Dualism

Dualism is a worldview that compartmentalizes the Christian faith and relegates the application of Christianity solely to the spiritual dimension of people. This has contributed to the isolation of the church from the world and cultures that surround it. Dualism is an ancient worldview. It was a problem within the early church and was often brought in with the influence of the Gnostics. In the following article Mark Rushdoony describes how it radically affected the church down through history and how it is also impacting the church today. 

How Christianity Marginalized Itself

The modern age has seen religion in general marginalized into asub-category of human activity. Because of its prominence in the West,Christianity has been singled out for attack.

The West was once called Christendom. Its focus was on God,however imperfectly. The Renaissance (14th –17thcenturies) was aconscious attempt to revive the humanistic thought of ancient Greece and Rome.In doing so, it adopted Greek dualism, which divided reality into matter andform or, to use more contemporary terminology, material and spiritual realms.The humanism of the Renaissance was resisted by the Reformation (16th century) before yet another revival ofhumanism arose in the Enlightenment (17th – 18th centuries). Western humanism has continued to develop since then, but withinthe dualistic parameters of the Enlightenment.

Modern humanistic thought sees the world naturalistically, withthe spiritual as an entirely different realm. The physical, material world isseen as man’s domain; God is limited to the spiritual realm. By means of Greekdualistic thought structure, the realm of religion was marginalized bydefinition. It was a spiritual, subjectively understood area and was hencepersonal. Whatever its value, it was in a realm unrelated to the “real” world.

The Enlightenment sought out naturallaw andunderstood it in terms of man’s reason. Revelation, since it related to asupernatural beingwas defined as an illegitimate intrusion into the natural world. It could no longer be the basis ofman’s public life, certainly not his laws. This broad area was now viewed asman’s domain; God and religion were boxed into a sub-category of subjectivespirituality.

Morality was increasingly separated from the realm of religionas well, at least as it controlled public life. Morality after theEnlightenment had two sources. Religion could provide an ethic based onpersonal, spiritual belief, but such ethics were increasingly ruled anintrusion into public life. Public morality was, after the Enlightenment,increasingly viewed as a compliance with civil legislation, social conventions,and public opinion. Public morality was democratic and governed by man and hisreason. The validity of religiously based morality was limited to the spiritualrealm and was personally, but not socially, valid.

Pietism was a religious movementthat began in the 17th century.It rightly emphasized the need for a personal application of Christianity butwrongly did so in terms of the revived Greek dualism of Renaissance andEnlightenment thought. Pietism was an emphasis on piety understood in adualistic sense, so it quickly tended to  subjective and even antinomian (anti-nomos, or anti-God’s law) holiness. Pietismdefined Christianity in terms of “spiritual” otherworldliness and saw it inopposition to the worldliness of day-to-day human activity. Pietism, in fact,saw Christianity as a retreat from earthly, worldly concerns, which itincreasingly abandoned.

The Protestant Reformation hademphasized man’s moral status before God and his moral life in society. Itemphasized both justification and regeneration. Justification is God’s legaldeclaration that the believer was righteous because Christ’s righteousness wasput to his account. Regeneration is the empowerment God puts into the believerto make him a “new man.” Justification is man’s new legal status,says the Reformed tradition, while regeneration was his new moral status. There was no division of public andprivate, social and personal, morality.

After the Enlightenment and its entrance into the church throughPietism, the emphasis on the Kingdom of God disappeared. Pietism’s new emphasiswas the inner man, not the sanctified life of the new man. Pietism, havingaccepted a spiritualized view of Christianity, also tended toward the view ofprivate morality as an area of subjective spiritual leadings. Not only was thematerial world left to secularization, the Bible itself was seen as legalisticwhen it delved into specifics of behavior. Pietism’s dualistic, spiritualizedview of Christianity separated public and private morality. This Pietistictrend was also then applied to the Bible. Those laws seen as mundane or worldlywere dismissed as Hebrew “civil” law and seen by Pietists as of no value to“spiritual” Christians.

Humanism is “human-centered” thought, man-centered to the core.It separates religion to another realm, one deemed largely irrelevant to muchof life. It puts religion (especially Christianity) into a religious, spiritualbox and claims secular man is violated should any form of it be taken out ofthat box.

The claims of God are total, however. Neither God, His people,nor His Word are ever to be regulated to a sub-category of being or relevance.We must present the transcendent, authoritative God and His law-word to theworld. To do so, we must begin with presenting Him to the church that continuesto hide within the box to which humanistic thought has sentenced it.

 

Rev. Mark R. Rushdoony ispresident of Chalcedon and Ross House Books. He is also editor-in-chiefof Faith for All of Life  and Chalcedon’s otherpublications.

 

Stonestreet on Christian Dualism

Christian Dualism