Dualistic Christianity and the Church

In the Western Church, we’re trapped in a worldview that assumes that we live and act in two separate domains, the “sacred sphere” and a “secular sphere.” We see prayer, evangelism, worship, and other “Christian activities” as the sacred part of life, that which has eternal significance. We see work, leisure, politics, shopping, and other “worldly activities” as the secular part of life, that which is only second-tier importance or of no eternal significance.

Alan Hirsch, in his book, The Forgotten Ways, contributed to my understanding of the destructive power of dualism by identifying that we also see “church” as the “mediating institution” between the sacred and the secular.

I’ve seen this as the operating paradigm for many Christians to whom I minister. They see the two spheres at odds with one another and the church as the place where “God” and “World” are mediated. So church is where they go weekly to move from the world and into the God’s sphere. Daily “Quiet Times” are treated as stop-gaps to recharge the sacred part of life so as to deal spiritually with the secular part of life. Personal missional work is reduced to “evangelism,” which is often defined as asking people to ditch this world so that they can live in the otherworldly heaven at the end of their lives and, while they await heaven, joining the church as the mediating institution between this world and God.

My main goal in ministry is to overcome this misconception and empower believers to embrace a holistic, non-dualistic spirituality—one that unifies our entire lives under the One God revealed in the Bible and connects our Sunday faith with our Monday reality.

Hirsch expertly diagnoses the disease that is causing the symptoms of dualism: “It is the actual way we do church that communicates this nonverbal message of dualism. The medium is the message, after all. And it sets people up to see things in an essentially distorted way, where God is limited to the religious sphere” (pp. 95-96).

I want to enable believers to see that Christian discipleship is the work of bringing all the spheres of our lives under the lordship of Christ.




Eyvonne said...

This is good stuff. Even as a pastor's wife (who works outside the home) I struggle with the dualistic mindset. I particularly see it in my professional life.

I agree with this concept wholeheartedly and would love to see practical examples and specific changes we can make as churches and individuals to alter this mindset.

Rick Meigs said...

Excellent post Bob on a very important and often ignored point.

Back in 2008 I posted (as part of a synchroblog) on this issue and consider it a core reason why many struggle to understand what missional is about (which was the context of the synchroblog).