Posted by: Dan | January 30, 2006

Identity Question II

Well, I had some interesting responses to the identity question. Some people got more profound than I expected. I was looking for “I am…” statements but instead I got some profound reflections on self, others, desires, etc. So, let me respond to a few of those before I jot down my “I am…” statement.

Chris argues that we are defined by our desires (and what do you desire, Chris?), Jord argues that we are defined by how we want others to perceive us (and how do you want others to perceive you, Jord?), and Robin basically argues for a more communal understanding of identity. We are not so much identified as individuals as we are by the culture in which we live.

Now all of these answers are good, and contain an element of truth, but I don't think that they entirely hit the nail on the head. I think all three of these answers are somewhat problematic because they suggest that our identity is merely a swirl of a number of characteristics with nothing tangible at the core. Thus, in response to Chris, I would say that I desire several things, so what is central to my identity? The thing that I desire the most? The fact that I desire? In response to Jord, I would say that I want people to see me as a number of different things. Which is central? And in response to Robin, I would argue that I take on a number of characteristics from culture (which you mention). Which is central?. All of these answers, lacking a centre, leave my identity as a somewhat arbitrary, intangible thing.

Therefore, in beginning to respond to the identity question, I want to argue that identity is something that is given to us, not something that we create ourselves. However, contra Robin (who argues culture gives us our identity), and contra Jord (who [sort of] argues that others give us our identity), I want to argue that identity is given to us by God. What is central to me is how God chooses to identify me. Jamie gets close to this when he defines himself as “a worshipper” but I think this is still too vague. My answer is closest to Eric's — who, alas, is still having trouble seeing himself through God's lenses. Understandably so though since I think all of us, especially Evangelicals, struggle with that. So the question of who I am is not ultimately about what I want, or how others see me, but how God defines me.

So how does God see me? Well, if I had to sum it up in one sentence, I think that I would say that I am a Spirit-filled member of the Body of Christ and a beloved child of God.

Thoughts?

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