Spiritually speaking – no self

By Dave Henning / March 4, 2024

“What is called the secular mentality consists simply of such men, who, so to speak, mortgage themselves to the world.  They use their capacities, amass money, carry on enterprises . . . perhaps [to] make a name in history; but themselves they are not.  Spiritually speaking, they have no self, no self for whose sake they could venture everything, no self before God, however self-seeking they are otherwise.”- Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

“The praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards.”- J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

In Chapter 7 (“An Identity That Doesn’t Crush You or Exclude Others”) of Making Sense of God, Timothy Keller talks about three different paths to identity.  Each taken by a different group of people.  Thus, people exist who:

  1. look outward – traditional people who find a self through their duty and role in the community.
  2. look inward – they refuse to believe in the cosmic order.  Instead, they find self-esteem as they rely on competition and shifting fashions.
  3. look neither outward nor inward, but upward.  As a result, the individual fails to take precedence over the group.  Nor does the community take precedence over the individual.  Hence, what God thinks of you matters most.  Rather than what society thinks about you.  Or what you think about yourself.

Above all, Pastor Keller exhorts, people must do more than adopt religion in general.  Because both the tradition and modern self are insecure, adding some religion and moral strictures only serves to make the problem worse.

Hence, we cannot gain a self through performance or the desires of the individual or the community, but on God.  Since no one can bless themselves, we need a word from the outside: God’s Word.  For it’s impossible for any human being to bring tranquility.  Only the unchanging, unconditional love of God meets our needs.  Only God’s love suffices.

Today’s question: Spiritually speaking, what Bible verses instill a sense of self?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Not achieved but received”

About the author

Dave Henning

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