Book Review: The Vertical Self

by Adam Clark:

The Vertical Self: How Biblical Faith Can Help Us Discover Who We Are In An Age Of Self Obsession by Mark Sayers

Note:Disclosure of Material Connection: This book was received free from Thomas Nelson  Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program.

The title is a mouthful…

“The Vertical Self: How Biblical Faith Can Help Us Discover Who We Are In An Age Of Self Obsession”

…but if you can look past the length, the title gives away some great insight. First, Mark Sayers is going to base everything he says biblically, faithfully and with a strong theological basis. Second, we are obsessed by our own narcissistic views and, thirdly, how he can help. I love long titles so far as they hold true to the book. This does it perfectly.

When it comes to content, watch out Perez Hilton…

When it comes to content, watch out Perez Hilton, we may now have a new king when it comes to celebrity culture. Sayers nails it on the head: We are obsessed with being sexy, cool and glamorous, but that leaves us with nothing more than idolatrous viewpoints of those around us that we see as cool, sexy and glamorous. In the end, we strive for the mystery that comes with these labels, but instead of looking up to the eternal mystery that comes from God, we look out to the horizon to seek out how we can best fit in with those around us.

We have stopped looking up at God to find who we are (based on the created order that God himself declared as good). We see the world and creation as tainted and can no longer seem to piece together the “Christian” and “Society” puzzle pieces that we wrestle with everyday. We canʼt be sexy if we are Christian, can we? Well, God made everything including what we view as sexy, so sexy is good. It is what we do with the desires and understanding of sexy that is bad. When we throw around words like cool, sexy and glamor without thinking, they lose all meaning. When we can check our desires under the Lordship of Christ, in community, in their worthiness and by the fruit they produce, we begin to live once again as a vertical being seeking our meaning in God.

Mark Sayersʼ book illustrates that a life sought out in the horizon of our lives is tiring, wasteful, meaningless and without any input into the society to which we so desperately want to feel connected. I saw this because the images we try to perfect in order to be accepted are constantly changing. It does make more sense to allow the cool, sexy and glam lifestyle to come out naturally. Those who truly have it are comfortable in their own skin – they live looking upwards.

Being holy does not have to be dorky. It does, however, consist of looking up to our creator and finding our order in creation. Any youth leader should give it a read, or even use it as a study as the study guide in the back provides a great starting point for any accountability group.


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