Is it right to talk about identity in Christ?

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Here’s today’s #TheDailyDose. It’s a special edition as I wanted to go back over some of the stuff we’ve been spotting in John 1 in the light of a discussion on twitter.   The discussion was over whether or not it’s right to talk about “identity in Christ.” The objection being that our World is obsessed with individual identity and it becomes selfish and narcissistic.  At times wester, evangelicalism has become too individualistic.  Scripture on the other hand focuses on our corporate identity as the body/family/community of God’s people.

There are some helpful challenges there. However, my counter point is that Scripture does focus on the individual as well as the corporate whole. We see this even in John 1 as Jesus meets with Nathaniel and Simon.  WE see it in his renaming of Simon as Cephas/Peter. This reminds us of the Old Testament emphasis on naming. Naomi renames herself “bitter” whilst God renames Jacob as Israel. Corporate identity as God’s people only makes sense when the individual members come in and receive new names, new identities as new creations and as part of the New Creation.

At one point I passionately argue that there are some who seem to have set themselves up as judges of orthodoxy and are quick to dismiss and condemn other Evangelicals even going so far as to callt hem heretics (c.f. The current EFS debate). Yet in so far as part of that judging seems to include a loss of sense of individuality, personality, and identity it in fact risks drawing on more pagan concepts. Yes, our world is at times over individualistic but that it only because it has a desperate felt need for something that can only be properly fulfilled in Christ.  Instead, our world’s ideas only offer the loss of individual identity as we are consumed into the one (think reincarnation and Nirvana).  In pushing to the extreme against individualism there are some who risk propagating this world’s narrative.

Just for clarity at this point (as things may not be so clear off the cuff), first of all I’m not referring to those friends involved in the conversation on twitter who would be anything but that in their outlook.  Rather, there is a bit of a push within Christian academia at the moment to show off your neo-classical credentials and I think that misunderstands both classical theology and contemporary pastors.  In so doing it ends up with something that tends to the impersonal and loses a lot of the warmth and vitality that should be in good classical, reformed theology. Again, I am not saying that those people are heretics but I am saying that in their rush to denounce others as heretics they may have inadvertently let something quite toxic in. We need to be careful about judging others for one error when we may be pushing at the opposite boundary.  This is a challenge to each of us because we can all end up over-reacting to extremes.

So yes, let’s be aware of the dangers of an over-individualism but also the twin and equal danger of losing individual identity and being lost in the corporate. The corrective to both is true identity in Christ.

Here’s the audio