Review of The Vertical Self by Mark Sayers

“Who am I?” This seemingly simple question has been a central point of exploration all the way from traditional philosophy to the movie Zoolander. And it is into the middle of this diverse and wide-ranging conversation that Mark Sayers new book, The Vertical Self , places itself. Sayers contends, rightly so, that the reason for much of the existential angst and wondering about one’s own identity is because we have lost our vertical selves. That is, we no longer define ourselves vertically as those made in the image of God and part of God’s bigger story, defining ourselves instead horizontally, in context with one another.

Each of us has been made in the image of God. Reading Sayers book helps restore the centrality of that incredibly honorable existence by challenging his readers to rest their identity in the vertical instead of the horizontal. More specifically, Sayers offers excellent insight on two fronts. First, he investigates several of the major cultural factors that influence how we define ourselves from the glamorous to the sexy to the cool. Second, Sayers presents a variety of biblical pictures of our value in God’s sight, not only as those made in his image (Gen. 1:26-27), but also that we are works of art (Eph. 2:10), alive in Christ (Col. 2:13) and a chosen people (1 Pet. 2:9).

For all of its value, there is one major flaw in Sayers’ contribution to a biblical understanding of our identity. He rightly calls us to holiness – to leave behind the dirt and junk of our lives and to grow in holiness. The problem is that in so doing, he leaves the work of becoming holy to us as individuals. Just as there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, there is nothing we can do to make ourselves more holy. That, like our salvation, is the redeeming work of the Holy Spirit that makes us into our true, future, vertical selves. Add in that understanding of how we becoming holy, and Sayers book is a great read for all who want to know who they really are.

* Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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