One of the biggest questions in life is the question of identity: Who am I? Who am I really?
In The Vertical Self, Mark Sayers studies the way our culture defines our sense of self, or how our identity is culturally determined. He terms this view of self the horizontal self.
Those with a horizontal view must ensure that they keep communicating the right messages to their peers and society at large. For them, “sin” is not fitting in; “hell” is social irrelevance. With no larger truth present in their worldview, truth and facts mean little. Instead they look for identity in momentary pleasure and experience.
The horizontal self seeks status, instant gratification, momentary pleasure, and our worth is tied to what others think of us. He describes three particular ways that the horizontal self is defined in our culture:
- The Social Self of Sexy
- The Social Self of Cool
- The Social Self of Glamorous
He argues that the alternate path to a true sense of identity is the “vertical self”, in other words our relationship with God. The vertical self seeks holiness, delayed gratification, satisfaction, and our worth is determined by what God thinks of us. Sayers introduces us to our future self – the spiritual body – at the future resurrection of believers. (1 Corinthians 15:40-44). He suggests that Jesus’ resurrection body points to the “real you”.
The call to holiness is the lifelong process of being conformed more and more into the likeness of Christ. In our culture, we must rediscover what it is to be holy. He defines holiness as “moving towards perfection” (p. 90).
In essence Mark Sayers presents two questions and answers
- Where do we find our true identity? - in our vertical relationship with God
- How do we get there? - by living a life of holiness
The book wrestles with the answers to these questions in our twenty-first century culture.
In passing, I liked his paragraph with the heading “no one wants to be a Christian dork”. The cry of the day is “I just want the world to know that you can be a Christian and be cool too”. p.89
In summary, this book is an excellent analysis of our culture. It makes the call for holiness practical and relevant for every Christian.
Available from Koorong $17-95.