One’s Self-Concept And Biblical Theology -- By: Jeffrey H. Boyd

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 040:2 (Jun 1997)
Article: One’s Self-Concept And Biblical Theology
Author: Jeffrey H. Boyd

One’s Self-Concept And Biblical Theology

Jeffrey H. Boyd*

In an age of secular humanism there is a preoccupation with narcissistic questions: Who am I? How can I improve my life? Since these questions are in the air around us, Christians need to provide authentic answers. But how do we know who we are? By what method can we develop a self-concept? Clearly we are a people whose self-concept is somehow forged between the hammer of subjective experience and the anvil of the Bible. The Spirit renders our sense of ourselves molten, and the warmth of a worshiping community softens and shapes how we understand our lives. 1

This article will focus on the self-concept of a believer. Within the broad scope of theological anthropology we will further restrict our attention to how we evaluate the question of soul-body concepts in the Bible.

Understanding and improving oneself is a central theme in television talk shows and popular magazine articles. It is what fuels the unbelievable growth of the mental-health movement. In most cities the telephone-book yellow pages show there to be more secular psychotherapists than churches and synagogues of all denominations combined. 2 The size and influence of the secular mental-health movement is doubling about every ten years. Two percent of the American gross national product is spent on secular mental-health and substance-abuse treatment, and that number is increasing. 3 Even at evangelical seminaries counseling has become a more popular subject than theology. 4

Secular mental-health experts almost always assume that human nature is monistic, that we have only a single nature, which is annihilated when

* Jeffrey Boyd is chairman of ethics and of psychiatry at Waterbury Hospital, Waterbury, CT, and lives at 10 Maplewood Road, New Haven, CT 06515.

the brain dies. 5 The view of many psychiatrists is that of Epicurus: “Death is nothing to us; for the body, when it has been resolved into its elements, has no feeling, and that which has no feeling is nothing to us.” 6 Although a minority of mental-health experts advocate a new-age spiritualism, they do not represent the mainstream. 7

I. Six Theories Of Human Nature

The traditional Christian view, from Justin Martyr in the second century through Franz Delitzsch at the end o...

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