Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Disintegration of the Self

This morning I read David Well's chapter on the self, aptly titled Self. I was most impressed with his thoughts about what happens to the self when the center is lost, or more precisely, when the ability to perceive and orient around the true Center, Almighty God, is lost. I quote him at length:

"The most starling consequence of this therapeutic [turn toward the self], many authors are observing, is that our self begins to disintegrate. When the universe loses its center or, to be more precise, when the center is lost to us as something outside ourselves that has the authority to reach into our lives, we ourselves begin to disintegrate. Many of these writers have not seen this connection, but they do see the disintegration of the self. The self that has been made to bear the weight of being the center of all reality, the source of all our meaning, mystery, and morality, find that it has become empty and fragile. When God dies to us, we die in ourselves. That is the connection we need to see, and it has become especially aggravated in the context of our (post)modern world. So many modern writers are seeing, as I have noted, that the postmodern self has become 'minimal,' 'decentered,' 'enfeebled,' 'empty,' and 'depleted.'

"It is a curious thing that the evangelical church in the West has been willing to follow the self movement down this path so uncritically. The self movement, after all, is the very symbol of our collective emptiness and insecurity. Only the hungry, after all, are always thinking about food. Those who are not deprived think about other things. Only the unhappy are constantly preoccupied with happiness, only those haunted by their own self-emptiness are always searching for something to fill the self. Redefining evangelicalism in terms of the self, in terms of the self having spiritual experiences, finding itself, satisfying itself, fulfilling itself, has everything to do with our culture and nothing to do with Christ" (165-66).

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