Tuesday, 07 July 2015 15:35

Christianity for the 21st Century

Written by  Matthew Jordan
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In last month’s column, I made the case that orthodox Christianity has become genuinely countercultural. The “default settings” of American culture are inherently at odds with apostolic Christian faith. If we intend to remain faithful, and if we seek to be trustworthy stewards of the faith that has been passed on to us, we need to be more deliberate in our practices than American Christians have ever needed to be before. Here are three specific suggestions to consider.

(1) Think about the role of the body in the spiritual life.One rival to Christianity that pops up throughout the centuries is Gnosticism, a worldview which maintains (among other things) that the mind or soul is inherently superior to the body. We can ignore the physical because what really matters is spiritual. This, to be blunt, is a heresy. Human beings are not merely physical things, of course, but to be human is to have a physical body. We must not forget this. There is a strongly Gnostic tendency in American Christianity, as we frequently emphasize the importance of true belief and intense emotional experiences to the exclusion of all else. We sometimes talk as though the body simply doesn’t matter at all, as though we’d never heard of the Transfiguration of the Lord or read Romans 12 or 1 Corinthians 15.


Practically speaking, we should think about bodily worship, in both public and private: raising our hands, kneeling, and bowing before the Lord, as appropriate. Let our worship be holistic, involving our whole being, and not merely our minds. In a similar vein, consider what it means to “buffet our bodies,” à la 1 Corinthians 9. We should recover the practice of spiritual disciplines like fasting, silence, and the liturgy of the hours, all of which involve surrendering the body and its appetites to the Lord in tangible ways.



(2) Embrace community. The Christian life was never meant to be lived in isolation. We need fellow believers in our lives, people who share our commitment to orthopraxy (“right living,” obedience to the Lord) as well as to orthodoxy (“right belief”) and who will support and encourage us in our efforts to become, by the grace of God, more and more like Jesus. In addition, we should remember that the Christian community extends backward and forward through time as well as geographically across the globe. Let us make use of the resources left behind by our predecessors: the great creeds of the faith, ancient prayers, and old hymns are not merely aesthetically impressive; they connect us with Christians through the ages who have also sought to live faithfully before God—and often in much more challenging circumstances than our own.



(3) Make your home a monastery. For those who have children, the question of what it means to be a Christian family has taken on a new urgency. Our homes need to be safe places where the world’s way of doing things does not have a foothold. Our children need to see us living vibrant, loving, generous, sacrificial, joyful, faithful lives. We cannot allow ourselves to live as though entertainment and material comfort are the only genuinely important things in life. And we need to recognize that the religious education of our children is first and foremost our responsibility, not that of Sunday school teachers or youth pastors.


Much more could be said, of course; but this will have to suffice for now. We live in interesting times… may we and ours be found faithful!







Last modified on Monday, 13 July 2015 15:43
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