Imago Dei or The Modern Self

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…modernity is the era where the determinant of what is good is no longer an authority or a doctrine, but the individual himself.1

 …then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.2

In my last post I discussed the latest term to win the moniker “word of the year”. When emotions and personal belief can displace objective fact as our cultural standard, we have reached the point where man has decided he knows best, but with an ignorance that belies his or her arrogance.

We live in era of great technological improvement, and overwhelming modern comfort. What we dream can, in many cases, be created or achieved. Great strides forward have taken place in every imaginable area of life. And yet, modern man rises in the morning, looks in his or her mirror, and says, “Who am I, and why am I here?”

There is a vacuousness to the modern life attempting to live in a world undefined by its creator. To acknowledge that God exists is to admit weakness and defeat of our own ability to create our life on our terms. Alfred Borgmann believes

Contemporary culture is extremely conscious of itself…And yet it seems to me that contemporary culture is essentially blind to itself. It is ignorant of its essential character.3

That essential character of which man is ignorant is the inherent Imago Dei. God creates, man runs and denies, and runs some more. Seeking to distance himself from the one objective truth that would deny him self-sufficiency and self-existence.

In The Modern Self, Charles Taylor adds to this thought,

To know who you are is to be oriented in moral space, a space in which questions arise about what is good or bad…what has meaning and importance for you and what is meaningful and secondary. But in fact our identity is deeper and more many-sided than any of our possible articulations of it.4(Emphasis mine)

Taylor is right, our identity is deeper. And it is deeper because the “orientation of our moral space” is God Himself, and we are Imago Dei, made in his image. What does it mean to be made in the image of God? In his Reformed Dogmatics, theologian Geerhardus Vos writes

It means above all that he is disposed for communion with God, that all the capacities of his soul can act in a way that corresponds to their destiny only if they rest in God.

We were created for communion with God. We were created to commune with Him, and to obediently follow his law. But sin entered and the Fall separated us from Him. And yet, those who are His children are still his image bearers, and in our heart we know it.

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.(Romans 2:14-15)

The emptiness I mentioned earlier demonstrates His Presence in our lives. There is a deep yearning that modern man seeks to replace with anything or anyone else other than his own Creator.

We were given a gift by the Creator of everything to commune for eternity with him. And yet, modern man reacts with nothing but ingratitude,

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.(Romans 1:21)

How did we get to this place today, in a post truth, post modern era where God is denied, and man knows what is best? In the next post we will look at modern philosophy and liberal theology as the foundation for much of the ills of modern man.

  1. Chantal Delsol, Icarus Fallen, p.69 ↩︎
  2. Genesis Chapter Two, (all quotes are from the ESV) ↩︎
  3. Alfred Borgmann, Power Failure, p.11 ↩︎
  4. Charles Taylor, Sources of The Self:The Making of the Modern Identity, (pp.28-29) ↩︎

Called to a Knowledge of God

John Calvin, in his Institutes, states the following about God:

We are called to a knowledge of God: not that knowledge which, content with empty speculation, merely flits in the brain, but that which will be sound and fruitful if we duly perceive it, and if it takes root in the heart. For the Lord manifests himself by his powers, the force of which we feel within ourselves and the benefits of which we enjoy.

We would all do well to meditate on this thought. And let it “take root in our heart”.

 

 

Post Truth

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Contemporary man postulates not the emptiness of truth, but the danger of truth (Chantal Delsol)

Unless we are defending the faith at the point where it is being attacked in our generation, we are not defending the faith (Martin Luther)

 

The title of this essay is the new “word of the year” as chosen by The Oxford Dictionary. It is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”. This is a perfect representation of where our society has traveled in its post modern maturity. The generation known as The Nones are known for their lack of belief in any objective truth, much less biblical truth. They see danger in anyone who believes they hold truth or truths that devalue, or are intolerant of, or invalidate all beliefs. (We will discuss the contrasting views of the new versus the old definitions of tolerance in a later essay). How or what you feel become the measurement of truth.

Joseph Buttom, in First Things Magazine writes,

The pre-moderns said that without God, there would be no knowledge, and the post-moderns say we have no God and have no knowledge.

Are we to understand that we have “progressed” from post-modernity to post-truth? Have the philosophies of Wittgenstein, Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault finally taken hold of our entire culture and vocabulary and the way we define who we are? Hardly, but they do add to the need for a biblically orthodox apologetic that has and can answer the biblically antithetical viewpoint being argued.

Gresham Machen, in his seminal work of the early 1900’s, Christianity and Liberalism, argues

To bring back truth, on a practical level, the church must encourage Christians to be not merely consumers of culture but makers of culture.

In other words, arguing for the biblical view in our culture is the primary commitment we need to make as believers.

This battle is not new, nor is it a threat to a biblical point of view. The Enlightenment was seen as a threat, the Scientific Revolution was seen as a threat, and even the Industrial Revolution was seen as a threat. When we began the Twentieth Century relativism, modern philosophies, and atheism were not the only threats to orthodox christianity. Liberal theology and theologians were also complicit of the “threat” to biblical orthodoxy. Barth and those of similar ilk, along with the modern philosophers, sought to remove the supernatural from the Bible.

More recently, we have seen the focus shift to attacks on objective truth. Foundations have been destroyed through a philosophical deconstruction of truth and knowledge. Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, in his book, Intimations of Postmodernity, states,

The postmodern mind seems to condemn everything, propose nothing. Demolition is the only job the postmodern mind seems to be good at. Deconstruction is the only construction it recognizes.

By deconstructing the idea of objective truth, what we feel and believe become more important than foundational truths of any kind, much less biblical truth.

The proponents of “post truth” do not want objective truth to be an option for society, but they propose “nothing” by arguing feelings and emotions are more important.

In the Bible, the primary word for truth conveys that one can actually know truth. It is not something just to rely on or trust. Modern man, in seeking to devalue truth as a concept, also argues against holding real knowledge. Gone is the idea proposed by Descartes, I think therefore I am. Without a foundation of knowledge man cannot comprehend his own reality.

In postmodernism you either assume there is no truth, or that you cannot know it. For the proponent of post truth, not only is there no truth, and therefore no absolute(s), we also have no real ability to know. How then do we reach out to a culture that revels in relativism and obstinance? As Carl Trueman writes,

The church is a culture and the West is now an anti-culture…to engage a culture there must first be a culture to engage.

Here, over a century later Truman says the culture Machen speaks of no longer exists. And yet, our task remains the same.

The church must apply its understanding of biblical orthodoxy to its apologetic. Christians need an understanding of modernity, postmodernity, culture, and philosophical and theological ideas within the evangelical church that have weakened our biblical foundations.

Our Identity in Christ

 

What does it mean to find our identity in Christ? How do we live our daily lives with the knowledge that our identity is to be found in Christ? It is a deep question with an answer that must be biblical for it to be truthfully and fully complete. Jerry Bridges, in his book, Who Am I, Identity in Christ , states

“We must remind ourselves that God loves us, not because we are lovable, but because we are in Christ, and the love which the Father has for his Son flows over to us because we are in him.”

Bridges raises two important points here. First, we are “in Christ”, which describes our union with him through his death, burial, and resurrection. We will look at this later in more depth. Secondly, the Father’s love for us comes to us through his son. This is another important point to understand. We have done nothing to earn God’s love. Just as faith is provided to His elect to believe (Eph. 2:8-9), we cannot earn anything from God.

Our acceptance by God comes to us because of Christ’s sacrifice. We have a good description of this in I Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” All of humanity is “in Adam” because of the Fall. And, with Christ’s sacrifice, those whom God chooses, are “in Christ”. All humans, in God’s eyes, are found in one of the two Adams.

Again, in the same chapter, Paul adds to this thought,

“Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

Those who are “in Christ” find themselves the recipients of Christ’s life giving spirit. Remember the quote above, “…not because we are lovable, but because we are in Christ.”

This being true, how was it accomplished? Once again, Paul describes how we are “in Christ” in Romans 6:5-11

For if we have been united with him in death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

The word used for “united” in these verses means that we were “born together with”, or have “a joint origin”. This is how the Bible describes our union with Christ, both in His life and death. In his Romans commentary, John Murray makes an important statement regarding this verse

The death of Christ was not a process and neither is our conformity to his death a process. We are in the condition of having become conformed to his death.

As we see in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me…”. Justification of our life in Christ is immediate, while sanctification is an ongoing, daily relationship with Christ, through His Spirit. It is our continuing in the Spirit, via our union with Christ, that both provides us with our new identity, and confirms our salvation. We have been delivered from who we were, in Adam, to who we are now and forever, in Christ.

Much more can and has been said on this topic, but this is a simple answer to a very important question. Who am I?

 

Theological Tuesday

Our term for today is glorification.

Our appreciation of God’s grace will be increased if we understand glorification in relationship to the other aspects of our salvation. The salvation Christ won for us is applied to us in stages, rather than all at once. The first stage is effectual calling, when God, through the preaching of the gospel, inwardly and successfully summons the elect to faith. Effectual calling is given together with regeneration, the act of the Holy Spirit whereby He changes our sinful hearts into hearts that love and cherish Christ. Regeneration thus enables and causes the elect to respond to the Father’s call, and they do so in faith and repentance. God then, at the moment the elect believe, justifies them. Justification is a legal act of God in which He forgives our sins, gives to us the righteousness of Christ, and declares us righteous in His sight.

It is important to understand that in justification we are declared righteous, but not made righteous. He declares us righteous on the basis of what Christ did, not on the basis of any good thing that is in us. The aspect of our salvation in which we are continually made more and more righteous is called sanctification. Whereas justification is an instantaneous act of God in which we are declared righteous (rather than made righteous), sanctification is a process–a process in which we are actually made righteous.

At death God completes our sanctification, and so removes all of our sins from our hearts and makes us perfectly holy. But even though our sanctification is complete at death, our salvation is not yet complete because we are still without our glorified resurrection bodies. These are given in the final stage of the application of our salvation, which is glorification. Then our salvation will be fully applied to us, and we will live forever in the new heavens and new earth as glorified saints, enjoying all of the benefits of salvation that Christ won for us.
Our bodies will one day be raised! Christianity does not teach the immortality of the soul only–the belief that our bodies are like prisons, and thus death is a great blessing to liberate us from these prisons so that we can continue living forever as disembodied spirits. Rather, Christianity teaches the resurrection of the body. As the apostle’s creed says, “We believe in the resurrection of the body.” Our bodies are not prisons, but are part of who we are. Of course our souls will live forever. But they will live forever in our bodies, not apart from them.
This resurrection of our body will occur when Christ returns. We know this from the way Paul explains to us the marvelous event of glorification in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

What a great promise we have. What a great eternity is before those who are Christ.

The Infinite and the Finite

Here is a wonderful prayer from The Valley of Vision:

Thou Great I Am,
Fill my mind with elevation and granduer at the thought of a Being
with whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,
A mighty God, who, amidst the lapse of worlds,
And the revolutions of empires,
feels no variableness,
But is glorious in immortality,
May I rejoice that, while men die, the Lord lives; that while all creatures are
broken reeds, empty cisterns, fading flowers, withering grass, he is the Rock
of Ages, the Fountain of living waters.
Turn my heart from vanity, from dissatisfactions, from uncertainties of the
present state, to an eternal interest in Christ.
Let me remember that life is short and unforeseen, and is only an opportunity
for usefulness;
Give me a holy avarice to redeem the time, to awake at every call to charity and
piety, so that I may feed the hungry, clothe the naked, instruct the ignorant,
reclaim the vicious, forgive the offender, diffuse the gospel, show neighbourly
love to all.
Let me live a life of self-distrust, dependence on thyself, mortification, crucifixion,
prayer.

Theological Tuesday

Our term today is redemption. The word is derived from a Latin root meaning “to buy back,” thus meaning the liberation of any possession, object, or person, usually by payment of a ransom. In Greek the root word means “to loose” and so to free. The term is used of freeing from chains, slavery, or prison. In the theological context, the term “redemption” indicates a freeing from the slavery of sin, the ransom or price paid for freedom.
In the OT the object of God’s redemption is generally the people as a whole, or nation, rather than individuals. We see examples of this in Deuteronomy 15, and Exodus 6.
Christians believe that in Jesus we see the fulfillment of the OT redemptive concept. He was the substitutionary sacrifice for us on the cross. He was the sin offering(Romans 3). Redemption is by the giving of his life (Acts 20:28) for a purchased people (1 Pt 2:9; also 1 Cor 7:22–24; 2 Cor 5:14–17).
In other words, He was given as an atonement for our sin. He accomplished this by being born and living perfectly under the law, so that He would be the perfect sacrifice for us. His death, and our redemption, could not have happened unless He had first lived perfectly under the whole law. In this way, He was able to redeem His people.

A Reminder: Read Old Books

Derek Brown is surveying some old classics that I have enjoyed over the years and I believe you will enjoy.  The book he focuses on is The Bruised Reed, by Richard Sibbes. Here is a small quote from Sibbes,

We will only prolong our depression and deepen our hesitancy to obey if we give up on doing good whenever we wrestle with our motives—or when godly affections appear to dissipate as we set about some service for Christ.

Read Old Books!

Theological Tuesday

Our theological word for the day is “imputation”. I will let the Westminster Confession of Faith define the term of the day.

Those whom God calls, He freely justifies “by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith” (WCF 11.1)

In other words, our righteousness is an alien righteousness. It comes from outside of us through Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross. Paul wrote well on imputation in Romans 5, where he compares Adam and Jesus:

For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.(v.19)

Our salvation and our righteousness come from the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. We have nothing that we contribute to either in any way. However, there is an additional part to this salvation and this righteousness. Our sins our imputed to Christ when we are called to Him. Here is what Peter says in 2 Peter 2:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.(v.24)

Our sins our His, and His righteousness is ours. This is the gift of the cross. We receive eternal salvation, and our given Christ’s own righteousness. We have much to be thankful for through our savior’s life, death, and resurrection.

 

Theology Tuesday

Our word for today is “sanctification“. Sanctification can mean two things:
1. To consecrate, or set apart for a sacred use or purpose
2.To purify, or make holy

The Shorter Catechism (Q. 35) gives a lucid definition: “Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness” (see Westminster Confession of Faith, chap. 13).  Sanctification is a work of grace that is gradual and progressive. It relates to the conflict with and the victory over indwelling sin. There is a dying more and more unto sin and a living more and more unto righteousness.
Sanctification and justification differ in the following:
1. Their nature. Justification is a relative change in state; sanctification is a real change of the whole man.
2. Their order. Justification precedes sanctification, for imputed righteousness precedes implanted and inherent holiness.
3. Their matter. The matter of justification is the righteousness of Christ imputed. The matter of sanctification is an inherent righteousness communicated.
4. Their form. Justification is a judicial act by which the sinner is pronounced righteous. Sanctification is a moral act, or rather a series of acts, by which a change is effected in the qualities of the soul.
5. Their properties. Justification is perfect at first and is equal in all believers. Sanctification is imperfect at first and exists in different degrees of advancement in different individuals.
6. In justification we receive a title to heaven. Sanctification gives us a capacity of enjoying it.

Hebrews 12:23 speaks of the spirits of just men made perfect. As just men they went to heaven. There they were made perfect. So we see sanctification is completed at death. Christ is at the heart of sanctification. In Galatians 2:20 we see this clearly:

“…the life which I now live I live I live by faith in the Son of God.”

And Paul says the same thing in Romans 6 when he says we are to present our bodies as instruments of righteousness, according to our position in Christ. It is when we are able to understand this, and live in Christ, that true holy and sanctified living is possible.