In the World, Not of the World

“The Reformers insisted that Christians should be involved in the world. They should neither seek to escape it, like the monks, whose lives were often more ‘worldly’ than the world, nor seek to rule it, like the popes, whose own houses were not quite in order. Every believer is a ‘priest’ before God, and each person (believer and unbeliever) has been given a vocation or calling, by virtue of creation, to participate in some way in culture. We are social beings, created to enjoy each other’s company, whether Christian or non-Christian. Redemption does not change our participation in culture; rather, it changes us and, therefore, the character of that involvement. Separation from the world is not physical, according to the Reformers; rather, it is a matter of divorcing our dependence on the things of this world: its vanity and rejection or perversion of things heavenly. Luther and Calvin said that the calling of the magistrate or public official was ‘one of the noblest’ (Calvin), inasmuch as it serves the society so well.

“Protestants, therefore, encouraged their children to pursue secular callings in education, business, government, diplomacy, the arts, and science because they believed that these were all spheres of God’s providence . . .

“Therefore, the Reformation vision stands on three legs: Creation, which affirms the goodness of the world and the possibility of civic virtue, truth, and beauty being produced even by non-Christians; the Fall, whcih explains the depravity of our own hearts and renders any ‘perfect society’ the impossible dream; and Redemption, which not only tells us of our own salvation from sin’s penalty and power in this life and its presence in the next, but also promises a full restoration of Paradise at the end of history, but not within it.”

(Michael Horton, Beyond Culture Wars, 180)

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