Both Heaven Hope and Holiness are misunderstood — for neither permits or encourages escape from this world. I’m willing to say that the emerging movement today is a holiness movement, and by saying that you might accuse me of nonsense. Here’s why I say this:
I know, I know: the emerging movement is at times radically irreverent and its leaders can let vulgarity fly — and I hear the fella up in Seattle is known for it. And he’s supposed to be a theological conservative. Well, we need to get something right here: holiness is not about separation from the world, or not drinking beer, or not going to beaches, or not hanging out with friends after work or not going out on Saturday night. And neither is cussin’ the point.
The emerging movement, at its best, is seeking a holistic gospel and a radical commitment to God’s redemptive work — and that is what holiness is all about. It wants to let God’s work (and his character) shape everything it is doing. That is what Peter commands in 1:15-16. It is the dedication of everything to the way of Jesus, the transformation of secular space into sacred space, and the creation of an alternative community where God’s will holds sway that creates holiness.
It is altogether common (and wrong) to speak of holiness as difference and leave it at that; difference is not the point. Otherness (as in absolute purity or absolute love or absolute focus) that creates the difference. We don’t try to be different, and think we are thereby holy; we try to be wholly dedicated to God in loving God and others, etc., and it is that sacred pursuit that creates holiness. So, let this be said: being different is not the point; being separate is not the point; being good and loving makes us different and that is what matters. Do you hear me on this one?
I’ve said this before: Holiness is not something fragile in need of protection, but something powerful in need of liberation. Holiness is not negative; it is positive. It is God doing what God does and it is humans living out the God-life in this world. It is loving God with a sacred, uncontaminated love, and therefore loving others as God loves them. That is holiness. Holiness is not the dark side of God, with love the good side. Holiness is love directed in the right direction and contained by the proper boundaries.
Holiness, Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:13-21, is about being conformed to God’s nature and not being conformed to ignorant, ill-informed lusts — which are about power and self-indulgence and the modernist impulse to exalt the Subject over the Object (the self over the other). In other words, holiness is loving God and loving others and not loving the Self as the modernist enthroned Self that “others” everyone as it seeks to climb its way up Babel’s tower. It is the opposite of idolatry.
Holiness is sacred love for God and others.
Holiness is easy to abuse, and so abusers have found holiness.
Peter exhorts his readers to look at their pasts to know what holiness is not: their former patriarchal vain traditioins (1:18). Peter exhorts them to join themselves to the way of Jesus if they are to know what holiness is (1:19-21). Jesus’ redemptive work leads us to focus on God and God’s redemptive work. A life dedicated to God’s redemptive work, which manifests itself in so many ways in our world today, is a life of holiness.
Here are the traits of the emerging movement according to Gibbs and Bolger: it is a list of holiness.
1. Identifying with Jesus.
2. Transforming secular space.
3. Living as community.
4. Welcoming the stranger.
5. Serving with generosity.
6. Participating as producers.
7. Creating as created beings.
8. Leading as a body.
9. Merging ancient and contemporary spiritualities.
Do you think this is a list of holiness attributes?