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September 28, 2006

More thoughts on Identity--Critiquing Modern and Postmodern Notions

Continuing on with my post from yesterday, notably missing from the Cartesian modern conceptions of self was the understanding that the self cannot be truly known except in relationship to the other. I am who I am in relationship to others. This fits in with a biblical look at the Trinity. Each member of the Trinity has an essence, an identity, but each member of the Trinity cannot be fully known except in relation to the other. The Father sends the Son; the Son glorifies the Father and sends the Spirit; the Spirit works in us to live the life of the Son and bring glory to the Father. Though each “person” has essence, each is unfathomably intertwined.

Before the great shift of urbanization took place, there was some semblance of that woven into how we were known as selves. You were known in relation to your family (people knew your aunts and uncles etc.) and you were known in relation to your place. In the postmodern conception of self, image has become everything. We are branded generation. We are known as Mac™ people or PC people, as Coke™ or Pepsi™ people. He drives a Hummer™; she wears Ann Taylor™. Each brand has its own narrative, its own story that goes with it. It is its own empty echo of our need to be known in relation to an other. It is its own empty echo of our need to be known in relationship to a grander story than our own.

How should we understand the notion of self from a biblical worldview?

We are designed to be in relationship. The Trinity is pure relationship. God is love; and love must have an object. The three-in-one nature of the Trinity made it possible for love to flow continuously between Father, Son, and Spirit. In creation, that love brimmed over. As a result of whose image we bear, we are designed to be in (right) relationship to God (only possible through the work of Christ, and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives). And we are designed to be in right relationship to others.

We are made in His image. That as we shall see (in my next post—stay tuned), helps us further understand what this whole notion of identity or selfhood should mean.

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Comments

nathan

Your correlation to the Trinity and how postmodernism reflects that in a smaller way encouraged me. So often, we can get bogged down in the differences, but the similarities are strong, too.

I was telling a friend earlier that postmodernism expresses truth in relation to stories. Ideas have no credence if not shared through experience. This is one of the reasons I think works like "Blue Like Jazz" fly through culture (and Christianity apparently) with a flash. Miller's words, in and of themselves are not particularly original, but his ability to express them in relation to himself and to others stands above the crowd.

Awesome. Keep writing.

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