Old Self, New Self, Christ Within

At church this morning, the pastor was talking about a person who was born again.  This person confessed that there was still darkness within him, but he said that things are different for him now, and that this is not due to himself, but rather to Christ.

This story stood out to me because I was thinking yesterday about the darkness that is inside of me.  There are a variety of models of the atonement.  One is the model of penal substitution, which holds that Christ in dying paid the penalty for sin on our behalf, and we are saved when we trust in that.  Another model is the death and resurrection model, in which we die and rise with Christ.  This model appears in Romans 6, and the idea is that our old self dies with Christ, and a new self rises with Christ.  The old self is carnal and yielded to sin, whereas the new self is yielded to righteousness.  And yet, many note, even new selves struggle with sin.  But a number of Christians would come back and say that sin does not dominate within the new self.  Yes, sin and carnality are there, in the same way that a rotting corpse can still have a negative impact even though it is dead.  But they are not dominant.

My problem is that so much of me is carnality—-sin, selfishness, cold-heartedness, hatred, etc.  This has been the case when my beliefs have been right-wing evangelical, and also when they have strayed from that.  I tend to like the substitutionary model of the atonement because it treats me as a passive party: I am inadequate, and yet Jesus—-who is stronger than I am—-does things on my behalf, resulting in my salvation.  I have a hard time seeing my old self as dead and my new self as alive, however, because my “old self” appears to me to be alive and active.

Do I believe that Christ is working within me, producing the fruit of good attitudes and good deeds?  Well, I depend on God, let me tell you that!  I pray to him, for I realize that I need help to live a good life—-and, even here, I do not set the bar for a “good life” unrealistically high.  But there have been many times when I have felt as if I was carrying the burden of living a good life all by myself.

I’m turning off the comments because this post was uncomfortable for me to write, and I am not interested in reading Christian attempts to prey on my vulnerability.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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