Holiness and Cultural Apologetics
Cultural apologetics has become more and more necessary as our culture has become both more “religious” and more anti-Christian. It provides a way of speaking to people about the gospel in terms they understand.
I came to cultural apologetics through culture shock. For eighteen years, I taught theology in secular, “godless” France. When I returned, American culture was still religious but was changing religion. After being back for six months, I wrote my first book in English: The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age (1992). I argued that the New Age movement was not a weird sect but a major apostasy that would change the very soul of the culture. Twenty-four years later, I’ll let the reader decide if I was right.
Over those years, I have used a number of phrases to describe the raging religious conflict: orthodoxy and gnosticism, Christianity and paganism, monism and theism. I finally settled on a simple formula—Oneism or Twoism, a phrase I came to from staring hard and long at Romans 1:25, where the brilliant Apostle Paul takes us to ground zero of the nature of our humanity. There are only two ways of being human. You either worship creation (in a thousand different ways) or you worship the Creator.
I call the worship of creation “Oneism” because worshiping creation implies that everything is divine. If that is true, everything is essentially the same and there are ultimately no distinctions. This is the essence of paganism and polytheism but also of atheism. You could call this worldview a homo (same) cosmology (all is one).
If, on the other hand, you worship the Creator, you have understood that there are two essential realities in existence—the reality of God the Creator and the reality of everything else that is fundamentally other than God because it is created. You could call this worldview, based on otherness, a hetero (other) cosmology (all is two).
Thanks to Paul’s great insight, you can apply this to everything, which is either paganly Oneist or biblically Twoist.
For cultural apologetics, it follows that Christianity’s teaching about the nature of the world and the being of God is not merely a sentimental or spiritual preference. Christianity is inextricably tied to a cosmology that fits the deep nature of existence. The creation carries a clear imprimatur of a personal, transcendent, Trinitarian God who created all that exists ex nihilo (from nothing) for His own glory.
You, dear reader, may hesitate to use this unusual terminology, for fear that it lacks serious biblical warrant. Let me ease your conscience.
As I prepared to give lectures for Ligonier some time ago, I recalled how much R.C. Sproul had thought and written about biblical holiness. The penny dropped. Twoism is another way of talking about holiness. Let me explain.
Many Christian writers confuse holiness and wholeness, but the term wholeness comes from the Greek term holos, from which we get “catholic.” Kat’ holos means “according to the whole,” or “universal.” In holos everything is included.
The word holy comes from a totally different Greek root. Hagios (holy), meaning an “object of awe,” translates a form of the Hebrew verb qod, “to divide.” Things that are holy (such as the Sabbath day) are separate, set apart. God “blessed the seventh day and made it holy” (Gen. 2:3).
We must conclude that “holiness” is not primarily a moral or ethical concept but the biblical principle of making correct distinctions—in other words, holiness is Twoism. When we say God is holy, we are saying that He is different in His ontological being, and that relative to every other being, He is “other,” that is, “holy.” (Of course, God is, in His very nature, the definition of morality, so He is also morally pure.)
Herman Bavinck said, “The holiness of God, that is, His distinction from, and His absolute transcendence of, every creature—it was that which was lost to the Gentiles.”
God is not only holy/distinct in His relation to the world, but He is holy in Himself. God in His divine being is three distinct persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who are never confused—although they possess the same divine nature. Thus, God is the source of personal holiness.
The world was created holy, with everything in its rightful place. God carefully separated day and night, seas and dry land, etc.; He created different “kinds” and gave them all specific “names,” and declared everything was “very good.” In His creation, God established distinctions. Distinctions are essential to holiness. To make holy is to establish the structures of Twoism.
Enter cultural apologetics. Our cultural decline can be measured by the contemporary determination to “eliminate the binary,” that is, to erase the concept of Twoism, and to promote unholy Oneism. Teachers now seek to “model nonjudgmental behavior and challenge binary thinking.” We now are discovering “nonbinary pronouns.” A United Methodist training curriculum for their VBS programs proposes dropping “the gender binary by avoiding such language as boys and girls.” Progressive spiritual teachers propose “non-dual” or non-binary spirituality.
The contemporary attack on “the binary” (twoness) is a massive cosmological attack on the Twoist nature of existence reflecting the Creator-creature distinction and all the distinctions the Creator has made. What I suggested in 1992 was confirmed by the British Jewish philosopher Melanie Phillips in 2010: “The real agenda has been to use sexuality as a battering ram against the fundamental [i.e., Twoist] tenets of Western culture in order to destroy it and replace it with a new [i.e., Oneist] type of society altogether.”
Jesus is the only answer to our fallen Oneist situation, as the transcendent God mysteriously became man in order to bring us sinners, by His cross, into a restored holy Twoist communion with Himself as our Creator and Redeemer and with one another.
Dr. Peter Jones is executive director of truthXchange, a ministry that exists to recognize and respond to the rising tide of neopaganism. He has authored several books and is the teacher on the series Only Two Religions.