Thursday, 26 August 2010
Christ and Culture
Carson's conclusion is a good place to start:
To pursue with a passion the robust and nourishing wholeness of biblical theology as the controlling matrix for our reflection on the relations between Christ and culture will, ironically, help us to be far more flexible than the inflexible grids that are often made to stand in the Bible's place. Scripture will mandate that we think holistically and subtyly, wisely and penetratingly, under the Lordship of Christ - utterly dissatisfied with the anesthetic of the culture. The complexity will mandate our service, without insisting that things turn out a certain way: we learn to trust and obey and leave the results to God, for we learn from both Scripture and history that sometimes faithfulness leads to awakening and reformation, sometimes to persecution and violence, and sometimes to both. Because creation gave us embodied existence, and beause our ultimate hope is the resurrection life in the new heaven and the new earth, we will understand that being reconciled to god and bowing to the Lordship of King Jesus cannot possibly be reduced to the privatized religion or a gorm of ostensibly spirituality abstracted from full-orbed bodily existence now. (pages 227-228)
Carson rejects the five options offered by Niebuhr, noting that in his opinion two of these fail the test of being adequately Christian! Carson offers throughout biblical theology as a way of reading the bible which engages us with the bible in our own culture(s) in the hope that this will offer us a Christian way to respond to the challenges of non-Christian and anti-Christian expressions of culture.
Carson at times approves of the definition of culture offered by Geertz:
[T]he culture concept ... denotes an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic form by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes towards life. (page 2)
This is helpful, not least in its brevity, and may be useful to others when writing and talking about culture.
On the whole Carson's book is worth reading as it addresses issues of cultural engagement which rightly press in upon the church and our Christian living.