A Biblical View of Self-Image

I’ve been working through Sinclair Ferguson’s fine piece in Christian Spirituality: Five Views on Sanctification. In the span of a few short pages Ferguson draws together the best of the Reformed theological traditions views on holiness and the Christian life. Quotable material abounds in these few pages, and I plan on posting some of the best of what he has to say in days to come. In the meantime reflect on the following words:

How we view ourselves has an immense impact on the style of our sanctification. Here, the Reformed perspective prevents us from falling into a common trap in discussions of self – image: reductionism and oversimplification, which invariably result either in what is often disparagingly referred to as worm theology (” would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?”), Or alternatively in a little more to send in ego – trip (” God loves me the way I am, period.”).

The truth of the matter is that now as a Christian I must see myself from two perspectives and say two contrasting things about my life: in myself there dwells no good thing on my own creation or nature (Rom. 7:18); and in Christ I have been cleansed, justified and sanctified so that in me glorification has begun (1 Cor. 6:11). Even in final glory, presumably, part of the cause of our praise of Christ will be that we are capable of distinguishing between what we have become because of Christ and what we would have become of ourselves. ( The Lamb is forever worthy of praise not only because of his eternal divine person, but because he shed his blood to redeemed humanity [Rev.5:9].)

The New Testament will not allow us to reduce these two polarities to a common denominator. We must say both: God has given me a new identity with a glorious destiny; in myself I am utterly defiled and deserve only death. I belong to a time when the present evil age in the future glory overlap. I must therefore see myself from two perspectives. Miss this and we miss the biblical doctrine of sanctification…


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Posted on April 19, 2011, in Humanity and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. On this discussion of how one views himself in relation to sanctification, I think our starting point is essential. Reformed theology (in most expressions) prioritizes articulation of a doctrine of sin with scathing clarity. All efforts to mitigate or minimize human depravity as it is taught in Scripture are rejected by this tradition. But is it possible that some from this tradition have articulated their doctrine of depravity from the wrong starting point?

    “Total Depravity” comes first in the TULIP acrostic, but when we think about sin by starting with sin, we risk ending up with a kind of truncated theology of human depravity and a potentially misguided approach to what it means to live a godly life. To adequately understand and articulate what it means to be a fallen sinner and a human being, one must start with the Imago Dei. We must start where our story began.

    I think we need to give more weight to the implications of the Imago Dei as a continual primary ontological reality for human beings — even after sin entered the world (see: Genesis 9:6;James 3:9).

    Steve Cornell

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