Is Identity Declared or Discovered?
Oh wad some power the giftie gie us To see oursel’s as others see us! – Robert Burns
We all find ourselves here. We don’t know how we got here, or where “here” is. We don’t know where we’re going. Or what our purpose may be. We don’t even know who we are. We may one day – with the help of others – learn our identity, but we cannot create it by mere force of will. And until now, this has been universally acknowledged to be the human condition.
We’re like a movie protagonist suffering from amnesia. He may find a few scant clues in the cut of his clothes or the condition of his hands, but the mystery of self will not be solved within the self – only with help from outside. “That’s God’s great joke on us,” writes Peter Kreeft: “we’re eyes that can see everything except themselves, mirrors that can reflect everything in the universe except themselves. And yet that is precisely our one essential task: to find ourselves.” Maybe that’s why children are so eager to label other kids as inferior: they think they can inflate their own identity by belittling others. Once I reasoned as a child.
The idea that I can look at my white, male body and declare myself to be a black female has never in human history been considered a valid proposition. People who declare themselves to be something they’re not – as observed by others – used to be put in lunatic asylums. And in case you’re not familiar with that nice old word, “asylum,” it means “safe space.” You can declare yourself to be Napoleon all you want; it doesn’t make you the deceased Emperor of France, it just shows us that you’re crazy.
It’s true that I have some input into my identity. I can practice a lot and become a decent musician. I can change from an unproductive mooch to a provider, or even from a sour person to a sweet person. And those are important changes. But checking the wrong box on the question, “Sex: Male ___ Female ___?” doesn’t magically rearrange my DNA.
At issue here is “naming rights.” We learn from the Bible that the one who names, who identifies, is the one in authority over that person, place or thing. Am I in authority over myself, or is God?
God named Adam, but He didn’t name the animals. He paraded them before Adam and had Adam name them because the man was to have authority over them. God also did not name Eve. Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, [“Life”] because she was the mother of all the living. (Genesis 3:20, NAS95) Adam had the naming rights because he was to have authority – not over “women,” note – but over his wife. Christian brides, take your husband’s name. This indicates that you acknowledge his godly authority. You have a new identity. Refusing to accept that identity doesn’t make you modern and “equal” in the false sense of “identical;” it makes you yet another Napoleon in the nuthouse.
God renamed a few people in the Bible. He changed their spiritual identity. Isaac and Rebekah had called one of their sons Jacob, but the pre-incarnate Christ wrestled with him and called him Israel. (See Genesis 32:24-30.) Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter, as you remember. These men did not choose their own names; that would have been to assume authority they did not have: the authority to choose their own identity.
People who invent their own identities are either entertainers, lawbreakers or mentally ill. You’re putting on a show for us, you want to deceive us, or you’ve lost your grip on reality.
The only Person who can declare His own identity without reference to others is YHWH – I Am That I Am. This is not a trivial little issue of “who gets to use which bathroom,” as some good people have told me. The issue is, who gets to be God.
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