Making Sense of the Relationship between Church and Culture

"These five paradigms are points along a spectrum. Often individuals fall into these categories inconsistently over time or in different areas of life." TIFWE

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Jonathan Charles's picture

I carefully read Carson's book, and I think he did give a paradigm for understanding the relationship of Christ to culture.  The paradigm he provided was that of a Christian worldview/the metanarrative of the Bible.  Because God made everything, many things in culture reflect the goodness of God's creation.  Because of the fall, many things in culture reflect man's rebellion against God.  Because of redemption, transformed men and women will inevitably affect the culture in which they live.  Finally, in the New Heaven and New Earth (NHNE), human culture will be what God has always desired.  Carson's main criticism of Niebuhr is that he presented his categories as mutually exclusive.  What I like about Carson's approach is that it is easy to remember and think through when being confronted with a decision about my involvement in an aspect of culture.  If the thing is not marked by human rebellion, then my involvement is ok.  Perhaps the thing is so hopelessly against God that I must have nothing to do with it. But perhaps the thing can be transformed as believers infiltrate it and change it.  Think through this approach in regards to secular music and arts, public education, politics, etc.  The latter emphasis on the NHNE reminds us that whatever change we might bring in culture, it will never be complete until Christ returns.  So, by no means did Carson suggest that by living out transformed lives in culture, we as believers will bring about the total change of things that God wants.  Ultimately, our hope is not in our ability to change culture, but in Christ's return.