The modern Christian is confronted by an ancient problem—how to live as a Christian in a non-Christian world. Through the centuries, people calling themselves Christians have devised a number of strategies for doing this. One of these is isolation, retreat from the world’s compelling and insidious allure. This has been the policy of monasticism, in which the religious live separated from the world. Various non-monastic groups throughout history have adopted a strategy of psychological isolation in an effort to maintain their identity within a hostile, contaminating world. Purity is sought through isolation.

A second strategy is accommodation. Out of a concern for relevance grows the idea that the world’s values and attitudes may not be so pagan after all, and that one can accommodate one’s faith to them. Some contemporary theologians have tried to secularize the faith in order to make it “relevant” to modern man. On another level, church members who know and care little about theology have attempted to cope with the challenge of modern life by accommodating their standards of behavior to those of the world. And so the norms of Christianity are gradually modified until in effect they are given up, and the Christian and non-Christian become indistinguishable. Relevance is sought by accommodation.

Another way of dealing with the world is belligerence. On the thesis that the best defense is a good offense, the world and its people are regarded by some with hostility and suspicion, and are considered fair targets for attack. The Christian who is not constantly outspoken in his criticism of the world and of non-Christian people not only may be regarded as in danger of being assimilated by it but also as a lukewarm compromiser. Reputation ...

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