Encountering an author for the first time is much like meeting a new friend. In the book Identity Theft: Reclaiming the Truth of Who We Are in Christ, we meet not one, but ten doctrinally informed, Biblically rooted, Christ-exalting sisters who explore ten facets of what it means to be an image-bearer of Christ: free, a reflection, a child, a saint, fruitful, a member, beautiful, a servant, a worshipper, and a citizen. The body of Christ is all the fuller when sister-theologians live out their calling as a royal priesthood, teaching and proclaiming the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light, and this volume is a wonderful example of how the church can be edified by the good use of their gifts.
Identity is an all-pervasive subject—our self-perception affects our every decision, in every relationship, at every waking hour. Who am I in Christ? Who does the Bible tell me I am?
Like a healthy human skeleton, the framework of the book has just the right amount of flexibility and structure. Each chapter holds the same pattern: identity theft, identity truth, and identity transformed. Each author fleshes out one aspect of identity and delves into some depth of insight—a helpful approach to such a broad topic—beginning with a pithy quote and ending with a memory verse and questions based on the core scripture passages.
The authors exude serious joy and thoughtful confidence—the reader feels very much as though she is listening in on a round table discussion between ten sisters who have been walking closely with Christ. We live in a context where criticisms are dispensed quickly and freely for the sake of elevating oneself. Not so with these women. They readily laugh at themselves as they share their fears and mistakes, and they edify fellow heirs of grace by welcoming others into their conversation and cultivating discussion. This format makes it is an outstanding resource for one-to-one discipleship and small groups of three to six people.
Most importantly, this book quenches the thirst of passersby with the sweet and living water of the gospel. All ten authors nail the gospel in every chapter in the section they call “Identity Truth.” I found myself saying “Amen!” and “praise be to God!” over and over again. The reminders that I am not what I do; I am not my personality, I am not my failures, and that I am covered and hidden in the finished work of Christ on the cross were helpful reminders and welcome consolation. I belong to the Trinity: the Father who adopted me, Christ who died in my place, and the Spirit who makes me one with him and his people. Nonetheless, no matter how wonderful the village well might be, one cannot live there. Sooner or later, we need to pick up our jars of water and go home. Identity Theft does not plow to the depth of any one topic, and it does not pretend to. The authors rightly point us back to the Word of God, which is the bread that daily sustains us.
One limitation of Identity Theft is that it primarily addresses the subject of identity from a Western perspective. This perspective is further limited by relative silence on a weighty subject concerning identity today—ethnicity. The assembled panel has some experiences of racial diversity: Courtney Doctor writes about the adoption of her daughter from China; Jen Pollock Michel is an American living in Toronto, Trillia Newbell and Jasmine Holmes are African American sisters. The book itself, however, largely treats aspects of identity apart from race. The thefts of our identity mentioned in this book are distinctly American thefts. If this was a book about the Holy Spirit or the genres of the Bible, race and ethnicity would be a lesser concern. But in a book about identity, this is a curious omission. For example, the notion of bloodline runs thick in non-Western parts of the world. A significant “identity theft” in Asian cultures is the lie that we are defined by our genealogies, both the living and the dead. The approval and acceptance of our community and family shape us to the core, resulting in the harshest persecution, rejection, and murder of Christian converts in the Eastern part of the world not by the state, but by family members. In a culture where ethnic tensions are simmering to a boil, I wish that Identity Theft took the opportunity to declare the power of the gospel to unite every tribe and tongue in Christ Jesus. From Genesis to Revelation, bloodline is a topic of concern for the biblical authors. Race matters. In the chapters about “Member,” “Worshiper,” and “Citizen,” I found myself wanting to hear how the gospel creates a new bond between believers that transcends earthly genealogies.
Nonetheless, Identity Theft nails the importance of reclaiming the truth of who we are in Christ. While the book may be more immediately relevant to those living in the West, it proclaims the excellencies of Christ that transcend time and culture. Christ binds us together in the new covenant; Christians are his forever family. Bloodline runs thick, but Christ’s blood runs thicker still.
Irene Sun studied liturgy and literature at Yale University (MAR) and Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (ThM). She is the author of the children’s picture book God Counts: Numbers In His Word and His World, and lives in Chicago with her husband and four boys.