Paul Mallard is a Baptist pastor and writer who penned one of my favourite books of 2019, Invest Your Disappointments. Today I’m reviewing his new book, An Identity to Die for. Regular readers will know that identity is core to my theological interest, so I was intrigued to dig in to this new little book.
Encouragingly, Mallard starts the book thinking carefully and pastorally about what it means to be human and made in the Image of God, noting that, among other things;
- we are personal beings capable of relationships, language, reasoned thought and creativity;.
- we are moral beings, responsible for the consequences of our actions;
- we are purposeful beings, created to serve God as vice-regents, responsibly ruling over his creation on his behalf. We are the real ‘guardians of the galaxy’.
The understanding of the Image of God in An Identity to Die For is helpful, and strengthened robustly by Paul’s powerful and personal telling of the story of his disabled grandson, whom God has used to teach the Mallard family much about dignity and joy.
This book is a short and readable introduction to a big topic – I’ve included some recommendations for further reading at the end of this review. One issue I took with the book was the way that it introduced sex and marriage, without necessarily needing to. This is likely because it is based theologically on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, which throughout most of the book is a strength and a virtue, although occasionally it can seem a bit clunky. However, this is a minor niggle.
One of the gifts of the book of Ephesians, that in turn shapes An Identity to Die for, is the wonderful Trinitarian-ness of Paul’s prose. This may seem a minor point, but as this is a book about identity, it is important to remember the nature and character of the God whose image we bear. Similarly, going some way to explain the presence of the word ‘die’ in the title, this is a book that takes beautifully seriously the death and resurrection of Jesus. Thus, Mallard writes “All our teaching must be an echo of the cross. All our living must be patterned on the cross. All our praying and living and suffering must be sanctified by the cross.” Amen!
This is a helpful and readable book about human identity, and how we can only truly discover what it means to be human when we discover who we are invited to be in Christ. This will likely be a challenging read for those who don’t follow Jesus, or those who place their identity primarily in places other than him. I would recommend it to people of my own generation, particularly those of us a little muddled by the hand life appears to have dealt us. It would also be a good read for students heading to university. You can get your copy from IVP. You might also be interested in Paul’s superb Invest Your Disappointments, which was one of my books of 2019.
- Klyne Snodgrass, Who God Says You Are – a brilliant book, perfect for basing a teaching series on.
- Glynn Harrison, The Big Ego Trip – a vital book looking at the question of self esteem.
- Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry – a more theological look at what the Bible says about being made in the Image of God.