Monday, July 11, 2011

Consequence of Public Truth / Private Value Divide

Christian, what is your goal in all of life? For years, I was told, "heaven." Once we get to heaven, we "finish the race," right? We strive with God, and we seek to perfect the soul, but once we die, the Christian has "made it," right? Newbigin challenges some of these sacred pieces of evangelical thought by suggesting that this way of thinking about the Christian life is really borrowed from Greek as well as Enlightenment ideals, but perhaps is not very Biblical. Really?

And so, inevitably, alongside the doctrine of progress (an Enlightenment ideal) there comes back the ancient pre-Christian idea of the immortality of the soul (a Greek ideal). The individual person finds the true end of his living and striving not in the perfect society, which only the remote posterity will see, but in an afterlife in another world, which has no relation to this. The two histories- my personal history and the history of the world- go their separate ways to different ends. My personal future and the future of the world have no essential relationship to each other. Human life is no longer a unity; it falls apart into two divisions: the private and the public, the spiritual and the political. We are back again at the dichotomy with which we have become so familiar in looking at our post-Enlightenment culture.

Yet the human person is a unity. I am the same person in my most private prayers and my most public acts. Whence comes the splitting apart of what we experience as a unity? It comes, of course, from the fact of death, the fact that at a point that is as unknown as it is certain I who pray and work must leave behind all my work, cut all those bonds that have from my birth bound me in one bundle of mutual responsibility with family, society, and world, and face alone the last horizon. This creates the split, tempting me to turn my back on the outward world of shared responsibilities and to find meaning exclusively in the pilgrimage of my own soul.

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