A false duality
February 14, 2007
The dualism of my childhood church experience centred on the boogie word, "worldliness." We knew what it was: for example, what went on in the back of cars—thank goodness, most preachers forgot about or ignored our church hayrides!—and what women wore.
We were so sure we had it right.
Our theology of spirituality had it partly right. Sincerity bathed our intensity in a certain holiness of heart that was hard to refute. Even so, it formed a pattern that created a false polarization between what was "of God" and what was "of the world."
As much as our focus on prayer, caring for neighbour, love of the church, and living right had undeniable worth, this faulty worldview hived off part of God's world as if it didn't matter at all.
No wonder the evangelical world has in part grown up with a faulty view of creation. If our inner person is really what Jesus came to save, the planet ends up, not just second-best, but of little or no value. If serving God is best done as pastor, "secular" work is second-rate in the economy of God.
You can see how the sacred-secular divide got replicated from music to vocation, from church to one's calling, from Bible study to the arts.
Leaders have incredible influence in creating the lenses through which people see. I listen—occasionally—to popular TV preachers, who are so self-assured about the diagrams they construct on how the world will end. People look at life as they are taught to see.
It's not only the words we use but our strategies and methods that frame thinking, and by our influence those who take our leadership seriously come to think that way, too.
God, You who exist beyond creation and yet You who chose to live within, by your Spirit keep breaking down those dividing walls that bifurcate your wider creation and the life we live in this world. May the smugness of what I know become like dust before your feet, so that as you mix spittle with that very dust, it will bring healing of sight to those we love and serve. Amen.
Greeks taught dualism: separating the spiritual from the material. The church was trapped in this bifurcation of life. It led to a class of priests, who themselves were separated from the people. To Hebrews this was strange: for them the mind and heart, belief and actions were not separated.