Where Identity and Value Come From
“The purpose of the bible is for it to be reinterpreted to fit whatever needs come about,”- An honors professor August 31st, 2016.
Let’s all just sit for a second and talk about the heartbreak behind these words. All I can hear is “I don’t believe that God is powerful, I believe he’s like Oz, a man behind a curtain with a really big voice but ultimately powerless. Your God’s words are empty because they’re construed to mean anything and so I choose not to believe any of the messages,”
“Identity can be broken into two main categories, those who base identity of something by its purpose and those who base identity off of its relationship with other things or identities. The western world and Christianity base identity off of purpose.”
I want to take a second to talk about God’s identity. Should God be identified by his purpose, or his relationship with us? My professor made one large logistical error over the course of this lecture, he decided that identity should be relational but is identifying God by purpose. We read an article called The Moralizing Gods which was all about the role of large religion using fear of a God to implement social standards and I came to realize that the author of the article and my professor were both talking about someone they had never met.
Think of it this way, if I want to study another person and I just observe their behaviors from the outside but never speak to them and never ask why it is they do what they do, what would my perception of this person look like? It would be two-dimensional, I can watch someone turn down a bowl of ice cream, but is that because they’re allergic or trying to lose weight? Are they diabetic? Do they just not like the taste? Are they not hungry? Don’t like the flavor?
This is a silly example I know, but the point stands, if I never ask why, I’ll never understand what that behavior is supposed to reveal to me about the person I’m watching. So let’s cross apply this:
Why does God make rules? Why does God punish? Why does God’s word talk about moral and social standards? Why do we tithe? Why do we worship? In answer to these questions the Holy Spirit brings up scripture, and we remember that God loves us, that he wants to build us up in healthy habits, mindsets, and futures. We know these things because we have a relationship with Him, he’s revealed these things on some degree on a personal level to us, helped us walk these things out in our lives. This is the love doctrine, that God does what he does because He so loved the world. This love message is what Jesus is all about, what our faith is all about.
But take the why out.
God makes rules, God punishes, God’s word sets moral and social standards, God expects money and worship. That sounds a lot more like the academic God that is criticized in this article and many classrooms across the country. This sounds a lot more like the hellfire and fear message that my professor believed God was about. This is the view of religion that many people are hearing in class, that without a personal relationship with God, they are believing.
If God has just been a sociological concept studied by our professors for decades, they have never met him in person. Even if they preach the importance of relational identity, they have never seen that concept applied to God. We have, we live in that grace every day. Academic investigation cannot uncover the true nature of God, if the things you’ve begun to hear in school are shaking your faith remember that. It’s the same way you can’t put a human under sociological investigation and then assume that observing them from the outside is the same as knowing them personally, once you talk to them you’ll realize that there was so much you missed. Don’t be discouraged by the claims about your God that are made from places of academic power, He is your God, you know Him a lot better than they do.
There are many verses about our purpose, future, hope, and identity and they are all extraordinarily important but God never identifies us by these things. He identifies us as his children, as those he loves, precious and loved. Our identity to God is relational, our relationship with Him. 1 John 3:1 says “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” There are no strings attached, just great love the Father gives because we are his children, and in that relationship is our identity, not because of any purpose, any ability, any gifting, simply because we are His.