Sunday, March 11, 2007


The stereotypical female psychological problem is that of lack of self-esteem. The stereotypical male psychological problem is that the self-esteem is based on the self.

So often I see events aimed at Christian women (for example) trying to boost their self-esteem or sense of self-worth. All that does is teaching women to sin like men instead of like women.

The cross tells us that our self-esteem should be zero. Our sense of self-worth should be zero. Our Christ-esteem can never be high enough. Our knowledge of the fact that he accepts us despite our zero self-worth (and then seeks to transform us and use us for his glory) is where our confidence should be.

Not in self-esteem.


Simon said...

I see what you're saying, but no.

If someone has no self-worth, you cannot pastorally say to that person "That's correct, you're actually completely worthless but cheer up, God loves you anyway."

Not only is that pastorally irresponsible it is theologically wrong. That person is worth Jesus's entire life. That person was made by God, and what God makes is good.

Deriving our worth from ourself is wrong, yes; it has to be derived from the worth that God ascribes to us. But not recognising that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us is even more wrong.

John said...

Part of the reason I posted that is that people usually disagree with me when I say stuff like that and I want to figure out why.

We are not as we were originally made by God as good - we're fallen.

That person is not intrinsically worth Jesus' entire life - the only value they have is because Jesus attaches value to them, even when they should have been value-less because they were God's enemies.

That's what grace is. It is God assigning value to people who are worthless.

And pastorally, I'd want to take someone with no self-worth to the cross to see how much Jesus loves them. They're already spiritually miles ahead of most of the population.

Susan A said...

custard, while i agree with much of what you say and agree that this sort of corrective is needed, and that we are fallen and need to come before God as nothing, what about our risen and current identity as God's children? if we start viewing ourselves as nothing in all circumstances,
i think if we're christians we need to view ourselves as graciously redeemed, and children of the living God. not that we ever deserved anything, but that we have a huge worth given to us in our adoption. we remain sinful, and nothing, but we are partakers of grace.

so i guess that means we're living in the tension of at once recognising our nothingness and recognising the huge shift in what we are now.

but at the same time, we shouldn't allow our own nothingness to disregard God's image in others. yes it's marred, but it isn't destoyed. there is something intrinsically noble about humanity as the image-bearer of God. in rejecting him, it is flawed, but... oh i have to go and catch my bus. i guess i'm saying the same as both of you.

John said...

I think our current identity as Christians is hugely important, but our value is tied to what we are in Christ, not what we are in ourselves.

What is the value of a pot formed in and by the potter's hands and then marred? I don't recall it being very great...

Yes, there is a kind of historical ontological dignity to people - that we as a species were created in the image of God (though are now by nature in Adam's image but by grace being remade into the image of Christ who is the image of God) and therefore it's bad to kill people or slander them.

But that doesn't mean that there is an inherent value to people who are in Adam's image.

Simon said...

That person is not intrinsically worth Jesus' entire life - the only value they have is because Jesus attaches value to them.

If God attaches value to us then we do intrinsically have value because He is the source and objective measure of all value.

Total depravity is some sixteenth century innovation. Stick with "made in the image of God" unless the Bible says otherwise. :)

John said...

Total depravity goes back at least to Augustine, and Seth is clearly in Adam's image rather than God's... (Genesis 5:3).

Read what I've written about the Image of God before you start disagreeing with it....

John said...

It's worth adding that I am probably over-reacting against the rubbish idolatry in the church that wants to go the world's way of saying "You're worth it."

But I can't see whether my view is wrong because it's an overreaction or other people are wrong because they are compromising.

Rob said...

I hear ya. To me, it's John announcing "He must increase, but I must decrease" and Paul declaring to only boast in Christ. It's not about high or low self-esteem, but about chucking that whole concept out the window with total abandon. What notion of self-worth has any significance in light of the glory of God? What measure of self-esteem could ever compare to the majesty of the simple truth "God loves me"? We've come to measure the width of an atom and the span of the cosmos, but self-esteem brings us a yardstick. What a useless concept it is.

PS: Love the blog!