Suspended Between Two Worlds

Within the Christian life, there is an inherent tension between the inner and the outer, the “in” but not “of” this world.  The battle for holiness must be fought on both fronts, and there are deadly seductions in both directions.  Of the two, the European pietistic tradition has made the inner life of priority: the inner defines and mediates the outer.  Other traditions emphasize the outer life and make the call for justice to be the focal point of faith. Therefore we can find the blissed-out mystic and the social crusader both making their appeal for the sake of the gospel.

Though there are dangers of extremism in both these directions, there is also a subtler danger of falling prey to the “Hegelian dialectic” that marks the devil’s logic.  In fact, this “mediation” or compromise with the things of this world is perhaps one of the defining characteristics of evangelical Christianity in today’s culture.  What a brilliant stratagem of the devil — to seduce you to sleep, hypnotizing you through an infinite regress of qualifications and conditions.  If he can’t kill you, at least he will try to make you into an innocuous zombie.

There is dissonance that comes from following your convictions in this world and making Jesus your passion, and that always comes with a price.  The inner dissonance shows itself in profound questioning about your role in the world — how you are to live in the face of decadence, depravity, and the ever-increasing  tribulation that is coming upon the earth.  The outer dissonance shows itself in being out of synch with the prevailing culture and its ethos, marching to the beat of a different drum, seemingly out of step with culture’s glide down the broad way of destruction.  In both cases the tension yields collision with the natural life and its earthly impulses.  We instinctively recoil from the prospect of collision not because we are “peacemakers” but rather because we are without conviction.

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