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Catholic Social Science Review

Volume 23, 2018

David Tamisiea
Pages 93-112
DOI: 10.5840/cssr20182310

In the World, Not of the World, but Still for the World
The Christian Lay Faithful’s Secular Character

The Second Vatican Council teaches in Lumen Gentium that the defining feature of the Christian lay vocation is its secular character. The Christian lay faithful are called to seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and ordering them according to God’s will, and by infusing the world with a Christian spirit. In Christifideles Laici, St. John Paul II offers a deeper theological foundation for the laity’s secular character based upon Creation and Redemption. The Christian layperson participates in God’s creative work by his involvement in the world’s affairs, but draws upon grace and instruction in the redemptive order so that these activities can be done in an upright manner. An early Christian witness to the laity’s secular character is the Letter to Diognetus. As the Letter makes clear, the Christian living in the world is fully involved in human society by divine vocation, and yet is called to oppose and rectify its sinful aspects. Vatican II, John Paul II, and the Letter to Diognetus all show that the Christian lay faithful are called to be “in the world, not of the world, but still for the world.”