Thursday, June 23, 2011
The Priority of Culture
Culture precedes apologetics—or maybe it would be more accurate to say apologetics only matters for the believer when it leads him to a greater comfort with or confidence in the culture that has formed and continues to form him, freeing him from doubts so that the culture can mold him more deeply. (Critical reflection on that culture and argument is the job of theology, and theology may, of course, suggest doubts. It’s complicated, as they say in movies.)Somewhere in this mix lie the problems with politics we Evangelicals seem to have. We have engaged politics in an effort to engage culture, when politics, in reality, flows out of culture. We argue when something other is called for.
Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees might apply to many of us, cut rate Gnostics that we are, who assume—partly, perhaps, because we like to argue and think we’re good at it—that knowledge and particularly success in argument is the essence of the Faith. We could easily be found praying “Lord, I thank you that I am not like that poor guy over there with his holy cards, who wouldn’t know what to say to Richard Dawkins,” when he is having a lively and intimate conversation with Our Lord, His Mother, and several saints with whom we are not yet on speaking terms.
We use, I believe, apologetics and argument as a shield against the real and deep working of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, but renewal is not the same as education. We isolate Christ to the merely intellectual, and hence He never affects our personal culture and therefore can never affect the larger culture, which in turn would change the politics of the nation.
AS with most things, if you you really want to make them better, you must start with making yourself better. I wonder what would have if the church quit focusing on growth and started focusing on building a church culture?