For years (almost thirty years now) I have heard certain
Christians using the phrase, "no independent self." For the most
part these Christians have been in a rather small and obscure circle
loosely identified as the "union life movement." The founding father
of that movement was the missionary-statesman, Norman P. Grubb
(1895-1993), who in his last commercially published book, Yes I
Am, entitled one of the chapters, "No Independent Self." There
are still several ad hoc groups of Christians who trace their
distinctive thought back to the teachings and writings of Norman
Grubb, and it is among these groups that I have heard the phrase,
"no independent self," commonly used.
Over the process of time such phrases often acquire multiple
meanings in the minds of those employing such. This seems to be the
case among those referring to "no independent self." The meaning of
the phrase has become mired in the muddy waters of multiple and
mixed applications, creating an ambiguous mumbo-jumbo of
terminology. Careful examination of the issue seems to reveal that
there was an ambiguity of meaning even in the writings of Norman
It is my intent in this article to attempt to clarify how this
phrase might be employed in a legitimate biblical and theological
context. In order to do so, we must recognize that there is a
legitimate assertion of "independent self" in reference to God, and
there is a legitimate denial of "independent self" when we
understand the function of the human creature. The diabolic
deceiver, however, seeks to provoke falsification in both the
assertion and denial of how "independent self" applies to mankind in
general and to Christians in particular.
Before we commence to consider these, however, it should first be
noted that the way in which "self" is being used in this phrase has
a relatively modern origin in the English language. Only in recent
English usage, influenced by the discipline of psychology, has
"self" stood alone as a separate word and as a synonym for "being"
or "person." Reference to "independent self" utilizes this modern
psychologized meaning of the word, but this does not forestall its
use in the valid explanation of biblical and theological Christian
God is the only "Independent Self"
It is inaccurate to categorically affirm that there is "no
independent self." The One who was "in the beginning" (Gen. 1:1) and
is the Creator of all things is an "independent self." God is THE
only Independent Self. He is the only One who is completely
independent and autonomous - influenced by, and contingent upon, no
other. He is Self-existent, Self-determinative, and
What God is, only God is! He is singularly and solely the God of
the universe. Jehovah-God is totally Self-sufficient - not
contingent or reliant on any other. He is complete in Himself, and
By affirming that God is the Independent Self, there is no
implication that He is solitarily individuated. "Independent," in
this case, does not mean detached or unrelational. The divine
Independent Self functions in Trinitarian relationalism as the three
Persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit interact in Love. God is
a personal, relational God, Who always seeks union-relationship with
others. He is not a standoffish dictatorial authority. He is not a
"black-hole" that pulls everything in and absorbs all things in
God, the Independent Self, has an absolute character that is
intrinsic, inherent, and self-existent within Himself. He never acts
"out of character," contrary to Who He is. He always acts out of Who
He is, consistent with His own character.
God does what He does, because He is Who He
is! Everything He does is ek Theos or ek
eautos, "out of Himself." Every action of God has its origin in,
and is derived from, Himself. God is Self-generating,
Self-operative, Self-empowering, and Self-productive.
The character of this all-powerful, divine Independent Self is
LOVE. The apostle John twice stated, "God is love" (I John 4:8,16).
This is not to say that God has love to give or distribute,
but God is essentially, intrinsically, inherently LOVE. He
always seeks the highest good of the other. Agape love is
As the Independent Self, God is a Self-for-others. These "others"
are the other persons of the Triune Godhead, and all of the created
order who exist to participate in His interrelational Love.
God is fixed in His character of Love. He is not, and cannot be,
a self-for-self. He is complete in Himself, and has no needs. He
cannot be a selfish God.
Given the aforementioned premises, that God, the only Independent
Self, is a loving Self-for-others, we can conclude that there cannot
be an "independent self" who manifests the character of
"self-for-self." Such is an impossible and incompatible
God always acts from His character of Love. He has
Self-determinative "free-will" (only the Independent Self has such)
to act as Who He is in Himself. He has the Self-empowering
omnipotence to enact whatever He determines in the context of His
own character and in accord with His Self-limiting creation of
choosing relational beings.
God is the only Independent Self in the universe.
Creatures cannot be an "independent self"
So, when we use the phrase "no independent self," we are not
referring to God, the Creator. It is only a valid phrase in
reference to created beings, both angelic and human.
Lucifer (Isa. 14:12), the Light-bearer, who was the head of the
hosts of the angelic creatures, was not an independent self. He was
dependent on God, and derived from God to manifest God's authority,
light, and love. Where the self-for-self character came from that
prompted his announcement, "I will be like the Most High God" (Isa.
14:14), is the inexplicable unknown of theodicy (the area of study
that seeks to explain evil in reference to the righteous character
of God). The origin of evil is an enigma to human thought. God is
the essential cause of all things, but He is not the culpable or
blameworthy cause of evil, which is contrary to His character.
As a dependent and derivative angelic creature, Lucifer was a
choosing creature. Apparently God ordained that in Lucifer's choice,
he would become the opposite character of God, the fixed source of
evil and sin by contorting, distorting, and aborting God's goodness.
By his choice Lucifer became Satan, the adversarial devil, the
negative of God's positive, the "god of this world" (II Cor. 4:4),
the "prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2), the tempter of
mankind, and the source of all self-for-self character.
Humans were also created as choosing dependent creatures. Since
"what God is, only God is," the corollary is "what God is, man is
not." God is the only Independent Self - unconditioned,
uncontingent, and unconstrained - with the absolute and intrinsic
character of Love. Man, on the other hand, is not independent,
autonomous and auto-generative. The creature, man, is dependent,
contingent, derivative and receptive. It is imperative that we
understand these essential functional differences between God and
man. Legitimate Christian teaching always maintains the distinction
of being and function between the Creator and the creature, between
God and man, and never allows the human creature to become or be
identified as the Creator, or to claim to function as God. The
relationship between God and man is always relational, and never
that of equivalence. Man is not God, or a god, or a co-god, and
never becomes such. The Creator God functions as the autonomous
Independent Self, doing what He does out of Himself (ek eautos),
autogeneratively. Man was created by God as a derivative creature, a
dependent self, and a receptive person.
Man cannot autogenerate character as an "independent self." He
can only derive and receive character from one spirit-source or the
other, from God or Satan. The dependent human self can receive
either the character of "Self-for-others" love from God, or he can
receive the character of "self-for-self" selfishness from Satan. The
result will be either godliness or sinfulness. These are the only
character options for man.
Human beings are incapable of creating their own good or
righteousness, because they are not God. They are also incapable of
creating their own evil or unrighteousness, because they are not the
devil. Man is not God or devil - he is always man. His created
condition as a derivative being forever disallows his being or
becoming an "independent self" with any sense of human autonomy or
capability for self-generation or self-empowerment. This
understanding of "derivative man" is the distinctive of Christian
anthropology that has often been misunderstood even by Christian
theologians and teachers.
Man was initially created with the presence of God within the man
(Gen. 2:7). With the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God in the
spirit of the man, man could choose to respond in faithful reliance
upon God's provision in order to manifest the divine character of
His Self-for-others Love. This was illustrated by the option to "eat
freely" (Gen. 2:16) of the "tree of life" (Gen. 2:9), representing
the choice to receive the divine outworking of the divinely
inbreathed (Gen. 2:7) life of God.
When man responded to the tempter and chose against the faithful
reception of God's character, fallen man did not become
"independent," as much Christian teaching has suggested. Always a
"dependent self," sinful man was dependent on the wrong spirit, the
diabolic spirit of the "father of lies" (John 8:44) who "blinds the
minds of unbelieving men" (II Cor. 4:4) to deceive and delude them
of their dependence on him. Unregenerate persons have "the spirit of
the prince of the power of the air working in them, the sons of
disobedience" (Eph. 2:2).
All of the analogies God uses in scripture to portray the
function of man are images of dependency and derivation. Man is a
vessel (II Cor. 4:7) that receives its contents. Man is a house (II
Cor. 5:1) or a temple (I Cor. 6:19) that contains a spirit occupant.
Man is a branch (John 15:5) that draws all of its life from the
vine. Man is a slave (Rom. 6:16-18) who responds to a master. The
human person is like a wife (Rom. 7:1-6) who depends on her husband.
These images do not denigrate or depreciate man in any way, but
simply exhibit how the human functions.
The function of the human dependent-self is always that of
derivation. Man does not have an independent "human nature," but
always has a derived nature determined by the nature of the
spiritual personage who indwells him (cf. Eph. 2:3; II Peter 1:4).
The identity of man is not in his independent abilities,
possessions, or association, but a derived spiritual identity
constituting the individual either as a "son of God" or a "son of
the devil" (I John 3:10). Spiritual life and death are derived from
either the One who is Life (John 11:25; 14:6), or "the one having
the power of death, that is the devil" (Heb. 2:14). Sinful
self-for-self character is derived from the devil (I John 3:8),
whereas the righteous Self-for-others character is derived only from
the Righteous One (I John 2:1) as a "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal.
5:22,23), thereby facilitating a derived spiritual image or visaging
of one spirit or the other. Even immortality is not independently
inherent in man, but is derived from the One "who alone possesses
immortality" (I Tim. 6:16).
Man is a dependent self who functions derivatively. He is not
self-operative, but a receiver designed to be receptive to the
activity of God by faith.
The foregoing premises are simply the objective realities of Who
God is, and how God created all creatures to function. God is the
only Independent Self, Self-generating His own character and action.
Man is not an independent self, but a dependent self, deriving
character from spirit-source.
Now, we must proceed to consider how Satan, the "father of lies"
(John 8:44), attempts the falsification of the function of God and
man. Willing to push any truth to its extreme falsity, the deceiver
will use every fallacious argument to oppose God and His ways.
Diabolos will try to deny that God is the only Independent Self,
and deny that man is a dependent self, by alleging that man can
function as an "independent self" (the lie of humanism). Conversely,
the devil will tempt man to deny that man is a dependent self, and
affirm that man is not an independent self, by alleging that man is
absorbed and coalesced into an equivalence of oneness with God
wherein man can operate as the Independent Self of Godness (the lie
Denial of the objective realities of the function of the Creator
God and the human creature is introduced through subjective
misinformation. We will herewith consider three (3) forms of false
thinking propagated by the "father of lies" (John 8:44).
The False Thinking of Human Potential
In the Garden of Eden the serpent introduced the humanistic lie
to the original man and woman, "You, too, can be like God, knowing
good and evil" (Gen. 3:5). How does God know good and evil? From His
absolute Independent Self, He knows His inherent and exclusive
character of goodness, and knows that all that is not consistent
with Himself and not from Himself (ek theos) is evil.
The subtlety of the satanic suggestion was the false implication
that man could be an "independent self" who could self-determine and
self-generate his own goodness, thereby considering all that was not
consistent with his own thoughts, opinions, and attitudes to be
"evil." It was the fallacious suggestion that man could be his own
center of reference and determination, the lie of human
All of mankind has partaken of the "tree of the knowledge of good
and evil" (Gen. 2:9,17) in Adam's act of responding to the tempter.
Humanity, as a whole, was deceived (Rev. 12:9) by the diabolic
deceiver, and has henceforth engaged in the self-centered "good and
evil" game that allows every man, and every group of men, to set
themselves up as self-determinative gods.
Although man cannot be "like God" in being or function, the lie
of the tempter was that man could be an "independent self"
manifesting a self-generated self-for-self character. We have
already noted the impossibility and incompatibility of such a
combination, but this is the fallacious thesis of humanism.
Satan, himself a dependent creature, knew full well that man
could not be an "independent self," and was surely cognizant that
the usurpation of control would cause man to be dependent on the
evil satanic source to manifest self-for-self character. The
power-play worked in conjunction with the freely chosen disobedience
of man, and Satan, the "I" specialist, the ego-promoter, the
death-dealer, began to "work in the sons of disobedience" (Eph.
2:2), manifesting his character of selfishness in fallen,
unregenerate humanity, now constituted and identified as "sinners"
Every subsequent generation of unregenerate mankind has operated
under this humanistic delusion of man's function as an "independent
self." This is the mind-set of the world-system. The indwelling
Satan-spirit (Eph. 2:2) feeds the mind of man the false information
of his being an "independent self." Fallen men falsely believe and
falsely think that they are functioning as separate, stand-alone
persons. They are convinced that they are "independent selves" who
function as the cause of their own effects and the source of their
own sufficiency, able to chart their own course and solve their own
problems by self-help techniques. Their mantra is, "Be all you can
be." The premise of being an "independent self" with unlimited
potential to achieve all they desire is so entrenched in the
mind-set of the world, that a comedian like Flip Wilson could
caricature his misdeeds with the flippant explanation, "The devil
made me do it," and it was only viewed as a joke, for no one
believed it to have any validity.
In the midst of a people who falsely thought they were
"independent selves" and were operating by the derivation of the
self-for-self character, God introduced the Law through Moses. What
was the purpose of this Law? God had no illusions that satanically
dependent persons could self-generate righteous character and
behavior. The purpose of the Mosaic Law was to reveal that the
Israelite people were not "independent selves" who could produce
what God desired. The Law served to expose the inability of men to
manifest godliness apart from God, and righteousness apart from the
Righteous One, Jesus Christ. "By the works of the Law no man shall
be made righteous" (Gal. 5:16). God used the Law to demonstrate that
no man can be "like God," self-generating godly character. The Law
forced the people of Israel to recognize their inability to live up
to God's expectations, and to admit their selfish sinfulness.
Man can only be man as God intended man to be when he admits the
fallacy of "independent self," repents of his derivation of the
self-for-self character of Satan, receives the very life of God in
the Person of the living Lord Jesus, and derives the godly character
of God's Self-for-others by the receptivity of faith.
The False Thinking of Christian Ability
When the spiritual exchange of regeneration transpires in a
receptive individual, and a person has been "turned from the
dominion of Satan to God" (Acts 26:18), the Christian is a "new
creature, wherein old things have passed away, and all has become
new" (II Cor. 5:17). Spiritually, that is! The psychological mind of
a new Christian is still polluted with old residual attitudes of the
false humanistic perspective of an "independent self," however. So,
the new "child of God" (John 1:12; I John 3:1,2) inevitably slides
into the subjective perspective of false thinking that they must try
to live the Christian life. The humanistic premise of human
potential transitions into a form of "evangelical humanism" that
falsely believes that the Christian should have the ability to "be
It is in this context that the "union life" brethren often speak
of the necessity of a subjective realization that we are not
separated "independent selves" who are required to do what only the
living Christ can do. Even when Christians properly understand that
they "were by nature children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3) in conjoined
union with the Satan-spirit, and now, by the spiritual exchange of
conversion they are "partakers of the divine nature" (II Peter 1:4),
"joined to the Lord, one spirit with Him" (I Cor. 6:17), they can
still retain the false premise in their minds of a responsibility to
perform in accord with God's expectations. Despite knowing that
Christ lives in them (Col. 1:27; Gal. 2:20; II Cor. 13:5), and that
"the grace of God is sufficient for every good deed" (II Cor. 9:8),
Christians unknowingly lapse into the separated thinking that they
have to live "like Christ." Accepting such popular mottoes as "What
Would Jesus Do?" they try to do what only Christ can do - be Himself
and live His life, manifesting His divine character in our human
behavior to the glory of God the Father.
Since most Christians do not understand their "union with Christ"
(I Cor. 6:17) and their new identity "in Christ" as "new men" (Eph.
4:24; Col. 3:10), "made righteous" (Rom. 5:21; II Cor. 5:21) as
"saints" (Eph. 1:18), they retain the old mind-set of a "separated
concept" of a Christian here on earth attempting to relate to a
transcendent God up in heaven, where Christ is seated at His right
hand. Their perception is that their prayers and their praises must
ascend through the vastness of space up to a far-away God. Many
Christians believe that their past is forgiven, their future is
assured, but the present occupation of the Christian life is to do
everything one can to "present oneself acceptable to God," when in
reality they are "acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (I Pet.
2:5; Rom. 15:7).
The apostle John advises us that as Christians, "Greater is He
who is in you, than he who is in the world" (I John 4:4). Though
Satan has been expelled from his indwelling presence, he continues
to assault Christians as the "accuser of the brethren" (Rev. 12:10).
Christians are not exempt from temptation, and should not expect to
be. The tempter constantly introduces thoughts designed to cause us
to doubt our identity "in Christ," and to reinforce the false
attitude that we are "independent selves" who must perform the
Christian life. This is as it should be, as God deigned it to be,
for the falsity of our thinking that we are "independent selves"
must be exposed, and the inability of any alleged self-sufficiency
in living the Christian life must be demonstrated.
Ironically, the deceptive suggestions that we are self-operating
"independent Christian selves" are conveniently delivered by much of
fundamentalist and evangelical religious teaching today. We are told
that we must discover and accomplish God's will for our lives, when
the truth of the matter is that God's will is only and always Jesus
- His life and character lived out in every situation of our lives.
We are told that we can be what God wants us to be "with God's
help." "Do your best, and God will do the rest," for "God helps
those who help themselves," are oft-repeated incentives. God's grace
is viewed as a "booster-shot," or something akin to "Hamburger
Helper," but it's the "Holy Spirit Helper" instead; or a form of
"spiritual Viagra" that gives a Christian what he needs to "do it."
This is essentially the same as the Roman Catholic teaching of
"infused grace" that allegedly provides the boost for Christian
performance, which the Protestant reformers reacted to as "works"
righteousness. Now, the Protestant churches are promoting the same
"works" of the alleged "independent Christian self" in such schemes
as WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) and "the purpose-driven life." We
must rediscover that God's grace is the divine dynamic whereby He
does what He wants to do in manifesting His character via the
Christ-life in and through the Christian.
When the onus of Christian living is placed on the performance of
behavioral "shoulds," and "oughts" and "musts" - on legalistic "thou
shalts" and "thou shalt nots" - then the fallacious foundations of a
performing "independent self" underlie such teaching. In sermon
after sermon they advocate more commitment, dedication, and
consecration, more independent resolve to "be the Christian God
wants you to be," and the result is the effectiveness of most New
Year's resolutions - failure. Obedience is inculcated, perceived in
the old covenant, law-based concept of rule-keeping, rather than in
the new covenant awareness of "listening under" (Greek word
hupakouo) God to ascertain the next opportunity for
receptivity to His activity. Calls for "more faith" and loyal
faithfulness are also used to rouse dilatory Christians to more
diligent performance, even by such techniques as "positive thinking"
or "possibility thinking," with no understanding that faith is
simply how we operate as "dependent selves" deriving from
spirit-source. Faith is "our receptivity of His activity" - our
availability to His ability to express His character in our
Overemphasis on identifying and overcoming sin in one's life is
another capitulation to the fallacious mind-set of "independent
self." The adversarial "accuser of the brethren" (Rev. 12:10) must
take nefarious delight in the interior archaeological expeditions
that Christian religion advocates to sniff-out sin and ferret-out
fleshliness. Such navel-gazing sin-consciousness leads to the
repetitive confessionalism of the "altar-athletes" who run forward
each week, thinking that they must identify and overcome their sin.
When our mental focus is on Christ (cf. Heb. 12:2), rather than on
sin, God will reveal our false attitudes (Phil. 3:15), and the
positive power of His grace will swallow up any negative
misrepresentations of sinfulness (cf. Rom. 12:2; Gal. 5:16; Eph.
5:18). Preoccupation with sin, moral weaknesses, carnal patterns,
and addictions, however, often causes the Christian to become
self-deprecatory, thinking that something is wrong with him, that a
"dirty old man" still lives in him, apparently cohabitating with
Christ. Such a schizophrenic "two natures" mind-set self-justifies
the fallacious idea of an "independent Christian self" who is
responsible to repress the evil side of himself in self-denial, and
suppress the sin expressions of his behavior in self-improvement and
self-reformation. Those who encourage the "application of the cross"
in order to "die to self" in self-crucifixion can also fall into the
fallacy of urging an "independent self" to commit spiritual
So, where does this lead that Christian (every Christian) who has
been deceived with the false thinking of being an "independent
self?" Though we decry the misdirected emphasis of Christian
religion on the Christian's ability to live the Christian life, it
is the required door through which we all pass to the understanding
of the illegitimacy of self-righteousness. We have to know what does
not work, to appreciate the only One who can work in our Christian
The entire process of satanic misinformation about being an
"independent self" serves God's purpose (Rom. 8:28) to bring us to
the confusing morass of the "Romans Seven Syndrome." We experience
the frustration of admitting that "the good that I would, I do not;
and the evil that I would not, that I do" (Rom. 7:19), and the
consequent peace of recognizing that as a dependent creature I am
not capable of doing either good or evil. We fall before God with
the cry of desperation, "Oh wretched man that I am, who will deliver
me" (Rom. 7:24) from the incessant striving to be an "independent
Christian self?" The desperate man is ready to function as a
The performance principle of the "law" serves its final purpose
to reveal that we are incapable of keeping the rules and
regulations, including the Christian standards of behavior. We are
brought to the end of our deceived understanding of an "independent
Christian self," in the recognition that we cannot live the
Christian life. We are forced to admit that we cannot manifest
godliness apart from God, or righteousness apart from the Righteous
One, Jesus Christ. The Christian life is Christ's life lived out in
us, as us, and through us, while we as dependent creatures derive
from Him in the receptivity of His activity of manifesting His
character in our behavior.
Romans 7 brings us to a "renewal of the mind" (cf. Rom. 12:2;
Eph. 4:23), from the false thinking of being an "independent self,"
to the "attitude that was in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5) when He
humbled Himself in functional dependency on God for human life as
God intended. Romans 7 facilitates the genuine repentance of "a
change of mind that leads to a change of action." The change of mind
is the admission, "I can't; only He can." The change of action is
the willingness to be the dependent human creature that is receptive
to the activity of Jesus Christ by deriving all from Him. Thereby we
have "no condemnation" (Rom. 8:1) for the inability to live the
Christian life, for "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus
has set us free from the law of sin and of death" (Rom. 8:2), as all
the performance is His performance. The "straw-man," the
"silly-Sally," of an "independent Christian self" evaporates, as
every mirage eventually does.
The False Thinking of Human Annihilation and/or
Ever the extremist, willing to take any truth and transform it
into a lie, the deceiving tempter has another falsity up his sleeve.
If he cannot enslave people with the humanistic thought of human
potential or Christian ability, he will push in the other direction
toward pantheistic thought.
There are some in the "union life movement" who affirmed the "no
independent self" of human potential and the "no independent self"
of Christian ability, but proceeded to claim there is "no
independent self" because "union with Christ" constitutes such a
oneness with the divine that the human "self" is annihilated by
absorption into God. Relational union with Christ is falsely equated
with essential oneness with Christ, and that to the point of
monistic merging into equivalence with Christ.
When the idea of "no independent self" is pushed to the extreme
of advocating "no independent personhood" because there is "only one
Person in the universe," the distinction between God and man,
Creator and creature, that is intrinsic to Christian thought (as
noted previously) is denied. Claiming to be so "one with Christ"
that they are "no longer human," some have accepted this false
thinking of human annihilation as the ultimate expression of "union
life." Humanity is depersonalized or dehumanized by the alleged
obliteration of one's independent human self, as it is replaced by
Himself as myself. "I am He, and He is me," in the consubstantial
equivalence of essential oneness, is the claim of these deceived
monists. They try to hide their monistic pantheism behind the
curtain of "panentheism," but their false colors are exposed.
Claiming to have the "single eye" that sees "God only," some have
blasphemously declared, "When I see me, I see God. I see Christ. I
am the third person of the Trinity." Should anyone "see" otherwise,
they are regarded as not having the advanced spiritual sight to "see
through" to God. To "see" them and what they do as anything other
than a manifestation of God is identified as "seeing an illusion."
Those who are not regarded as spiritual "knowers" and "see-ers" are
seeing only the "illusion of humanness," "the illusion of
carnality," or "the illusion of sin."
Enamored with their alleged essential oneness with God's Being,
these spiritualists have little concern for the consistency of
divine character in their behavior. Despising the word "sin," they
often deny all possibility of expressing "self-for-self" character.
"What I do is what He does. All I do is Christ in action as me,
despite how it might appear." Even blatantly selfish and sinful
behavior is regarded to be "God's expression as me" - another
blasphemous indictment of God's character, that appears to be the
apostasy of calling evil "good." Such a view of the mechanical
inevitability of divine expression, claiming, "I am Christ, and
Christ does not sin," is a form of perfectionism that presumes an
integration into oneness with the Independent Self of the universe,
to the extent that they function as God.
Whereas "law" served a purpose for revealing the fallacies of
"human potential" and "Christian ability," it serves no purpose in
this fallacy of equivalence with God. Convinced that they can do all
things "as God," they are a "law unto themselves," flaunting their
carnality and lawlessness with no regard for the character of
Though they use the phraseology of "no independent self," they
have invested it with an entirely different meaning, believing they
have progressed beyond being a dependent human self to operate as
the Independent Self of the Godhead. This thesis entails a subtle
denial of the distinctive objective realities of God and man - that
God is the only Independent Self, and man always functions as a
dependent self. Denying their human creatureliness, they claim to be
co-creators and co-gods with God, impinging on the singularity of
God's functioning only as Himself - What God is, only God is! At the
same time they reject man's function as a "dependent self," having
an intense disdain for the concept of "derivative man" wherein man
always derives character from one spirit-source or the other, God or
Satan. "God does not mean for man to have faith," they assert, for
they seek to deny the necessity of the human choice of dependence in
"receptivity of His activity." Satan's original lie that man could
be "like God" in human potential has now become the delusion that
"you are God" in the essentialism of divinization.
The terminology we use in expressing biblical and spiritual
realities must be clarified over and over again. As language tends
to evolve, variant connotations develop as different people use
phrases in differing contexts and applications. This paper has been
an attempt to note variant meanings, and to clarify legitimate and
illegitimate usages, of the phrase "no independent self." As this
phrase has been used as common vocabulary by a relatively small
segment of the Christian community, those in the "union life
movement" who have benefited from the teaching of Norman Grubb, the
discussion of the phrase in this article may introduce concepts
never before considered by those in the larger Christian community.
There are important biblical, theological and spiritual truths to
be learned, however, in the awareness that God is the only
Independent Self, autonomously and self-generatively expressing His
loving character of Self-for-others. It is also important to
recognize that man, unlike God, is a dependent and derivative
creature who receives character from a spirit-source, either God or
Satan. Clarity of theological and anthropological understanding will
be a deterrence to the errors of false thinking that have been
(1) The humanistic false thinking of human potential.
The religious false thinking of Christian ability.
pantheistic false thinking of human annihilation.
The lack of clarity on these issues has led
to confusion, and some have been led astray to their own spiritual