Relating to ourselves by relating to God
This post continues a review of key points in Ron Highfield's book, God, Freedom & Human Dignity: Embracing a God-Centered Identity in a Me-Centered Culture. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.
We observed in the last post in this series that God's omnipotence, rather than impeding human freedom and dignity, enables them. Highfield then makes a similar point about God's omniscience and omnipresence, which like all the divine attributes, are not to be feared but seen for what they truly are---expressions of God's inner being as a triune communion of love. This Trinitarian understanding of God's nature (being), revealed fully and definitively to us in Jesus, is quite unlike the fearsome portrayal of God in Michelangelo's painting of Creation in the Sistine Chapel (shown at right).
Highfield references the teaching of Christian philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in making some key points concerning the God-centered self:
|Michelangelo's painting of God at creation|
God's omniscienceHighfield notes that it is in love and for love that the triune God is all-knowing (omniscient):
God's knowledge...differs greatly from human knowledge. We can know things only because they exist and impress themselves on our knowing faculties. God's knowledge, on the contrary, is creative. Nothing can exist unless God knows it and wills it to exist... In knowing us God gives us being and freedom. We exist because of God's creation power, and we can know ourselves and other things because God knows us and them first. Hence God's knowledge of us is a sign of his grace and love.... God knows why God made us and how to help us achieve that end. God knows all the ways these things are hidden to us and how to break through these illusions. God loves in knowing and knows in loving. God's complete knowledge of us should be very good news to us because it assures us that God knows how to love us. (pp. 140-141)
God's omnipresenceHighfield then notes that it is in love and for love that the triune God is everywhere present (omnipresent):
The divine presence does not create the noise and confusion that we experience in the presence of human beings... God is always there, so we need never feel alone; yet, since God is all-knowing, we never need to withdraw from his presence to find ourselves. God's thoughts about us reflect who we truly are, so in God's presence we are fully with ourselves... We are ourselves only in relation to God. Apart from him we are nothing and no one. (p. 143)
Relating to ourselves by relating to GodAnd so we understand that in every aspect of his being and doing (which are inseparable), the triune God of love is for us. We have nothing to fear for he has no agenda to strip us of our freedom or to diminish our personal dignity. On the contrary, his power, knowledge and presence are the very basis for our freedom and dignity, for it is in him and through him that we have our true humanity---our true human identity. Our challenge then, is to accept who we truly are---to understand and embrace our true identity, which is grounded in who God is for us. Highfield comments:
We need to accept ourselves as we are before God, but we cannot do it [by our own power and knowledge]. Only be relying completely on God's love, acceptance, grace and forgiveness can we escape...despair. Consciousness of being known and loved by God enables us to confess our sin and acknowledge our limitations without despairing of actualizing the infinite possibilities with which we have been created. And confession allows us to get to know ourselves at a deeper level. (p 145)
The very structure of the self includes a relation to God that must be positively acknowledged before the self can know and accept itself. By resting in God we can accept ourselves by accepting God's acceptance of us; that is, we relate to ourselves directly by relating to God, who relates to us in love...
Meeting God awakens us to the deepest possible self-awareness. Only before God can we know ourselves as we truly are.... [Therefore], the quest for self-awareness must fail unless it is also a search for God....
God's relationship to us is the most important fundamental fact about us. Our existence is rooted in God's creative will. Our personal identity is founded on God's love for us. Everything we come to be grows out of this soil...
In God's eternal knowledge I am who I shall be, and with God I lack nothing... God wants us to become aware of our identity so that we can live it in every act. God wishes not only to know and love us, but also wants us to know and love God in return....
It is only in knowing God that we can know our true name or identity or self, and in this knowledge we also gain self-awareness and self-possession. (pp. 146, 147, 148, italics in the original)
Summing upHighfield offers this summation:
The way Jesus related to his Father in the Spirit reveals an inner trinitarian relation of self-giving, receiving, returning and sharing. God loves us with the same love. God's great power gives life and frees us from illusions and death. God's complete knowledge of us roots our identity in his unchanging and eternal love. Whatever divine attribute or action we consider, we should begin with the confidence that God is always for us and never against us. God always wills our true good, that is, what we would will for ourselves if we knew ourselves truly. (p. 150)Sadly, we don't know ourselves truly, and don't trust God fully. As Highfield notes, we need "a new way of being human being." We'll look into that further next time.