You Are Not Your Own
"You are your own, and you belong to yourself."
This is the fundamental assumption of modern life. And if we are our own, then it's up to us to forge our own identities and to make our lives significant. But while that may sound empowering, it turns out to be a crushing responsibility—one that never actually delivers on its promise of a free and fulfilled life, but instead leaves us burned out, depressed, anxious, and alone. This phenomenon is mapped out onto the very structures of our society, and helps explain our society's underlying disorder.
But the Christian gospel offers a strikingly different vision. As the Heidelberg Catechism puts it, "I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ." In You Are Not Your Own, Alan Noble explores how this simple truth reframes the way we understand ourselves, our families, our society, and God. Contrasting these two visions of life, he invites us past the sickness of contemporary life into a better understanding of who we are and to whom we belong.
"In this timely meditation, Alan Noble reminds us that brokenness, loneliness, and purposelessness will not be conquered by living our best life, finding our true self, or even belonging to the right family, club, or church. To the contrary, our greatest fears and anxieties are not problems to be solved but mysteries to be embraced through the knowledge of self that comes only from knowing that the self belongs to Christ."
"Alan Noble's book is exactly what we need. It shows the severe weaknesses of the supposedly liberated modern approach to identity and lifts up the biblical and Christian confessional resources (the sixteenth-century Heidelberg Catechism) that can heal us. As you can see from Alan's copious notes, he has read deeply in the many great critiques of the modern self written over the past two generations. But while powerful and penetrating, these volumes are inaccessible to the average person and therefore they have not gotten the traction in our culture that they should. Alan is, I hope, the beginning of a new generation of scholar-writers who can bring the insights of these thinkers down to earth and apply them in the most practical, compelling, and helpful form. May Alan's tribe increase!"
"Alan Noble has dedicated his life to the real things of the kingdom of God, and with You Are Not Your Own he helps us sift through the clutter of modern life to focus on what is most real. Alan understands that the very calling of discipleship is to follow Jesus in our time and circumstances—we cannot follow Jesus any other way. I expect this book will become a touchstone for many, and it confirms Alan as one of the most astute Christian writers of his generation. You Are Not Your Own will shape how you think about your life with Jesus."
"You Are Not Your Own is astonishing in its breadth and its depth, but even more remarkable for its compassionate and practical wisdom. This is an exceptional book by an exceptional voice for our times."
"In You Are Not Your Own, Alan Noble offers a deep diagnosis of the dysfunction and disease in our contemporary culture. And he shows that the challenging hope offered in the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism—that I belong not to myself but to Jesus Christ—is the only cure to this sickness. This is a rich book, eloquently and perceptively exploring the damage inflicted by the myth of autonomy and offering the healing resources of the Christian faith. Anyone hoping for a deeper understanding of our contemporary malaise or wanting to explore what it might mean to belong to Christ should read this timely, well-written, and wise book."
"Alan Noble has given us a gift. Using one of the most beautifully articulated truths in creedal history as its guide, You Are Not Your Own examines one of the great sicknesses of our age—the soul-crushing malady of self-belonging. With the learnedness of a professor, the meticulousness of a tutor, and the empathy of a friend, Noble guides the reader through crucial questions around personhood, identity, and meaning. And he does so in a manner that is at once exposing and healing for those exhausted (and seduced) by modern life. Importantly, this book offers more than cultural insight and a Christian anthropology; it offers much needed hope, not by commending religious techniques that only add to the burdens of self-optimization, but by commending Christ—the one to whom alone we must belong. Here is a book that is penetrating, accessible, convicting, and in the end, hopeful."
Introduction: An Inhuman Culture
1. I Am My Own and I Belong to Myself
2. How Society Helps You Be Your Own
3. How Society Fails Us
4. We All Self-Medicate
5. You Are Not Your Own but Belong to Christ
6. What Can We Do?
7. Our Only Comfort