Identity Prayer

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Sovereign Father, Beloved Son, Spirit of Truth,

We praise you for our creation, our identity in you, and our redemption.

Forgive our failure to seek your guidance and act on the advice we have.

Thank you for your mercy, grace, patience, love, and faithfulness.

Open our hearts; illumine our minds; strengthen our hands in your service

that we might always rest in you.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Identity Prayer

Also see:

The Who Question

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com


 

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Law and Gospel

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And God spoke all these words, saying, 

I am the LORD your God, who brought you 

out of the land of Egypt, 

out of the house of slavery. 

(Exod 20:1-2)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The giving of the law occurred in the context of divine disclosure and covenant articulation, which makes the law itself an important extension of the divine image and community identity. Which God? The God who brought you initially out of Egyptian slavery, but ultimately brought you out of slavery to sin. Which you? The people of Israel initially but ultimately the people who honor the covenant.

The law itself offers concrete boundaries to the covenant community and, by inference, boundaries to the freedom offered in Gospel. In this sense, I often refer to the law as to what healthy spiritual boundaries look like from God’s perspective. Outside the faith community the Ten Commandments appear as a list of dos and don’t, while inside the community the Commandments simply define who we are (we are the people that honor the commandments). 

When Jesus offers the double love command (love God, love neighbor), the Ten Commandments loom in the background (Matt 22:36-40). The dichotomy often made between law and Gospel simply disappears. Jesus becomes the more important extension of the divine image.

Law as Image Writ Large

When God identifies himself as the God that freed the Israelites of Egyptian slavery, he introduces the  primary reason that the people of Israel should sign off on the Mosaic covenant.  In other words, I freed you so you owe me and here is how you can repay your debt: obey the Ten Commandments. The dramatic destruction of the Egyptian army as they crossed the Red Sea was fresh on their minds (Exod 14) so this reasoning makes sense. Concrete salvation; concrete law.

The  Israelite people quickly forgot their obligations under the covenant, as evidenced in the Golden Calf incident (Exod 32:19). The second giving of the covenant and God’s appearance to Moses in Exodus 34:6 therefore lends credence to the view that God views the law as an extension of his divine image. One way to view the law and the disclose of the divine attributes as mirror images of one another; one for the left brain people and the other for the right brain people, recognizing that different people learn differently.

Defining Identity and Community

The Exodus remains a defining event in Jewish history and religion. The Old Testament makes repeated references to it (e.g. Isa 43) and the celebration of Passover continues to this day. Jesus underscores the importance of the law for his followers in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matt 5:17) 

The law is so fundament to our identity as Christians and the defining of the community of faith that it goes without saying.

Healthy Spiritual Boundaries

Because the law is often discussed in opposition to grace, the role of the Ten Commandments in answering the question of what to do is sometimes confusing. Jesus said that love of neighbor and God summarized the Law and the Prophets (Matt 22:36-40). Why then do I need law? Aren’t I free from law under grace?

The Apostle Paul gives the most direct answer to this question. Our freedom in Christ is the freedom to love our neighbors as ourselves (Gal 5:13-14). If we take Paul’s statement seriously, do you think that your neighbor will notice? If time and money are involved, do you think that your spouse and kids will notice?

The Ten Commandments remind us what love looks like from God’s perspective, not ours. God created a community of individuals—not just you or me—in his image. If God created and loves my neighbor, perhaps I too can learn to love them. God’s love means honor our parents; love means do not murder . . .We need reminders; we need clear boundaries.

Uses of the Law

Reformer John Calvin said that the law had three chief purposes: to teach us about God’s will, to aid civil authorities, and to guide our daily lives (Haas 2006, 100).

Our rebellion against God is called sin. Sin takes at least three forms: falling short of expectations (sin), breaking a law (transgression), and not doing something we should do (iniquity). I sin when I try to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind, but fail to do so consistently. I transgress the law when I murder someone. I commit iniquity when I ignore (dishonor) my parents in their old age, leaving their care to my siblings when I am able to help but refuse to. Although these three words are used interchangeably, these distinctions remain helpful.

Law and Gospel

The dichotomy often made between law and Gospel is a false dichotomy. One way to reconcile this interpretation is to think of law as a rules-based approach and the Gospel as a principle-based approach to offering the same guidance.

One reason that people make the distinction between law and Gospel is that the Pharisees worked to narrow the law so that it could be accomplished while Jesus sought to widen the law by considering the origins of sin in the heart. Jesus disputes the Pharisaic view repeatedly in the Sermon on the Mount when, for example, he equates anger with murder (Matt 5:21-22) and lust with adultery (Matt 5:27-28).

We see the Apostle Paul contending with the Pharisaic view explicitly when he writes:

“If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” (Phil 3:4-6)

The motivator for this interpretation is to be proved righteous and blameless under the law. Paul goes on to discard this interpretation in the next verse: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” (Phil 3:7) 

You hear a variation on this pharisaic argument today when people deny the applicably of original sin and argue that people are basically good. The implication is that we have no reason to ask for forgiveness and, by inference, we have no need for Jesus to have died for our sins.

The New Covenant in Christ

When we talk about the divine image, we should not stop with the Old Testament because Jesus Christ becomes the more tangible expression of the divine image in the New Testament. I often refer to Jesus as my denominator, the measure of all things in life. If God is my first priority and Jesus is my denominator, then the law becomes less important as a extension of the divine image.

References

Haas, Guenther H. 2004. “Calvin’s Ethics.” In The Cambridge Companion to John Calvin, 93–105. Edited by Donald K. McKim. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Law and Gospel

Also see:

The Who Question

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com


 

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Lefebvre Publishes for Bookstores and Libraries

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Mark Leslie Lefebvre. 2019. An Author’s Guide to Working with Libraries and Bookstores. Waterloo, Ontario: Stark Publishing Solutions.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

As an author, I triage my time between writing, editing, and marketing. In each activity, I must constantly learn new things because the writing world evolves quickly and life interferes. In 2014 I sold mostly paperback books in person. Since I took an advertising class in 2017, I have sold mostly eBooks online. When I tire of writing, I often focus on learning new marketing tricks.

Introduction

Mark Leslie Lefebvre’s book, An Author’s Guide to Working with Libraries and Bookstores, focuses surprisingly on marketing your books in libraries and bookstores (11). The surprise comes perhaps because many authors focus primarily on social media advertising or the particular niches suggested by their agents and publishers. Even self-publishers often limit themselves to the Amazon.com in the United States, where most sales online occur. Among the writers that I meet in author clubs, most are unfamiliar with cataloging in publication (CIP) data or worldcat.org, where U.S. libraries cite their collections online, and they ignore much of the world market for books.

Background and Organization

Lefebvre lives in Waterloo, Ontario and is a college graduate and author who first published in 1992. He has extensive experience in the Canadian book world, as evidenced by his having been President of the Canadian Booksellers Association. He has worked for Kobo and organized their online service, Kobo Writing Life—among other things.[1] For those new to international book sales, it is significant that Canadians read more and buy more books per capita than U.S. residents. This makes Lefebrvre’s background and experience interesting.

Lefebvre writes in a conversational style drawing on his extensive bookstore experience. The major divisions in his book are:

  • Introduction
  • Basics of How Libraries and Bookstores Work
  • Working with Bookstores
  • Working with Libraries
  • Tips, Ideas, and Strategies for Successful In-person Book Events
  • Conclusions
  • Resources
  • About

His publication date in 2019 is pre-pandemic so he writes before many retailers closed and before the border between the U.S. and Canada closed—something my Canadian relatives remind me.

Bookstores

While I knew that the largest bookseller in Canada is Indigo books, I did not know that Rakuten Kobo (an anagram of book) is a Canadian business although it is owned by Japanese company, Rakuten. I also did not know that Kobo also distributes books and offers advertising to authors that distribute with them. This is a significant point because it is difficult generating sales without advertising—organic sales are usually meager. Lefebvre convinced me to look closely at Kobo Writing Life where this all takes place. I also bought another of his books, Killing It On Kobo (2018), to learn more.

Lefebvre’s discussion of online booksellers is priceless because it is hard to know from the plethora of online services what to pay attention to. For those of you who have tried to find links to your books online in developing a book landing page, it is hard to get a list quickly. Draft 2 Digital offers those signing up with them a free service, a universal link, that accumulates a number of these links for you (84-85). Myself, I registered and spent a day updating my publishers’ website (T2Pneuma.com).

Lefebvre’s conversational style apparently follows from his extensive bookstore experience, which offers a lot of helpful background information on the industry. I often talk about the difference between offset and print-on-demand (POD) printing (65-66), but most of these conversations are accompanied by blank stares. This distinction, however, drives the differences in traditional and indie marketing because offset printers generate inventory while POD printers do not. Details that your spouse might want to know!

Libraries

If you go to OverDrive.com and search on your name, you will generate a list of your books and the libraries that stock your book electronically. Sadly, almost none of my titles appear on this list because I frankly did not know how to get them there—another item on my to-do list.

Lefebvre suggests targeting reviews to library-centric publications: Booklist, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Voya (147). I have actually done this for Living in Christ, albeit unaware! He also suggests perhaps coming out with a large-print edition, something that I never really considered, but which be done with distributors like Ingram Sparks.

Assessment

Mark Leslie Lefebvre’s An Author’s Guide to Working with Libraries and Bookstores is a fascinating read for Indie publishers wanting to publish wide. It is helpful to read this book in front of a computer because many of the references offer immediate online application.

Footnotes

[1] http://markleslie.ca/about/

Lefebvre Publishes for Bookstores and Libraries

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

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Image: Monday Monologues (podcast), November 22, 2021

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 By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on Divine Image. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Image: Monday Monologues (podcast), November 22, 2021

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Imaging Prayer

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Heavenly Father,

We praise you for being present in our lives, available when we are in need, and call us into relationship.

Forgive us when we remain distant from those around us, hide when others need us, and forgo healthy relationship. Forgive our unwarranted anxieties and fear that keep us from loving those around us.

Thank you for your example of a holy life in Jesus Christ, who loved us enough to sacrifice himself on a cross.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us the courage and strength to be good stewards of the love, life, and resources that you have given us. May we mirror the mercy, grace, patience, love, and faithfulness that we first saw in you.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Imaging Prayer

Also see:

The Who Question

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com


 

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Divine Image

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And the angel of the LORD appeared to him

 in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. 

He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, 

yet it was not consumed. (Exod 3:2)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Old Testament offers several glimpses of the Divine image. Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush suggests a natural Rorschach test. The image of God’s trinitarian nature underscores the importance of relationship and community. His later  encounter with God on Mount Sinai provided even more insight into what it means to be created in the image of God.

The Burning Bush

A Rorschach test, or inkblot test,  provides the psychiatrist insight into a patient’s default assumptions about life because the patient is asked to talk about what is seen in random inkblots. An optimistic, happy person might see sunshine and flowers while a fearful, anxious person might see darkness and monsters. A fire poses a naturally random set of patterns suggesting an analogy to inkblots.

In Moses’ account in Exodus, we learn is that God is present, available, and calling Moses into relationship and Moses responds to God’s call (Exod 3:4). Where God is, is holy ground (Exod 3:5). When God identifies himself, Moses responds in fear (Exod 3:6). God reads Moses’ deepest desire of his heart and acknowledges the suffering of his people in Egypt (Exod 3:7). God commissions Moses to deliver the people from Pharaoh (Exod 3:10). Moses again responds with fear (Exod 3:11).

God first created in Moses a desire to free his people and then God called on Moses to step up and honor his own desire. While the burning bush served as a Rorschach test, it did not project Moses’ attributes on God. Rather, God used the burning bush to teach Moses about himself, making plain his own desires. For Moses, this encounter with the burning bush served to call him into leadership of the people of Israel, which resulted in the Exodus from Egypt out of slavery and the latter establishment of the Nation of Israel.

The Trinity

When Moses encounters God in the burning bush, God’s trinitarian nature is already established and understood. Moses is the author of the Books of the Law, also called the Pentateuch (five books), so we have a glimpse of Moses’ understanding in Genesis in the creation accounts. The concept of the trinity is not a late development, as some have alleged who object, for example, to the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt 28:19)

In the creation accounts God the Father shows up in the first verse: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1) The Holy Spirit shows up in verse two: “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Gen 1:2) Later, in chapter three, we meet a personal God, who walks with us in the Garden (e.g. Gen 3:9). This is the early image of Christ. Reinforcing the idea of trinity, the primary Hebrew name of God in these accounts, Elohim, appears in the plural.

Being created with our spouse in the image of a Triune God, who is in relationship even within himself, suggests that our own identity is revealed in relationship. In ourselves, we are incomplete and we require community to be whole persons.

The Second Giving of the Law

Moses’ burning bush encounter with God is interesting because it helps us interpret how creation in the divine image affects us together with our spouses. The divine image is, however, more than an encounter with a mirror because creation has both physical and moral implications. Another important encounter that Moses has with God occurs after the second giving of the Ten Commandments.

Moses had an anger management problem that led him to destroy the first set of stone tablets when he descended from Mount Sinai and found the people of Israel worshipping a Golden Calf (Exod 32:19). Later, God gave Moses a second set of tablets and when Moses asked to see God’s glory (Exod 33:18): “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, the LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Exod 34:6). 

In describing his attributes, God effectively gave an interpretative guide to the Ten Commandments. When Congress passes significant legislation, the authorizing committee will in like manner publish a conference report to give attorneys an interpretative guide, should questions arise about the legislation itself. In this case, God uses his attributes to guide interpreting the Ten Commandments. For us, these moral attributes suggest what it means to be created in God’s image.

Exodus as Cautionary Tale

The Exodus from Egypt outlines the temptations and limits of freedom. Release from the tyranny of Pharaoh started with the crossing of the Red Sea, a kind of communal baptism, but it led to the need to survive in the wilderness and to respect for God and his servant, Moses. 

Self-reliance under God proved challenging for the people of Israel, as the Gold Calf incident suggests. Freedom did not mean living with abandon worshipping idols of our own making. The idols today are alive and well, as the popularity of the Wall Street Bull and the Fearless Girl attest. The biblical Golden Calf incident underscored the need for law, which had to be instituted by the sword (Exod 32:27-28). 

As Christians, we live under grace, but those resisting God remain under law. Even for Christians, the temptations of secular society are real, ever-present, and hard to resist. But we have the image of Christ given in scripture to guide us.

Divine Image

Also see:

The Who Question

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com


 

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Trottier Introduces Screenwriting

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David Trottier. 2019. The Screenwriter’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script. Los Angeles: Silman-James Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Over the past year I wrote my first novella as a romantic-suspense. As a career-long nonfiction writer, this was a significant milestone for me, but it was not without a few hiccups. My first editor informed me that a male protagonist would not appeal to the primary audience for romantic suspense—older women. Meanwhile, my second editor described my work as simply a thriller—guys write thrillers; women write romance—my daughter informed me. When my critique group suggested my writing style was more like a screen play than a novella, I decided that I needed to know more about screenwriting.

Introduction

In his introduction to The Screenwriter’s Bible, David Trottier writes:

In this volume, I help you begin the screenwriting and script-selling journey and guide you along the way…every aspect of screenwriting is covered in this work. That’s why I call it The Screenwriter’s Bible (xi).

At 462 pages, Trottier faithfully completes this objective better than any writer’s handbook that I have seen and he does a reasonable job of distinguishing screenwriting from other writing genre, as the designation of seventh edition attests.

Background and Organization

Trottier has a master’s degree from Goddard College and is a graduate of both the Hollywood Scriptwriting Institute and the Hollywood Film Institute. He describes himself as a screenwriter, script consultant, and teacher. He is the author of numerous books and screenplays.[1]

The Screenwriter’s Bible divides into five books:

  1. How to Write a Screenplay: A Primer
  2. Writing & Revising Scenes: A Script Consultant’s View
  3. Seven Steps to a Stunning Script: A Workbook
  4. Proper Formatting Technique: A Style Guide
  5. How to Sell Your Script: A Marketing Plan (ix-x)

The first book is preceded by an introduction and the final book is followed by a challenge, list of resources, and an index.

Difference between Screen and Novel Writing

Contrast clarifies. Trottier writes:

A novel may describe a character’s thoughts and feelings page after page. It’s a great medium for express internal conflict. A stage play is almost exclusively verbal; soap operas and sitcoms fit into this category. A movie is primarily visual…it is primarily a visual medium that requires visual writing. (4)

This distinction between novels and screenplays may help explain why women tend to be more avid readers while men consume their fiction primarily through movies.

Knowing this distinction can help authors lean into the strengths of their genre both in writing and marketing. In a novel, one might easily express the thoughts of a protagonist by simply writing in italics, but in a screen play someone would need to mouth the words, something like an aside or soliloquy in a Shakespeare play.

In marketing, one might easily think to rewrite a screenplay swapping the gender of the protagonist to match the strengths of a particular “talent” (Trottier’s word for an actor or director). While fiction writers will often talk about their “what if” scenarios, I find this exercise easier in the screenwriting context because the medium is inherently more applied, more adaptable. Imagine trying to sell your favorite actor (or actress) on your script in an elevator. Your drama might easily morph into a comedy once the gender is swapped, a transaction easier to make at least in my mindscape.

Formatting a Screenplay

Trottier’s description of the writing process is innovative and helpful in expanding one’s toolset as a writer in any genre, but my only connection to acting arose when I dated a thespian in graduate school. Trottier’s guidelines on formatting a screenplay changed all that.

Trottier describes a spec script as “speculation that you will sell it [a script] later; in other words, you are not being paid to write it.” (237) Previously, I thought that a spec script described the format, not the marketing, of a particular type of script. This is an important ah-ha moment because marketing is baked into script writing much deeper than other genre, a distinction lost on other author books that I have seen on screenwriting. Later, when he talks about copywriting (328-29), the marketing problem again presents itself as a clear distinction in screenwriting. Most authors do not need to register a copywrite because no one is likely to steal a book that does not sell enough copies to pay for the editing—I registered my first book mostly out of ignorance. A script is different because more money is potentially at stake.

Script formatting fits into this discussion of marketing because the immediate audience for a spec script is the reader (story analyst), an assistant to a producer who does the actual evaluation of your script (237). After you have read several hundred of such scripts, formatting distractions are an annoyance. Trottier simply says: “The spec script is the selling script.” (238)

The annoying 12-point Courier New font style performs the function of making it easy to translate script pages into screen time, one page per minute. New characters are introduced in all CAPS. Dialogue is indented. Trottier convinced me to purchase screenwriting software almost immediately as I read through this section in his book.

Assessment

David Trottier’s The Screenwriter’s Bible requires an investment of time to read through it. Having finished it, I am convinced that I am a better writer for having spent the time and I will likely convert my novella into a screenplay as a result. Trottier’s movie suggestions are also worth the ticket of admission. This is a book that belongs in every author’s library.

Footnotes

[1] https://www.keepwriting.com/davet.htm

Trottier Introduces Screenwriting

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

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Who: Monday Monologues (podcast), November 15, 2021

Stephen_HIemstra_20210809

 By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on The Who Question. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Who: Monday Monologues (podcast), November 15, 2021

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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The Who Prayer

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Heavenly Father,

I believe in Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead. Witness to me in my daily life.

Come into my life, help me to renounce and grieve the sin in my life that separates me from you. Define me.

Cleanse me of this sin, renew your Holy Spirit within me so that I will not sin any further. Make me holy.

Bring saints and a faithful church into my life to keep me honest with myself and draw me closer to you. Break any chains that bind me to the past—be they pains or sorrows or grievous temptations, that I might freely welcome God, the Father, into my life, who through Christ Jesus can bridge any gap and heal any affliction, now and always. Guide me.

Through the power of your Holy Spirit, grant me the strength, grace, and peace to share the Gospel with those around me so your kingdom would come and all might share in its glory together. 

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

The Who Prayer

Also see:

The Who Question

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/Priorities_2021

   
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The Who Question

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The who question is surprisingly important.

When René Descartes (1596 –1650) wrote—I think therefore I am—he neglected to talk about the preconditions for his statement, which must have annoyed his parents. Why did he have time to consider the question? Where did he get the words to express the thought? Why did anyone else pay attention? Who is this guy anyway? 

While we might neglect to consider who Descartes was, his role in modern philosophy is undeniably critical in the development of the modern era and, by inference, the postmodern era. The who question is all about identity, something we obsess about. 

For the Christian, the who question is doubly important. Probably the most inconvenient verse in the Bible is this: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27) We only participate in God’s eternal nature and reflect God’s image when we are joined with our spouses. Alone, we sin and perish. In ourselves, we are broken and quickly obsolete. What could be more inconvenient in this narcissistic age that we live in?

This inconvenient verse implies that we cannot answer the who question without considering the family. Because Descartes’ social position—who he was—is a precondition for all that followed, likewise Christian exploration of epistemology and ethics hangs on who God is and who we are together in his image. If Descartes had been an orphaned, penniless drunk in the sixteenth century and thought the same deep thoughts, the modern and postmodern eras may have been nipped in the bud.

Human Rights

For the Christian, the implication of being created in God’ image, setting aside our joint creation for a minute, imparts immense value to the lowest human being. 

Back in the Obama years, I used to ask my kids: How would your life change if the President of the United States set aside the affairs of state every Saturday morning just to play basketball with you? Would you tell your friends? How would they respond? How much more would your life change knowing that the creator of the universe, God makes himself available to you in prayer, anytime,  anywhere because he created and loves you?

This immense value of the human being arises precisely from God’s immense power. The observation that God created the heavens and the earth means that they belong to him by creative right. God’s social position is second to none. Because God values human beings, their life has intrinsic value—value that does not change with circumstances—and that value is enormous. The concept of human rights arises from the intrinsic value of being created in the image of God—a tiny fraction of infinity is still infinite.

Equality

Our joint creation with our spouses in the image of God is the root of gender equality. We cannot participate in God’s eternal nature without our spouses. The blessing that follows—“Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28)—is not a random act of kindness. It allows human beings to participate jointly in God’s eternal nature. This blessing is lost if we remain alone or pair up with anyone other than our spouse or try to compete with our spouses as if equality were equated with sameness.

Illumination

Being created in the image of God implies that we want to be like God. What is God first act of creation after creating the heavens and the earth?  The Bible reads: “And God said, a Let there be light, and there was light.” (Gen 1:3) Then, God declares the light to be good.  Goodness and light are equated as God begins by creating a moral universe. Imitating God implies that we should want to be moral, just like God. 

Being created in the image of God accordingly implies a moral mandate even before human beings are created. The who question and the primacy of relationships dominates the discussion even before the advent of sin, the introduction of community, and the giving of the law, but morality itself requires thinking and volition—you have to want to be good. God does not discount feelings and relationships, but feelings and thinking are inseparable. 

Heart and Mind

Hebrew anthropology (the theory of human beings) refuses to separate feelings and thinking. Heart and mind are inseparable. Greek anthropology separates the two, vacillating between giving priority to one or the other. Because Greek anthropology dominates the modern era (think about the division of labor among professionals), it is hard for modern people to understand Biblical writing—when Jesus talks about the heart, he means the whole person, not just the organ pumping blood or mere feelings. 

Sin and the Sacred History

Sin is hardwired into the human psyche. Original sin arises whenever you have two babies sharing one toy. No one is innocent, which is why Christ was unique.

Moses anticipated the course of human development in Deuteronomy 30:1-3. You (plural) will sin; be enslaved; and cry out to the Lord. God will send you a deliverer and restore your fortunes (Brueggemann 2016, 59). This framework outlines biblical history and with it the rise and fall of nations. The implication for postmoderns is that cultural progress—however defined—is temporary.

The question posed by scripture when we witness sin and societal decay, are we in the community of faith going to pray for sinners like Abraham witnessing Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18) or run away from our prophet duty like the Prophet Jonah (Jon 1)? Like Abraham and Jonah, we have been told in the Book of Revelation (Rev 20) that destruction of sinners is coming. How will we respond?

Return to Christian Spirituality

Anthropology is an important component of Christian spirituality. A complete spirituality addresses each of the four questions typically posed in philosophy:

1.Metaphysics—who is God?

2.Anthropology—who are we?

3.Epistemology—how do we know?

4.Ethics—what do we do about it? (Kreeft 2007, 6)

My first two books—A Christian Guide to Spirituality and Life in Tension—address the metaphysical question. My third book—Called Along the Way—explores the anthropological question in the first person. My fourth book, Simple Faith, examined the epistemological question. My fifth book, Living in Christ, explored the ethics question. Here in Image and Illumination I return to Christian anthropology from a community perspective.

I thought that I was done with Christian spirituality as a writer, but anthropology is at the heart of many of today’s deepest divisions and I have been repeatedly nudged for the past two years to write about it. It affects the other three components of our spirituality—metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics—so profoundly that skipping over a formal treatment leaves the other components wounded. So here we sit wounded as individuals and as a church.

Again, I take up a subject, not out of expertise, but out of obligation. Each of us must answer the who question, whether thoughtfully or not so thoughtfully. Please accept my reflections on Christian anthropology with ample grace.

Soli Deo Gloria.

References

Brueggemann, Walter. 2016. Money and Possessions. Interpretation series. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Kreeft, Peter. 2007. The Philosophy of Jesus. South Bend, IN: Saint Augustine Press.

The Who Question

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/Priorities_2021

 

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