I just read an article about a person who is seeking to define her own identity. To paraphrase her clear opinion, no one has the right to define her identity but her. She thinks that no one else can tell her who she should be, who she is, than herself. In our culture, her statements sound as logical and “self-evident” as the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I find this the most rapidly developing cultural consensus. Personal identity is a categorically “hands off” topic in our culture. We shouldn’t be surprised, since we’ve been singing princess songs for decades that encouraged us to be whoever we wanted to be. It’s just that now, “what people want to be” has become increasingly distinct and aggressively contrary to traditional understandings of identity.
I believe this will be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, cultural test for Christians in the coming generation. Of course people are able to think anything they want to think about themselves. If you want to think of yourself as a pink canary that can breathe underwater, no one can stop you.
Here’s the central question. Can your self-identity be a false-identity? The culture says no. The Bible says yes. The Bible says that a person can think of themselves one way and yet their true identity be something else. Contrary to the author of the article, the Bible says that God has the right to define our identity. He allows us to think of ourselves any way we want, but he does not abdicate his right to tell us that our self-thoughts are either right or wrong.
Faithful Christians are those who believe what the Bible says about their identity, whether or not their preferences or their culture agrees. This is true even if a self-chosen identity does no physical or emotional harm to anyone else, whether it is private, secret, or seemingly irrelevant to any significant issue in life. A person might never harm another human being and yet be wrong.
Of course we know this instinctively with physical, material perspectives. We know that a human is not a pink canary. But we don’t like the idea that our psychological identity could be just as inaccurate. We resist the idea that someone could know us as deeply as our own thoughts and can discern an inaccurate self-perception just as easily as we discern physical differences.
This is why this test is so profound. The true definition of wrong is not “harmful”, “liberal”, “non-traditional”, “unusual”, “different”, “new”, “old”, “unique” or “normal”. These are all relative comparisons from one human being, or culture, to another. They may or may not be right or wrong. The true definition of wrong is “whatever is contrary to God’s definition of right.” The true definition of false is “the opposite of what God says is true.”
Faithful Christians are not (must not be!) making up definitions of identity to suit their preferences. We should be stating what God has said and believing it. Not because God is a puppet master bent on manipulation, but because he is honest. If we don’t believe he is honest, we should stop pretending to be Christians. If we do believe he is honest, and that he knows–objectively, actually, truly, definitively knows what is right, accurate, true, actual, certain, objective–then we should take his Word for it.
We should say that God defines the definition of me. Because He does.