Skip to comments.Reclaiming Occupied Territory: Christianity and the Cultural Mandate
Posted on 06/03/2004 11:20:45 AM PDT by Mr. Silverback
Some weeks ago I spoke to a gathering of pastors about engaging the cultural battles of the day. Afterward, the pastors had a lot of questionsbut they were also a bit confused. One asked: But wont engaging the culture this way interfere with fulfilling the Great Commission? Isnt this our jobto win people to Christ?
That people still think this way left me momentarily speechless. Of course were called to fulfill the Great Commission, I replied. But were also called to fulfill the cultural commission. Christians are agents of Gods saving gracebringing others to Christ, I explained. But we are also agents of His common grace: Were to sustain and renew His creation, defend the created institutions of family and society, and critique false worldviews.
As I spoke, I saw the pastors eyes light up in a great Aha! moment.
This is a matter on which the Scriptures are very clear. In Genesis, were told that for five days, God created the universe. On the sixth day, He created human beingsand ordered them to pick up where He left off. They were to reflect His image and have dominionbut from then on, the development of the creation would be primarily social and cultural: It would be the work humans performed as they obeyed Gods command to fill and subdue the earth.
The same command binds Christians today. We bear children, plant crops, build cities, form governments, and create works of art. While sin corrupted Gods created order, it did not obliterate it. And when we are redeemed, we are both freed from sin and restored to do what God designed us to do: create culture.
Remember, every part of creation came from Gods hand, every part was drawn into the mutiny of humanity against God, and every part will someday be redeemed. This means we must care about all of life. In Colossians 1, Paul notes that everything was made by and for Christ, and that everything will be reconciled by Christ; its clear that Christians are saved not only from something (sin) but also to something (Christs lordship over all of life).
This is why Christians must never limit themselves to evangelism alone or to the feel good church. We must not stand by while our culture is hijacked by alien philosophies hostile to the created order. Look at the issues before us: gay marriagean oxymoron which will undermine the family; the creation of life in mans image, that is, cloning; abortion; and terrorism driven by religious extremists, to name just a few.
If Christians do not seize the moment and act on the cultural commission, there soon will be no culture left to save. But when we do our duty, we can change the world. Look at Christians like William Wilberforce, who spent most of his life fightingand winningthe war against slavery in Britain.
We need to do the same thing. It means voting wisely, contending for truth, and helping redeem our neighbors and our neighborhood.
Yes, Christians must evangelize the world. But each of us must also work out our role in the common grace in our own lives, glorifying God by helping restore His creation. In so doing, we will bring the majesty of God and His righteousness to bear against the crumbling structures of a fallen society.
But when we do our duty, we can change the world. Look at Christians like William Wilberforce, who spent most of his life fightingand winningthe war against slavery in Britain.
Thank God he didn't buy into the "stay inside the church walls" mentality.
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This sentence assumes that Christians do not create culture themselves.
A clear definition of sin is part of the gospel message. Otherwise we are saved from what?
But, the evangelicals' hesitation is based on the undeniable New Testament assumption that the first and indispensable step is personal repentance and faith in Christ.
If that step is skipped or neglected or marginalized in the midst of some sort of "culture war", then you may be doing your own definition of good works, but it is not what Jesus enjoined on the church.
A "culture war", if that means legal or political action, is NOT WHAT JESUS TOLD THE CHURCH TO DO.
If you dispute this, you simply haven't read the gospels.
This is an assumption, and as such is bad exegesis, and this bad exegesis colors the rest of his theology.
The truth is, he does not know, any more than anybody else, what the pre-lapsarian plan for the earth looked like. He ASSUMES it meant have families, GOVERNMENTS, create art -- but that is an assumption, mainly because that is the only sort of culture we know. Now. After the Fall.
When you cannot separate your own assumptions from what the biblical text actually says you cannot avoid error.
A faith that dangles in space by itself, in isolation from the rest of life, is gnostic, not Christian. See Eph. 2:10 for the why of our salvation.
Fulfilling the Great Commission is a task not in any sense "isolated", but it is personalistic, since abstractions and institutions are not Jesus' interests at all.
In fact, the tendency to disdain any object of concern other than the individual person is just about the defining element of Jesus' personality -- as depicted in the words of the canonical text, not the one we wish we had.
As an aside, I think you wanted to call me a docetic, not a gnostic. Gnostics were often un-isolated, to a fault.
"If Christians do not seize the moment and act on the cultural commission, there soon will be no culture left to save."
Hmm. I dunno...I wonder if perhaps the resulting 'absence' of culture implied in the above statement might not better reveal the need for a return to a 'nobler' culture (for lack of a better word).
Perhaps our present culture, with mega and mondo churches and evangelicals falling all over themselves trying to blend in and engage in silly modern ideas such as 'marketing' and 'seeker-sensitive' ploys, needs to just go ahead and disintegrate, leaving nothing but dust and ashes. What will finally wake people up or be the danged last straw? I mean, personally, I find constant commercials in the midst of prime time television shows about erection problems and/or the lack thereof about as offensive as it gets and wonder what the heck is next.
When "culture" crashes and burns and nothing is left, perhaps Christianity can rediscover what it was really all about in the first place and what it is of value it has to say, and begin doing something worthwhile again besides building little pop-music kingdoms, 20 acre mini-cities (megachurches, and now they want their own STATE, fer cryin' out loud), etc.
Ah well. Rotten tomatoes will start flying now, I suppose! Heaven forbid one should critique evangelicals.
Talk about "bad exegesis" and errorist assumptions!
You actually think you can get away with saying, "he does not know, any more than anybody else, what the pre-lapsarian plan for the earth looked like. He ASSUMES it meant have families..."?
Hey, Gen 1:28 and 2:24 are pre-fall purposes clearly outlined in Scripture:
"Be fruitful and increase in number." (Gen. 1:28)
"...a man will leave his father & mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." (Gen. 2:24)
Jesus Himself sanctioned Gen. 2 when he said: "Haven't you read that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'. They are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together let no one separate." (Matt 19:4-6)
So I ask you the same question Jesus asked, "Haven't you read...?" What's this gobbly-goop about whether or not the culture of families was intended within God's plan for the earth?
Talk about not reading the gospels! I suppose you're going to pull out some unrevealed manuscript citing Jesus' rebuke of his cousin, John the Baptist, after John engaged in direct lobbying:
"But when John rebuked Herod the tetrach because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother's wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison." (Luke 3:19-20)
Poor John. He hadn't read Taliesan's Commentary on the Gospels. Maybe if he had that opportunity, he would have stuck to "doin' what cuz Jesus told him to do" and he wouldn't have lost his head.
The first and indispensable step is one you or any other evangelical had no part of initiating...Hence, he gets all the glory for it! (See 1 Cor. 12:3; John 6:28-29; John 15:16).
And by the time we get around to responding in faith triggered by His love, mercy, compassion, and grace, He doesn't try to compartmentalize acts prompted by the grace of His faith like so many evangelicals do. Otherwise, the sheeps and goats would be separated according to your standard of "repentance and faith" and not how our faith bleeds over into the public square (Matthew 25:36-45).
It's easy to label our sins of omission in the public square as "political." That way, every face behind every abstract "social issue" can be excused away as to why we didn't act on their behalf.
Certainly the Church-at-large misses out on following the heartbeat of Jesus' agenda. But Jesus wasn't as quick to squash zealousness in the public square as you might think.
Nowhere is Simon referred to as "Simon the ex-Zealot." Nowhere is there a hint of the elitist attitude within Jesus that we find among many evangelicals who would not ever want to be caught in the same picture or the same heaven with a Jerry Falwell type. No, Jesus didn't stay at arms' length from Simon the Zealot. Rather, He picked him as a disciple.
A "culture war", if that means legal or political action, is NOT WHAT JESUS TOLD THE CHURCH TO DO.
You're dead on. Certainly on can participate in politics, but, ultimately what will change the hearts and minds of people is Christ, and Christ alone.
To me lobbying, in the political sense, is different than preaching. Which is what John was doing with Herod.
Yup, just give the same act a religious label and it's biblically sanctioned; but commit the exactly same act under a different pretense or a different umbrella, and, yup, that's out of bounds.
So are you saying that if I to tell Ted Kennedy that his marital infidelity is contrary to the will of God it's lobbying?
If you haven't realized it by now, there are victims covered under Jesus' "least of these" focus of Matt 25 that are entirely politicized in today's environment. You can't even talk about abortion w/out it coming under the political umbrella.
Therefore, somebody could always maintain that loving our pre-born neighbors as ourselves in the public square is a political activity and also a lobbying activity; hence, these folks conclude, we're not called to do that as our primary focus.
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