Transcend for purity, and in hospitality include

Peter writes, in response to yesterday’s post:

I repeat here my appreciation of your purity-vs-hospitality perspective, and your inclusiveness of those who have not “yet” agreed with you and maybe never will. You are right that this is difficult and painful. But I want to add one more word of support: in taking a stance like this, you are strongly and consistently favoring oneness, non-dualism, in a pragmatic application. Way to go! I highly commend this.

Thanks, Peter, for the insight. Yes, I see holiness as encompassing two drives: the drive toward purity and the drive toward hospitality. I think we are the most faithful to God’s call to holiness when we hold these two drives in creative tension. Furthermore, I think much of the polarization between so-called conservatives and so-called liberals in the body of Christ today stems from the fact that conservatives typically favor purity over hospitality, while liberals often favor hospitality over purity.

Reading Peter’s comment, I am reminded of Ken Wilber’s insistence that all evolutionary growth involves a drive to transcend what has gone before, but ultimately also to include the earlier stages of growth as the newer level emerges. It occurs to me that the drive to purity is a drive to transcend, while the drive to hospitality is a drive to include.

So, am I merely suggesting that the call to holiness is the call to evolution? I don’t want to be reductionistic here. But I do believe true holiness is our ultimate and beatific destiny. So in that sense, it resonates not only with Wilber’s ideas, but also with Teilhard de Chardin’s “Omega Point” and Plotinus’ idea of the ultimate return to the One.

Purity means trying to set ourselves apart for God. Hospitality means recognizing that God is everywhere and there’s nothing we can do to move any closer to (or further from) God to begin with. And holiness somehow involves riding both of these waves to their fullest potential.

Why Is "Mysticism" A Dirty Word?
Meet the Newest Doctor of the Church: Saint Gregory of Narek
Happy St. Hildegard's Day!
Seven Essential Thomas Merton Books
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Bob

    I know there is a tension with a bleeding heart liberal and an angry conservative or some perception in the middle. I think institutions come across on one end or the other. As I relate to people on a one to one basis the categories seem to matter less. the tension between the polarities seem more natural on a personal level.

  • Peter

    I may be jumping into a place that is not mine in saying the following, but I welcome the initiative on Bob’s part toward reconciliation on the personal, one-to-one basis. I suggest that whatever degree of reconciliation that is actually possible is going to be based on the reality of the cross, the sacrifice of Jesus for us, no matter how differently this may be interpreted by the opposite sides of the tension.

    This is NOT intended as a wimpy “Let’s just ignore our differences and all just get along” kind of suggestion. Any oneness we experience or enjoy has to be based in truth, in the prayer of our Master and Savior in John 17 that we all be one in Him. But I do believe that He has taken into His body all the differences between nations, belief systems, and viewpoints, and nailed those differences to the tree. And in practical application, after all, He had radical anti-establishment revolutionaries on His same team with establishment-sympathizing tax collectors! Apparently the realities of His kingdom on earth are intended to transcend these very real differences; our oneness is on a more foundational (ontological?) level where we can, in fact, “all get along.”

    In the interest of the Kingdom of God,

  • judith collier

    Does the outweighing of hospitality make us apolegetics? i liked reading one of sam harris’s books once i got over my indignation.he had some really good points but definitely not balanced.Does holiness consist of always having tempered reactions? Some of the big saints of long ago were hell on wheels as far as patience goes! judy

  • http://naqsh.org/ned/ ned

    I agree with Bob on the idea that person-to-person relationships should be given primacy, though I suspect for different reasons.

    Obviously institutions deepen the divide — institutions by themselves are soulless by definition. It is a pity that human beings enslave themselves to institutions, because that is the quickest way to imprison the soul.

    I don’t think institutions are evil or wrong. I just think the soul — i.e. our inner life — ought to get priority. The outer world must be dictated by our deepest, innermost convictions, not the other way around. Anything can become a means of idolatory if you get attached to it (and most of us, if we are honest, will have to admit that we are mired in idolatory day in and day out). Spiritual detachment and inner surrender to the Divine is the only way out.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    I am not so quick to dismiss institutions as “soulless” — or if they are soulless, I think we need to be careful not to confuse institution with collectivity. I think we have created soulless institutions in the modern and postmodern worlds, because we deny the existence of the soul. But I agree with Ken Wilber that holons, by nature, have interior and exterior dimensions, as well as individual and collective ways of being. Like it or not, “man is by nature a political animal.” We are given to create community, family, tribe, church, corporation, state, nation, global-village. All of these are “community” when they work, “institution” when they become dry and lifeless. So the cure for soulless institution is not to lionize the primacy of the individual, but for us individuals to form collective engagements for the purpose of re-vitalizing soulful community.

    Just some middle of the night thoughts here…

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    Answering Judy on the saints who were “hell on wheels” — I don’t think anyone, even saints, are ever expected to be perfect. The American philosopher Ken Wilber talks a lot about “lines of intelligence” which suggests that just because a person is brilliant in one line (say, mathematics) doesn’t mean they’ll be brilliant in all lines (the math wizard might be socially inept — the classic definition of a “geek”). Saints may have been brilliant when it came to relating to God, but not so swift when relating to other humans (or vice versa). And while I know the Christian paradigm has historically been one of intolerance toward sin or heresy, I think in our postmodern world the love and compassion of Christ ought to come first.

  • judith collier

    Carl, i think i’m getting(from you) how to break theology apart and throw in the love and make a good cake. After venturing into fundamentalism for about 15 years I was feeling guilty about not “preaching” the bible. I have finally decided, actually it is in the bible, to answer with respect and humility concering my faith as it is a gift from God. If no one asks, well, i can just get on with loving them. I knew this in a way but i’m the type that has to get ‘it’ down solid for the sake of my integrity. thank you,(again) judy