Eastern Orthodox theologian David Hart on the Christian view of the soul:
This is not to deny that, for Christian tradition, the soul transcends and survives the earthly life of the body. It is only to say that the soul, rather than being a kind of “guest” within the self, is instead the underlying mystery of a life in its fullness. In it the multiplicity of experience is knit into a single continuous and developing identity. It encompasses all the dimensions of human existence: animal functions and abstract intellect, sensation and reason, emotion and reflection, flesh and spirit, natural aptitude and supernatural longing. As such, it grants us an openness to the world of which no other creature is capable, allowing us to take in reality through feeling and thought, recognition and surprise, will and desire, memory and anticipation, imagination and curiosity, delight and sorrow, invention and art.
Read the whole thing (ht Wittingshire).
I’ve already had a long dialogue with Matt about this, but since then I’ve had a few more thoughts:
-Our culture, our families, and sometimes even our churches will insidiously push us to embrace a comfortable life where the sacrifices we make for God are relatively within our comfort zone. There may be a few Christians called to such lives, but I would imagine that they are rare (at least based on the representative sample of Jesus-followers described in the New Testament.)
-Everyone’s sacrifice for God will look different. Some may have to sweat it out in liberal academic environments, some may
literally sell all they have and move to Afghanistan or inner-city
Detroit, some may stay in the suburbs and adopt foster kids, some may
have to simply deal with the disabled child or abusive parent in their
life. All of us must learn the quiet disciplines of pursuing God, loving
our neighbors (especially the unlovely ones.) But we should expect painful sacrifice (and an outweighing joy!) when we choose to worship and obey God. And we should constantly be reconsidering what God has called us to and whether or not we might be the person or the family meeting the enormous need for people in hard places doing hard things,
I’d also add that the “missional/radical” crowd also caricatures what exactly a suburb is, versus urban or rural. Having read both articles, I’ll gladly plant my flag with Bradley.
I live in Denver proper, with a Denver address, but I also seem to live in an inner-ring area. Is it urban or suburban? Most of the people in my neighborhood are first-time home buyers, hispanics, or the elderly (score 1 for “urban”), but we don’t live that close to much else and you’d need to drive to accomplish much (score 1 for “suburban”). We live in a terrible public school district (score 2 for “urban”), but we’re much closer to the nice school districts and two of the best private schools in the state (score 2 for “suburban”). Our houses are generally older (score 3 for “urban”), but our streets are not gridded and straight with old trees (score 3 for “suburban”). There’s two apartment complexes at the entrance of our neighborhood that doesn’t have a nice stone entrance (score 4 for “urban”), but there’s also 400K homes at the back of the neighborhood that look suburban (score 4 for “suburban”). I could go on and on.
So, am I being a disobedient Christian or an obedient Christian by virtue of where I got a mortgage? I hope that question seemed absurd, because that’s how this whole conversation strikes me. I would imagine that it also seems absurd to other Christians- most Christians- in Denver, who happen to live in neither a discernible urban or suburban place. Because that’s most of the city….
I think most “radical” Christians worth their salt would not engage with the suburban/urban/rural distinction quite as much as they would ask you what your heart is engaged with. I know urban Christians who are awash in self-centered living as they barely leave their downtown apartments and suburban Christians who have made the giant step of being on call 24/7 for emergency foster care placement. Like most things, it is not the legalism of where you live but the orientation of your heart– towards the needs of others and the worship of God, or towards the protection of your own tribe and your own sense of safety/security/prosperity? I think the call of the “radical” movement is a deeply theologically grounded invitation to self-introspection for the sake of drawing deep from the well of Jesus’ sacrifice and responding joyfully with a similar sacrifice– the proverbial treasure in the field.
This is great, and a welcome balance.
I think what it boils down to–as most things do–is the heart. If we are truly submitted to Christ, he will constantly be pulling us back from whichever extreme we tend to run to.
For those who cling too tightly to comfort and security, perhaps He will indeed call them to take more risks, to be more radical, and to sacrifice the safety of their own bubble. For those who feed their worth out of a mistaken idea of “how much I can do for the kingdom,” however, perhaps their call is to remember that God is not interested in how much WE can accomplish–nor, for that matter, does he even NEED us to accomplish anything–but rather how much we are like His Son…even in the quiet, monotonous, UNglamorous space of normal–even suburban–life.
We simply can’t say that intense, radical living is somehow superior to quiet, peaceful living (nor the other way around). What matters is the HEART with which we are living, and whether or not it is constantly submitted to the kingship of Christ in all things, both radical and quiet.
Every new book from the Christian publishing industrial complex IS a new legalism.
Good article. 1 Corinthians 7:17 tells us to “live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to [us].” We are best able to live out the life of Jesus in the cultural situation we grew up in, and of which we are most naturally a part. Much of what is shared here dovetails nicely with what I write in my book, What’s Wrong with Outreach