Wednesday, February 06, 2013
Culture and Church
Case in point this weekend: a CP interview with Ken Myers, called “Is the ‘Culture’ Really the Church’s Problem?”. Myers wrote one of my all-time favorite books on Christianity and its relationship to American culture: All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes, now available in a new edition.
Myers, a former NPR reporter, is the founder and host of Mars Hill Audio journal, a bimonthly audio magazine featuring interviews with some of today’s foremost Christian thought leaders in academics, politics, and the arts.
In this current interview, Myers contends that Christians are spending an inordinate amount of attention on the failings and dangers of the surrounding “culture” when what we should be truly worried about is the culture in the church.
This starts, he says, with an insufficient understanding of the Gospel.
What I mean is, we have reduced the Gospel to an abstract message of salvation that can be believed without having any necessary consequences for how we live. In contrast, the redemption announced in the Bible is clearly understood as restoring human thriving in creation.
Redemption is not just a restoration of our status before God through the life and work of Jesus Christ, but a restoration of our relationship with God as well. And our relationship with God is expressed in how we live. Salvation is about God’s restoring our whole life, not just one invisible aspect of our being (our soul), but our life as lived out in the world in ways that are in keeping with how God made us. The goal of salvation is blessedness for us as human beings. In other words, we are saved so that our way of life can be fully in keeping with God’s ordering of reality.
The pervasive, inadequate view of salvation allows me to grab hold of a word of private salvation for myself without any organic connection to the Kingdom vision of Jesus. Salvation doesn’t just make me a “new creature” (a mistranslation of 2Cor. 5:17), it brings me into a “new creation.” As J.B. Phillips paraphrases Ephesians 1:10 — “[God] purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in him.”
Can't disagree with that, though I do think there is a loop that needs to be closed. If we actually build the kinds of Christians being discussed here we will in fact radically change the culture. History has shown that to be the case time and again. Part of what Christ's ministry demonstrates is that when it comes to engaging culture, we are not limited to the tools that culture gives us.
The transformation that Christ seeks to create in our lives is so radical and makes us so winsome that the usual rules do not apply. It is a supernatural event, not a natural one.
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