Knowing Ourselves

The Reformer John Calvin opened his Institutes of the Christian Religion with the statement, “Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”

Knowledge of yourself is often one of the most difficult to attain. A worldview worth believing will be able to describe ourselves to us. Here’s three things the Bible tells us about ourselves.

1. God created us.

In opposition to the naturalistic worldview, the Bible opposes the assertion that human beings are the result of random chance. Rather, Genesis is clear that God created us. This truth is important because it gives us hope that our life has meaning.

If my life is the result of a random collision of forces, then I have no intrinsic purpose. My existence is as random and meaningless as the forces which brought it about. However, if I am created and formed by a personal God, then my life is the result of intention. According to Christianity, I have meaning that cannot be taken away.

2. God created us in his image.

What does it mean to be made in the image of God?

First, I believe that it means that we are supposed to reflect God’s character. Genesis says that Adam had a son “in his own likeness, after his image” (Gen. 5:3). Children are the image-bearers of their parents. They not only resemble them in their physical characteristics but also in their personalities. Moreover, we know that the older we grow, the more we become like our parents in their character and attributes. I believe that being made in the image of God means that God made us with some capacity to reflect his character and attributes.

Second, being made in the image of God means that people were made to be his representatives in his creation. Men and women were made to participate with God in his activity of protecting and maintaining his creation.

We can make an interesting application here. Sin has damaged the first sense of being an image bearer. However, this second aspect of being an image bearer is still intact. In other words, we may carry out the activity of being God’s representatives in the world. We do this through our vocations and family life. We can subdue the creation as well as protect it from abuse. We may advocate for peace and justice in society.

Lastly, the image of God in humanity endowed us with dignity and worth. Human life of every kind possesses this dignity and is therefore sacred. This is good news. The Christian worldview gives you every reason to believe that your life is valuable and sacred, no matter how much you may feel otherwise.

3. God created us as man and woman.

Genesis says that a crucial part of our humanity is our gendered identity (Gen. 1:27). The case is not that God makes people and then tacks on a gender to that person; rather, our gender is an essential attribute of our being. God creates mankind as male and female. They are equally made in the image of God. Therefore, they are each equally dignified and valuable in God’s sight.

Due to our cultural climate, I’m afraid that Christians are not properly applying Genesis’s teaching. We have people in our cities who are confused about their gendered identity and are suffering from that confusion. Christians should not view them as political opponents; rather, they should take the opportunity to express love and compassion towards them. For they are also made in God’s image.

There’s much more that could be said about what it means to be a human being. The journey of wisdom — the quest to understand ourselves — is a lifelong one. For the Christian, it should be directed by Scripture and enlightened by personal experience.