What Is the Norm?

isolation.gifThere are certain groups within Christianity and Fundamentalism who assume, if never explicitly state, that to be in the world is not ideal, what is ideal is a “Christian” environment. Perhaps it wouldn’t be expressed in that way, but ultimately I believe that or something very similar is what is being assumed.

Statements regarding state schools, for example, speak of things like “exposure” and “temptation” being worse and stronger than…at a Christian college, specifically, perhaps the secular work place as well. This line of questioning makes no sense to me, in the context of adult age Christians who have been believers for a number of years. Precisely those sorts of situations, living in the world, is why we are here. That is the norm. The exception is those Christians who have the opportunity to minister and work in controlled environments, ones tailored for Christians.

I can hear the same sort of philosophy and assumptions at work every time I get this sort of question directed at me: “Why would you study philosophy, all those wrong thinkers, etc?” That question assumes the falsity of my own position on the issue (makes answering it interesting )

My point is that this is ultimately a conflict of assumptions.

I, for one, am very grateful for full time ministers who have the privilege of doing what they do, changing the lives the change. But that’s not the norm, it’s not the “ideal” for most people. We are here to shine, to provide a radical contrast to the sin that pervades the world, to model the lifestyle, philosophy, mores, of a different and higher country for whose King we are ambassadors.

I intend to devote my life to the advanced study and teaching of philosophy, for example, preferably in a secular context. Only because I hold the views I do can I pursue such goals; the answer to why there aren’t Fundamentalist philosophers is an example of the assumptions I’m referring to.

Until assumptions that are errant are corrected, the problems discussed will persist unmitigated. Until they are taken into account, people will ultimately talk past each other because the specific conflicts are a result of the conflict of general assumptions.

Is the norm living in the world as pilgrims in a foreign country, learning how to best communicate and understand its people while simultaneously never abandoning the country we hail from, its values, customs, message and King? Is the norm standing poised between two opposed systems of life and thought, understanding the one to confront it with the other, speaking the language of the world but always with the accent of our first, heavenly, tongue?

Or is the norm constructing on the best accounts life in the heavenly country here in the land to which we are ambassadors and excluding as much as possible the foreign elements that would impinge upon this process? Is the norm never really learning the language and culture, perhaps even expecting the natives to learn our language and culture instead, so as to avoid impurity, to keep our message pure?

Our answer to questions like these constitute the heart of the issue and the basis of the conflict.

This was edited and republished with the permission of the author, S. Joseph Loncar, a philosophy student at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for posting such a thought provoking, excellent article. I agree wholeheartedly that the norm is to be in the world while not of it. To be in it and to be working for its good, not to be in it and be focused on avoiding its influence at all costs.

    We must run from sin, but we can’t run from this world. It is God’s will that we be in it. Let us labor to understand the world enough to work for its good.

    Great post.

    God bless you richly in Christ,

    Bob Hayton


  2. I agree that it is the norm for most believers to work in the world and be a witness there. I do not think we need to study at their universities though. Paul never told us to study their philosophies, but rather to be students of the Word. I think we should have a basic understanding of what they believe, but that is enough. To send our young people to secular universities can be dangerous. Which is better? Sending them to secular colleges where everything they ever learned will be attacked and possibly undermined, or to send them to a Christian college where they will hear what the others teach, but then be given the Word and learn how to counteract those worldly philosophies?


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