Being situated as i am in a mostly conservative evangelical setting, i have noticed an infatuation with the idea of understanding one’s “identity” as a means of spiritual formation. In case some are not aware of it, here is a brief layout of the concept:
- A relationship with Christ makes one a new creation (eg one is “given a new identity”).
- Based largely upon Romans 12:1-2, much (all?) of one’s struggles in spiritual formation can be reduced to negative understandings of one’s self, a misunderstanding of their new identity.
- When one grasps their new identity, they are spiritually liberated/mature/in step with the Spirit, etc etc.
Although there are different nuances to this, that is pretty much it. As (1) makes clear above, it is one’s connection to Christ that is the root of this new identity. However, i see that often (1) is simply the instrument, the tool to get to the important stuff, which is who I am now. In many ways, the discipleship process can be reduced to an almost anthropological journey of self-discovery. It seems that one can fall into a sort of spiritual narcissism in their quest to unlock the awesomeness of their identities, ironically undercutting the fundamental needs for self-denial & an outward focus in the life of discipleship.
To be fair, bright-minded women & men could respond that an outward focus & submissive life-style are also part of the identities which they must grasp. Fair enough. My question is if such a genuine grasping of these dimensions of discipleship is possible when there is a functional, instrumental Christology at work (an issue I recently wrote about here). Did Jesus come only/primarily to give me a new identity? Can the scope of the incarnation be reduced to this function, this need of mine? I am doubtful; something seems fishy to me. If the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection were only a tool to provide us with a new identity, how else can we understand these acts of God as anything more than just that, a tool for us? If the Gospel is primarily about me & my need, how can i move beyond myself to genuine renunciation?
Enough for now; bed time. I hope to think more on this soon, but anyone have thoughts? Am I just out to lunch here?