I’ve realized recently that most Christians I know in their 20’s and 30’s have gotten away from a concern for personal holiness (of course, the term and the concept of holiness are both misunderstood and openly deprecated). The exception to this rule, as far as I can tell, is the fundamentalist strain of conservative (often Baptist, in reality if not name) Christianity.
Christians in the mainline Churches have gotten away from this, as near as I can tell. An interesting exception is someone like Lauren Winner, an Anglican convert who rediscovered the virtue of chastity late in life. Near as I can tell, most Episcopalians are so embroiled over gay sex that they can’t think through the rest of the Christian life. And of course, some strains of Christianity care little for the effort of the individual Christian (in community!) to grow in grace, to pray, hope, and work in their imitation of Christ out of a conviction that none of this matters a whit. Against this, I have found comfort in Orthodox theology. Check it:
“…the road that other Christians take [non-monastics] is longer and less certain, but it isn’t impossible for some of them too to reach the peak of holiness; or in any case even if they don’t go that far, any Christian is obligated to force himself to make spiritual progress. And a certain amount of restraint is connected with this progress.” (Staniloae, Orthodox Spirituality, 150)
We are not freed to go on living as if God was not worthy to be glorified, more and more every day, with all of our faculties. Is holiness to preserved (albeit in a perverted form) only among the most dogmatic and narrow of the Church universal? Even the Methodists, who were at one time known for their emphasis on personal and corporate “scriptural” holiness, have gotten away from this hard teaching of the Lord: “be holy.”
This God that we worship is to be adored, and this adoration is meant to transform us. The famous Eastern dictum still holds: “God became man that man might become God.” Deification – not Gentile hedonism – is our vocation.