We’re not dualists. Well, okay, you probably didn’t think we were. But dualists like to think there’s a split between ‘the spiritual’ and ‘the earthly.’ (Sometimes people call it ‘the sacred and the secular.’) It’s an attitude that creeps in everywhere. But because the Bible says ‘the earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord,” and because Jesus took on flesh and became very much part of our world, and because God ‘so loved the world’… we think it’s a mistake to draw too firm a line between ‘church’ and ‘life’, or ‘Sunday’ and ‘the rest of the week’, or ‘being Christian’ and ‘being an office worker.’ When we’re in church we act and talk like ordinary people who follow Jesus. In every other part of life we do the same. Our worship isn’t reserved for Sunday services… God is worth serving full time, all the time. So for us, everything we do is sacred – it belongs to God.
Leader Notes: A history of Dualism
If you want to know where this trend to separate the sacred and the secular started, you’ll have to look all the way back to Greek Philosophy. Plato and Aristotle were locked in debate about the nature of reality, and the nature of ‘the intellect.’ Plato thought that every ‘type of thing’ in the world was a kind of ‘shadow’ of a hidden metaphysical reality, or ‘form’. Aristotle disagreed; he thought there were universal categories that were perceived by the intellect, though not material. Lost yet? This stuff can make your head hurt. The main thing is, most greek thinkers seemed to agree that the ‘physical world’ was second rate. The ‘immaterial world’ was sacred – and the physical was not. When these ideas intersected with early Christianity, there were some interesting by-products.
For example, The Gnostics argued that what the body did, didn’t matter. Because your physical body was part of the unspiritual world, it could indulge in whatever it wanted… only the spirit mattered. In other words, party as hard as you like, as long as you were climbing into the seven levels of heaven in your mind. Arguing from the same starting point, the Monastic movement arrived at the opposite conclusion that the spirit could be liberated by systematically punishing the body. So, earnest monks sat for months on small platforms at the top of poles, or starved themselves, while Hindu Holy Men lay on beds of nails and walked on red hot embers. It was all based on the assumption that the universe was build on these opposites:
It’s still an idea that’s deeply ingrained in Christian thinking. Good gifts from God like our sexuality are viewed with either prudish suspicion or disdain. Christian asceticism – the avoidance of pleasure – is rife. We appoint an ‘eldership’ to look after the ‘spiritual side’ of church life, and a ‘management committee’ to look after the lesser, secular things. We set up holy buildings where we can worship God and do holy things in one holy hour of the week. And then for the rest of the week, we go about our normal secular, profane, physical business. There’s only one problem. That’s not the way the New Testament actually sees things at all. With the coming of Jesus, the holy and the human have connected in a way that short circuits everything… and that should be reflected in every part of life!
Read this brief review of Vaughan Roberts excellent book True Worship.
Order a copy of the book from The Book Depository. It’s excellent, and only $10!
Hear Phil Campbell speak on:
Read the article Dangerous Worship by Luke Tattersall.
Here’s another article about dualism that’s worth reading. Here’s a useful quote from Dietrich Bonnhoffer:
The division of total reality into a sacred and a profane sphere, a Christian and a secular sphere, creates the possibility of existence in a single one of these spheres, a spiritual existence which has no part in secular existence, and a secular existence which can claim autonomy for itself and can exercise this right of autonomy in its dealings with the spiritual sphere. The net result is schizoid Christians… (‘Christ, the church and the world’ in Ray S Anderson (ed.) Theological Foundations for Ministry T&T Clark p. 540.)
Our DNA, however, has a slightly different twist. While Kuyper and others have worked at “Christianising” mathematics and economics and every other discipline into the service of Christ, we look for appropriate ways to push back the other way. Because there’s nothing ‘un-sacred’ about life, technology, mathematics, and professionalism in other domains, we want to ‘bring them to church.’ We want to serve the gospel with whatever means we can.