

    You can give me the shpeel about how we have to “keep up” and “stay relevant” and I’ll turn my head to hurl. Your sign, your logo, your color choice matter not to a person seeking Jesus in their screwed up mess of a life!!!!! It’s your compassion, your acceptance, your ability to listen to them without condemnation and love.

    Stepping away now……

    • Rebekah, we are so glad you are part of our community. Many, many of us feel the same way you do. Go back and re-read Damaris’s post on Sunday re: how she and her family joined the Catholic Church. I imagine you relate to much of her “whys” for the move.

      Now, RG, take a deep breath. Exhale. Another. Exhale. It’s all going to be ok. You are among friends here…

      Thanks for all you share.

      • Thanks Jeff! I got a little carried away there! I didn’t read that other post by Damaris, I will though.

        I’m breathing now……..ahhhh, that’s nice!

  8. Man as Created. Man as Loved. We are beloved creations, made to be creators. Man as Holy. Man as Jesus. We are to treat our bodies as temples, as vessels that contain the divine, and to see Jesus in those around us, are we not? Man as Sinner. Yes, because we fall so far short of godliness.

  9. Damaris

    What a wonderfully written essay. I would have loved to seen more of the prescriptive (as oppossed to the descriptive) but that’s just me.

    Your words on children and education are especially poignant:

    “Man as Cog affects many aspects of society. Schools are designed to replicate the sort of efficiency that works in factories; children are given laptops when they should be given laps.”

    This is priceless, as is your contrast between the hauntingly uplifting words of Shakespeare versus the soul-deadening words of the white house. Our theological view of humanity WILL determine educational and social policy, whether we have worked out our theology clearly and consistently or merely absorbed cultural theology into our subconscious.

  10. David Cornwell says:

    From the time of my youth Psalm 8 has been a favorite. And it means more and more as I get older. Many times I’ve gazed in wonder at the stars of the heavens on a clear night and amazement floods in again. Or the first times I looked into the faces of my newborn babies or grandchildren.

    “How majestic is Your name in all the earth…”

    • I agree, David, it becomes more meaningful as we get older (and hopefully wiser).

      There is also a lot of theological depth in that Psalm, especially as it applies to Jesus (see Hebrews 2:5-9) and our identification with Him.

  11. It sounds like heaven–if all of humanity were purposed to glorify God and enjoy him. The problem is man often doesn’t live to glorify God and would rather enjoy the spoils of this wasting-away world than true fellowship with God. I’m describing myself before finding myself wandering the spiritual wilderness.

    Anyway, that spells trouble–all the troubles of this fallen, broken world.

  12. I have no way to make an accurate assessment as to what I truly am, and any attempt to do so would fall victim to my bias to describe myself in terms of what I aspire to be or think I should be rather than what I am.

    Am I a Christian? Depends on who you ask. A father? Biologically, I have fathered offspring, but is that the definition? A husband? According to the state, yes, but a good one? I’m not so sure.

  13. I think for myself as a Christian the key is not so much try try to deny that part of what I am has to do with chemistry or career or being a child of nature or a cog in a machine and so forth, but to subsume all of these to my primary identity as a creation of the living God made to worship and glorify and enjoy God forever. When the primary identity informs and infuses all the others, it brings about a balance and wholeness that is impossible to achieve any other way. Am I there yet completely? Not by any means, but at least I know where the right path lies and can try to stumble along it.

  14. I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus and so is everyone else who has been born again. And, those who have not be born again, they are loved and forgiven by God because He did answer Christ’s prayer on as he hung on the cross. In the end, these identities will win the day because righteousness is greater than sin and God’s love is greater than evil.

  15. Bruce Cockburn; “I want to be a particle of your light, flowing over the hills of morning”. Overly ambitious? Naaa. If I can be one particle of His light, I’m good and I’ll thank Him for the ride.