I think the expression "in the world but not of the world" is confusing and clichéd. Somehow between Merton and L'Engle, it makes more sense.

The artist who is Christian, like any other Christian, is required to be in this world, but not of it. We are to be in this world as healers, as listeners, and as servants.
--Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water

My father and mother were captives in that world, knowing that did not belong with it or in it, and yet unable to get away from it. They were in the world and not of it--not because they were saints, but in a different way: because they were artists. The integrity of an artists lifts a man above the level of the world without delivering him from it.

--Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

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