The Problem of Dualism

I mentioned yesterday in my sermon how we tend to struggle with limiting God’s work to our so-called “spiritual life.” It is easy to feel like a Christian while at church or reading the Bible. It can feel “normal” to be a disciple of Jesus when surrounded by fellows brothers and sisters in Christ. The question for us is whether or not we truly apply God’s teaching and develop Godly character for the remainder of the week.

The fancy philosophical word for this kind of thinking is something called dualism. I studied philosophy in college before seminary, so this is something I’m passionate about exploring. Dualism is fairly complicated sort of idea with different uses throughout human history. Throughout the ages, thinkers have argued that there are basically two aspects of our world: mind and matter. As you can guess, this is one way to describe how we interact with the world around us. We observe matter with our senses, and make sense of it all with our minds.

But regardless of how philosophers might disagree about all the complicated details, dualism has some broad characteristics. For instance, the mind is often depicted as:

  • Ideal
  • Rational
  • Powerful
  • Permanent
  • Sacred

And on the other hand, the body, or matter, is often described as:

  • Corrupted
  • Emotional
  • Weak
  • Temporary
  • Secular

This might sound complicated, philosophical, and abstract, but the idea really has some very practical implications. Christians often struggle with believing that the the “mind” or spiritual part of our life is the most important and that it is truly sacred. All other things in our life—the feelings we have, the bodily sensations we experience, and the states of being we go through—are “secular” and arguably less important. We then compartmentalize areas of our life into these categories.

Notice the major problem of this dualistic thinking. We put God inside of a box when we think that there are “spiritual” parts of our life. In reality, God ought to be important to every aspect of our existence. There shouldn’t be a separation between our “spiritual” and “physical” lives… everything belongs to God!

Sunday mornings shouldn’t just be your only “God time.” Hopefully we experience the power of God throughout the remainder of the week! Bible reading shouldn’t be the only way we encounter God… Hopefully we also see God in actions and encounters with other people, too! God shouldn’t just impact your “church life.” God should also impact your work, home, family, and community life, too.

Too often we think that there are only certain areas of our life that we should hand over to God. Likewise, we might prize Sundays, bible studies, and worship music more than other areas of human existence. These are obviously important things and activities for Christians to us as means to grow in our faith. But in reality, God calls us to dedicate absolutely everything to him, and that includes things like our finances, marriages, parenting, everyday thoughts, and emotions.

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