Is Identity in Christ Unbiblical?

Is Identity in Christ Unbiblical?

Earlier this week, Christians were reminded, by a smudged cross on foreheads and with words first spoken to Adam and Eve, of our mortality: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” These words, delivered by clergy on Ash Wednesday, are God’s words about us, recorded in Genesis 3:19. 

Though it’s not pleasant to be reminded that we are dust, it is good. Ash Wednesday tells the truth about who we are. The Season that follows, Lent, helps us order our lives around that truth. And yet, dust is not merely our status after the fall, or because of sin. We were created from the dust of the earth. That meager beginning is what God intended for those who would bear His image before the rest of creation.   

Recently, an article was published critiquing how Christians often talk about identity. Under the provocative title, “Stop Finding Your Identity in Christ,” Caleb Morell rightly notes that throughout most of Church history, the theological emphasis was on union with Christ, not identity in Christ. He also rightly notes that how we talk about finding identity in Christ is, too often, a re-hashed postmodernism, more about self-discovery or, even worse, self-determination, than anything theological. 

While I agree with much of it, I don’t think that “finding your identity in Christ” is unbiblical. It is, however, incomplete if disconnected from our identity in creation. Any talk of who we are disconnected from who God originally created us to be misses essential truths of what it ultimately means to be in Christ. And, it leaves our thinking about a fundamental question of human existence, who are we as human beings, vulnerable to modern and postmodern ways of thinking. Is the self a “construct” of culture and bias? Do our feelings determine what is true about who we are? Are our bodies pliable and changeable according to our internal whims? Or are we created? What is given about who we are that we need to know, accept, and embrace? 

In the creation story, the answers to these questions are not up for grabs. When God reminded Adam he had been formed from dust scooped from the Earth, He’s taking Adam back to the creation narrative. Adam and Eve were the only members of God’s creation not merely spoken into existence. The difference in language is dramatic. Rather, than “let there be… and it was so,” God said:   

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