Seeking authenticity

I’m trying to grasp what people mean when they say Christians need to embrace authenticity.

I read recently someone praise a singer for authentic use of profanity while speaking to an audience.

I read this morning a piece by a man arguing that experiencing a divide within ourselves – a tug-of-war between the part that longs for God and the part that wants to be submerged in the broad stream of popular culture – is a sign that something is wrong with Christianity. I took the point to be that a more authentic Christianity would not create this sense of a divided self.

I can’t figure out how these uses of the concept of authenticity square with Christian teaching about the holiness of God and the falleness of humanity. We are divided in our deepest being. We are called to live transformed and healed and holy lives as the children of God. Our most authentic self is the self we were created to be – holy and happy.

Dropping f-bombs and melting into pop culture strike me as moves away from God’s intention for our lives. People who do so may appear to lead more “integrated” lives without the struggle created by the working of grace, but – at least from a Christian vocabulary – I don’t see how we can call that more authentic.

Is not the real, the genuine, the authentic me the person God created me to be and calls me to become? I am not yet my authentic self, but by God’s grace I hope one day to be so.

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5 thoughts on “Seeking authenticity

  1. A larger question might be, why are you reading this junk? There are thousands and thousands of examples of misunderstandings available, most of them spoken by people who are very confident in the correctness and superiority of their erroneous thinking. Kind of entertaining I admit, but mostly a waste of time, like Cubs baseball.

  2. I believe the people in your examples are authentic. The word authentic means “real”, “not an imitation”, “not fake”. They are authentic people living entirely in the flesh without the internal battle of fighting against the flesh, the “old man” that attempts to overtake one who has given their life to Christ. Being authentic is being real. Being authentic is to not be a fake. Who I am in my daily struggles against temptation and complacency, and compromise is the authentic me. A man in the midst of daily yielding to God and His Holiness while in a struggle against the temptations of the flesh, the eye, and the pride of life. This is just as authentic as I will be when God has perfected in me the man he has purposed me to be. I believe what the authentic people in your examples need are more authentic Christians and more authentic churches. At the same time we might do well to remember though in this world we are not of this world. To attempt to digest the thinking of those immersed in the world which is as contrary to the believers ears as the word of God and Truth is to the unbelievers ears, might be, as Mr. Miller observes, a waste of time. Instead, perhaps we should be more concerned with our own “authenticity”.

  3. This is a great and (for me) timely topic, John. This weekend I was able to share with my congregation an absolutely magnificent show of God’s grace in my life. It was overwhelming, deeply personal, and in many ways painful. In the sermon I was left with a decision to make. At one of the lowest points of my life eight years ago, there was a song that very closely reflected where I was at. I struggled with whether to include some of the contents of that song, as there is the use of an f-bomb in the song (a part of the song I did not include). I decided to include the small sampling of the song.

    I then contrasted that song with where I and the artist who wrote the song now find ourselves, and it was a beautiful picture of how Christ can work from the inside out to create something new and beautiful. By the end of the service, I was for the first time able to reach people with real hurts, and over 20 people came forward to pray at the altar and ask for prayer. There were so many tears, and so many beginnings to healing in Christ.

    I still wrestle, though, with whether I should have included the contents of that song. On the one hand it was dark and hard to hear. On the other hand, it helped create a huge contrast between where I was and where I am today as a result of Christ’s healing. I do sense that the decision to include the lyrics…even without the profanity…walked a fine line.

    1. And, at least from my perspective, there is a difference between that and tossing profanity around casually and calling it authentic, and therefore, righteous. I saw your FB post this week. I praise God for it. To my mind, there is a distance between honest vulnerability about the way God had worked in our broken lives and a kind of shallow appeal to authenticity that verges on antinomianism or even abandonment of cross bearing.

      1. Yes, I would agree with that. There is a significant difference in celebrating sinful “authenticity” and celebrating deliverance from that same sin.

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