Christianity is Not an Idea, part 2: events and our identity

Chris Nye
9 min readSep 13, 2019
Luca Giordano, The Conversion of Saint Paul (circa 1690)

Preface: In a previous post, I set this theological backdrop for us: Christianity is not an idea. God is not offered as "the best idea" across our vast landscape of idea-making. Instead, we see God as the history to end all history, the one who has acted and is acting in the events of human history, namely through the exodus and the resurrection. This is all to say that God has personhood. In these events, we see God arriving and he is actualized, not theorized. There are, then, implications for us…

I have not been a pastor for very long, and so it should be notable the shifts that have happened in American Christianity just since I was ordained. I like to think about words that we no longer say or words we started saying: what have we grabbed on to and what have we let go of in the last 10 years? While I could probably write on this at length, let's just take one word for now: identity.

Have you heard about focusing your mind your "your identity in Christ?" Have you heard that you are "not living out of your true identity?" Have you, by chance, been instructed to "know your worth" or "to know who you are?"

If you've heard this, I imagine you've also sung songs with lyrics like these:

"I am who you say I am"

"I am a child of God"

"I am chosen"

"I am yours"

I have no qualms with these songs—I actually love them. But I think they reveal more about culture than theology, and more about how we humans think identity is formed than how it actually manifests in our lives.

Who are you?

What these songs have in common with culture is simple: we believe we are who we are (our identity) because of the ideas we posses. This is why we call ourselves "feminists" or "conservatives" or whatever. We say we are "creative" and we say we are "scientifically-minded" because we use ideas to tell people who we are.

Introduce the word “Christian” to this culture and you’ll see what I mean: to identify yourself as Christian, we think, is to identify ourselves to a set of ideas.

We do this because we think that what we believe creates who we are. We also believe…

Chris Nye

Living in Portland, Oregon with my wife and son. Doctoral candidate at Duke University. Author of a few books: