Danger: Dualism Doubly Destructive
In preparation for the James series I'm teaching this summer here at Bethany, I've been reminded of the powerful distinctions between dualistic and monistic world views. I outlined these distinctions in the introductory section of yesterday's sermon, which you can download here. You can also learn a bit about dualism here.
It's interesting to note that if dualism is a sword, the dangers can be found on either edge of the blade. To the extent that the church has adopted dualistic thinking it has tended to emphasize the spiritual realm at the expense of the physical and natural world. When this kind of dualism saturated cultures, there was no need for exploration of the natural world, and so the sciences fell on hard times, as did art and architecture, as did sexuality and food, and drink. The censure of these revelations and gifts impoverished the church for centuries during the period called the dark ages.
But if one's dualism becomes anti-spiritual, emphasizing the natural realm as supreme over the spirit, a different set of maladies occur; our obsession with the physical reduces people to objects, sex to recreation, beauty to youth, and all men and women to units of production and consumption. This can be seen in various forms throughout the world, and wherever it is in play, the results are ugly. The deformities vary though, depending on the culture - pure atheism becomes so utilitarian as to abolish any notions of personal freedom, while the secular materialism of the west, enjoying the vestiges of a theistic world-view, expresses itself in wanton indulgence. But in both cases, the results are the same, as the soul is stripped bare, beaten down, and eventually silenced, all in the name of freedom.
The middle path; both/and; call it what you want - but whatever you call it, be certain that you are cultivating the importance and reality of both realms, so that you become a person who is able to both taste, and express the life God through physical and spiritual senses. Such a saint is hard to find, but it is through precisely such a life that the reality of Christ will be seen most clearly.