Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2
“In the world, but not of it” is a phrase common to most church-goers, and often interpreted as a central theme of Jesus’ teachings. Christians are called to live and thrive in this world with the knowledge that they are made for some greater purpose. And because of this purpose they are to live not according to standards dictated by context or culture, but rather, strive to live as God would command.
The orthodoxy and catholicity of Christianity can sometimes paint a picture of the Church, faith, and Scripture as a holy ship that floats above the murky waters of the world: untouched and untouchable. Yet, here we find ourselves –learning, dancing, playing, crying –in the world. Moreover, the Christian faith is undoubtedly contextualized by the contemporary dialogue in which it is found. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, makes the clear distinction between the ways of the world and the good, pleasing and perfect will of God. He further suggests some “renewing of the mind” that will be transformative, and ultimately lead us to understand God’s intentions for our lives. Paul seems to argue that Christianity will offer a new lens which allows us to live according to God’s law rather than the patterns of the world.
Nonetheless, I still ask the question, does Christianity truly stand apart from our world? Church history would suggest otherwise: early Christian heresies, Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses, liberation theology in Latin America, Pope Frances’ humble attire. Tracking the church through time and space suggests that Christian beliefs have been shaped by worldly influences. I do not mean to undermine tradition or orthodoxy outright. Rather, I want to emphasize that as Christians we should not be so quick to hold on to Christianity as a separate sphere of our lives, disengaged from the world with which it is inextricably tied. Perhaps, the church is not an ark floating above the waters, but one that lives and breathes within the waters.
The Claremont Ekklesia hopes to step into this dialogue of how a traditional belief system such as Christianity remains transformative and relevant to a secular society. I encourage you to approach each of the following pieces with this question in mind: how does the Christian narrative add to our understanding of what it means to thrive in our world? Our writers and artists hold a variety of Christian beliefs, and we surely do not present a comprehensive essence of Christianity. Rather, we hope that the following pages highlight just a few beautiful genes amidst the great Christian inheritance. Above all, we hope that our thoughts may inspire the renewal of minds, and lead us to that which is good, and pleasing, and perfect.