In Episode 1 of For the Life of the World, Stephen Grabill and Evan Koons lay the groundwork for viewing Christian cultural engagement through the lens of exile. “We are strangers in a strange land,” Grabill explains, and yet “we are meant to make something of the world.”
As Koons recently expounded over at Q Ideas, Christians have long struggled with the idea of being “in but not of the world,” resorting to a range of faulty attitudes and approaches, whether it be fortification, domination, or accommodation.
In his famous work, Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton writes of his own struggle in this area, describing the difficulty he endured in reconciling this with that. In chapter five (“The Flag of the World”), he ponders the peculiar tension between pessimism and optimism in the Christian life — a feature that perplexed him throughout much of his life. “Christianity was accused, at one and the same time, of being too optimistic about the universe and of being too pessimistic about the world,” he writes.
These distinct accusations continued to compete throughout his intellectual and spiritual development, and as they did, Chesterton continued to be confounded by the paradox. “On this system one could fight all the forces of existence without deserting the flag of existence,” he writes. “One could be at peace with the universe and yet at war with the world. St. George could still fight the dragon, however big the monster bulked in the cosmos, though he were bigger than the mighty cities or bigger than the everlasting hills.”
Then, one day, it all made sense. (more…)