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From the Summer 2013 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Blazing the North-South Trail

by Bill Smith
Director, C.S. Lewis Institute – Atlanta

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  Offering a fitting diagnosis of our times, in The Pilgrim’s Regress C.S. Lewis examines the intellectual history of Europe. He tells of a straight road representing orthodox Christianity that runs through the center of a country. To the north of this road is a territory characterized by rationalism, reason, dogmatics, and systematization. The southern territory has characteristics such as openness, feeling, mysticism, experientialism, and naturalism. Lewis describes the age in which he lived as “predominantly Northern.”5 We live in a different day—as the old saying goes, “the times they are a changin’.” We are living in a time when civilization is shifting southward. This southward move is affecting the way our culture talks about, pursues, and practices spirituality.
  So how does having this diagnosis affect how we relate to twenty-first-century seekers of spirituality? I think our model should be Paul at Mars Hill (Acts 17:16–31). Paul meets people where they are and applies the healing balm of the gospel to those who are alienated from the living God. He both affirms and challenges his listeners at Athens. To use Lewis’s analogy, orthodox Christianity cuts through the center of the northern and the southern territory. Biblical spirituality is holistic in the truest sense. It encompasses reason and feeling, boundaries and openness, systemization and mystery. It is truly integrative, whereas our culture often swaps one form of dualism for another as it overreacts to modernity’s tendency to deify reason and science by abandoning reason for mystery, feeling, and experience. In this case the supposed cure is as bad as or worse than the disease. Perhaps God’s message to us as His people is that if we want to have the maximum impact on a culture, as disciples of Christ we need to proclaim and live a more experiential Christianity that integrates the mind (orthodoxy), the heart (orthopathy), and the hands (orthopraxy). All of life from everyday experience to the extraordinary must become the place where we meet God and are transformed. This is the kind of God-centered, earthly life (Rom. 12:1–2) that brings glory to God and is used by the Holy Spirit to illustrate the good news about Jesus Christ. An explanation of what God has done in Christ coupled with an experiential spirituality is the best remedy for both those living down south and those residing in the northern country. Ajith Fernando says it well,

So the current interest in spirituality is a challenge to the church to get its act together. We have the answer that the world is looking for. But have we ourselves experienced it? Do we know the glory of intimacy with the loving and holy God who is supreme above creation? Has this relationship transformed us into morally pure people? If we can answer these questions in the affirmative, we will truly be light to the darkness of the world in this postmodern era.6

1. Ronald Berman, ed., “A World Split Apart,” in Solzhenitsyn at Harvard: The Address, Twelve Early Responses, and Six Later Reflections, (Washington, DC: Ethics and Public Policy Center of Georgetown University, 1980), 18–20.
2. George Gallup, Jr., and Timothy Jones, The Next American Spirituality: Finding God in the Twenty-first Century (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2000), 14.
3. See compilation of Gallup polls on religion,
4. Alan Roxburgh, Reaching a New Generation: Strategies for Tomorrow’s Church (Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 1998), 110.
5. C. S. Lewis, “Preface,” The Pilgrim’s Regress (1943; repr. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Pocket), 12.
6. Ajith Fernando, “The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ,” in Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 136.

Bill Smith is the Director of the C.S. Lewis Institute Fellows Program Atlanta. He also founded On the Way Ministries, an equipping ministry devoted to renewing the mind, engaging the heart, and encouraging community. Bill teaches in a variety of contexts in order to help men and women to know God in a deeper way and develop practical wisdom for every area of life. Bill lives in Duluth, Georgia, with his wife, Lisa, and two daughters Jessica and Jana.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE:  Knowing & Doing is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.
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