Are you OF this world or IN it?

Sometimes I feel postmillennial and I just want to “redeem the culture” and I suspect that this world IS my home. And the weird thing is that there is a way in which it is true! God never meant for us to exist without a world to take care of. There will be a new heaven and a NEW EARTH. We will always be taking care of the earth, the earth the way it should have been all along. But THIS world… is not my home.

Once again I have been challenged by John Piper’s sermon on Romans 12:1-2. I hope that every single one who reads this will download the audio from June 27, 2004, and listen carefully to it.

Piper quotes a guy named Andrew Walls as saying that there are two equally true principles which must be held in tension; he called them “the pilgrim principle” and “the indigenous principle.” The pilgrim principle holds the world, and this life, loosely: I’m ready to go, and you can come with me if you will. The indigenous principle says that the Gospel has something to say to every culture, and we better get ready to contextualize and speak to our culture.

In other words, the gospel can and must become indigenous in every (fallen!) culture in the world. It can and must find a home in the culture. It must fit in. That‚??s the indigenous impulse. But at the same time, and just as powerful, the gospel produces a pilgrim mindset. It loosens people from their culture. It criticizes and corrects culture. It turns people into pilgrims and aliens and exiles in their own culture. When Paul says, ‚??Do not conformed to this world,‚?Ě and ‚??I became all things to all people,‚?Ě he is not confused; he is calling for a critical balance of two crucial biblical impulses.

I find that this disctinction helps explain a lot of the contradictions in the Christian life, and it is very dangerous to adopt just one of the two principles. Alone, the pilgrim principle produces wonderful, death-defying missionaries, but with no appreciation for the idea of “common grace” or the link we have with fallen humanity. Alone, the indigenous principle could produce something like mainstream liberal theology, with concern for “the poor” but no concern for their eternal souls. We must have both, somehow.




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One Response to “Are you OF this world or IN it?”

  1. ann clary Says:

    Hey Mark I read your blog sometimes and I happened toread it just now while the rest of my family is sleeping from a fun Labor day with my family.

    Anyway, good post. I really like what you had to say about this. Just thought I’d let you know.

    grace to you,
    a. clary

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