What Is a Person? We Simply Don’t Agree.
June 11, 2020
Categories: World View
People have a basic sense of the dignity and sovereignty of the individual because we’re made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27, Eccl. 3:11, Rom. 2:14-15, Jas. 3:9). In other words, because we are made in God’s image, we are free, independent individuals, naturally able and desirous to have our own thoughts and preferences, and to choose our own pursuits and endeavors. And, also because we are made in God’s image, we have an inherent, instictive sense of individual human sovereignty and dignity. That knowledge is as embedded in the fabric of our conscience as the impulses and faculties are in our nature.
Ironically enough, it’s this very sense that in part drives tribalism. Humans know that humans have dignity—but what are the features of that dignity, and what is the basis of it? That is the point of tension between the Christian world view and all non-Christian world views. The world view found in the Christian-Hebrew Scriptures says that human beings have inherent value and individual sovereignty because they are made in the image of God. Every other world view removes, to one degree or another, the individual sovereignty aspect of humanity while leaving the dignity aspect. But rather than finding the grounds of dignity in the individual because he or she is made in God’s image, they find it in a person’s group identity and whether or not he or she is a member of the group that is responsible for all the problems of society.
“In Jesus we have forgiveness, restoration to our originally-intended purpose, and certainty. Outside of Jesus, life is a crapshoot at best, chaos at worst.
You see, the human conscience has inherent impulses, embedded in it by its Creator (Eccl. 3:11, Rom. 2:14-15). But the final shape of those impulses isn’t fixed. It has a lot of plasticity and can be shaped in a lot of different ways. In the end, those impulses can either be refined or twisted based on how the conscience is shaped.
In Jesus we have the actualization and fulfillment of what God intends man to be—not only in his person, but in the revelation of the meaning of it all right from the One who created it all. And God loves man and cares for man, and sent his Son to redeem them from the lostness that we’re all in (Rom. 5:8, 2 Pet. 1:4).
In Jesus we not only have forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to our God from whom we are estranged (Rom. 1:18-36, 1 Pet. 3:18). We also have restoration to our originally-intended purpose (Gen. 1:26), and certainty about that purpose because the Creator himself has told us why he created it all. And he can be trusted.
The conflict in our day between individual freedom and group identity is not a conflict of politics or left vs. right. And it certainly, absolutely is not a conflict between different groups. It is a conflict between two opposing and irreconcilable understandings of what a person is.
Outside of Jesus, life is a crapshoot at best, chaos at worst.
About the Author
Tony de la Riva is an elder and pastor at Firm Foundation Bible Church where he has served since March of 2020. He is an MDiv student at The Master’s Seminary, and also runs his own studio, de la Riva Brands, which specializes in branding and web development. Tony is originally from Fresno County in Central CA, and he and his wife Beki have been married since 2007 and have four children, Chloe, Daisy, Manasseh, and Israel.
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