Category Archives: Culture
Trevin Wax has completed a six-part interview with Andy Crouch that I thought I’d pass along:
Part 1: What is “The Culture”?
Part 3: Critiquing Culture
Part 4: Conserving Culture
Part 6: Response to John Seel
(HT: Justin Taylor)
Here are some really great links to lectures by Dr. William Edgar of Westminster Theological Seminary on the theme of Christ and culture.
These are the lecture titles (from 2006):
- Can We Be Good Without God? (Q&A)
- Overcoming Inertia: Revolutionizing Culture in Our Times
- A Biblical Theology of Entertainment
- Music and the Book of Revelation (Part 1)
- Music and the Book of Revelation (Part 2)
- Heaven In A NightClub (Jazz Concert)
- You and Your Calling
Dr. Edgar’s books include:
Several weeks ago, Wendy Doniger, Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago’s Divinity School, wrote an article titled, “All Beliefs Welcome, Unless They are Forced on Others.” In this article (which can be found here in its entirety) Doniger makes statements such as these about Gov. Sarah Palin:
Belief in god, like getting pregnant, is a private matter between consenting adults (or one consenting adult and one or more deities) and is no one else’s business. …But I object strongly when anyone (and especially anyone with political power) tries to take their theology out in public, to inflict those private religious (or sexual) views on other people. In both sex and religion (which combine in the debates about abortion), Sarah Palin’s views make me fear that the Republican party has finally lost its mind…Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman. The Republican party’s cynical calculation that because she has a womb and makes lots and lots of babies (and drives them to school! wow!) she speaks for the women of America, and will capture their hearts and their votes, has driven thousands of real women to take to their computers in outrage. She does not speak for women; she has no sympathy for the problems of other women, particularly working class women. (Emphasis mine)
And the article goes on in much the same tone for its length (though it’s not terribly long, so read it if you can).
When I read it, I feel compelled to offer what I take to be a reasoned response to some of Dr. Donigers claims. Most of what I say below in more on the faith and reason, and abortion issue than on her attacks against Gov. Palin’s character. Here is my response in full:
This is a very interesting piece, and for a number of reasons. First, I find it is ironic (and a bit amusing) that Dr. Doniger chastises Mrs. Palin for supposedly attempting to speak on behalf of all women (not to mention that Doniger appears to be able to read the intentions of Palin’s heart, “she has no sympathy for the problems of other women”), yet herself “speaks for all women” when she expounds her views on ethics of the life-abortion debate.
Does she not see the inherent contradiction of her position? She would refuse others the ability to do the very things she herself does in this article!
Also, contra Biden (and those that follow suit), the issue of when life begins is not a matter of faith. And it has essentially been a platform for pro-abortion advocates to state the conflict in terms that say that pro-lifers believe what they do became of religious convinctions. This simply is not the case, the pro-life position is firmly rooted in the scientific claim that human life begins at conception, or as Dr. Jerome LeJeune, (“the Father of Modern Genetics,” University of Descartes, Paris) says, “To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion . . . it is plain experimental evidence.”
Likewise, Dr. Hymie Gordon (Mayo Clinic) states, “By all criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.” Palin’s position is not whether or not the abortion issue boils down to the ‘right to choose”, but on whether or not the fetus is a human being. If it is (and it is, according to Dr. Alfred Bongioanni [University of Pennsylvania] who said, “I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception.”) then we do not have the legal right to choose to kill it any more than we have the legal right to kill our teenage children if their lifestyle becomes an emotional, cultural, or financial burden to us.And if the fetus is a human being there likewise should be a law protecting that life, outlawing the ability to take it’s life in the same way that there are laws forbidding parents from taking the lives of their teenage children, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. It is simply being consistent in our “anti-murder” laws. And lest the issues of rape, incest, etc. are presented, I note that the pro-life position is and always has been primarily on the topic of abortion on demand, not the 1%-2% of abortions that fall under the “hard cases” (we should also recall the truism, “Hard cases make for bad laws”). This is not about “forcing” or “inflicting” privately held, but scientifically unverified, beliefs upon others. To state the case this way either a) demonstrates ignorance of the issues involved, or b) is an intentional attempt to erect a smokescreen and obscure the true pro-life position. The pro-life case is built upon the facts regarding the status of the fetus, and until those facts are refuted, the case stands.
And, to make this a religion v. science issue is to misrepresent the nature of the debate.
Andy Crouch, in his latest book, Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling, notes 5 questions that aid in evaluating any cultural artifact. I thought they’d be helpful to post in order to hear your thoughts on the matter. Here are the questions:
1) What does this cultural artifact assume about the way the world is?
2) What does this cultural artifact assume about the way the world should be?
3) What does this cultural artifact make possible?
4) What does this cultural artifact make impossible (or at least very difficult)?
5) What new forms of culture are created in response to this artifact?
I find these to be very helpful (and new) questions to be asking regarding culture. The talk of cultural ‘artifacts’ comes from the recognition that , according to Crouch, though we have grown quite accustomed to speaking of culture in terms of a whole, in reality culture is made up of all sorts of little creative acts (‘artifacts’). In the book, Crouch applies these questions to the simple artifact of the egg omelet. A trivial example, sure, but it help to see how comprehensive these questions are. They apply to everything.
Here’s the work:
C. Michael Patton gives his thoughts. And they’re pretty insightful, philosophically and theologically, if you ask me.
Recently, I met a man, that I’d like you (my Christian readers) to pray for. I’ll call him Bill. Since last September, I’ve been working at a local bookstore waiting for my Fiancee to graduate so we can get married and move back to New York City. One day Bill came into the store looking for books on Jehovah’s Witnesses. I pointed to David’s Reed’s handy little books. Reed was a former Witness elder, so he speaks with a firm understanding of the JW worldview. As I explained the content and goal of these books, Bill began to ask questions about Bible translations.
As many of you already know, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society published their own version of the Bible, the New World Translation. The chief objection to then NWT is that it clearly mistranslates the original languages of Scripture to order to fit their unorthodox doctrines. Bill asked me a number of questions ranging from what are the differences between, say, the NIV translation and the ESV translation, to what are the geneaologies in Genesis are all about. It was an engaging discussion.
He then shared a number of personal stories about growing up as a JW and how morally strict they were. Bill admitted that he even felt uncomfortable mentioning these things because there was the looming fear of Jehovah’s judgment. Then, another thing this kind man admitted to me was that he was a homosexual. He didn’t seem to be saying this with any kind of gay pride, but imply matter-of-factly. This fact was no small thing to his parents, and he told me that they were trying to get him to renounce his sexual preference before coming to Jehovah. As he told me of his reluctance to truly trust in God, a number of thoughts came to mind.
The first is that we believe, or reject, the worldview handed down to us by our parents and leading influences, largely because of how that worldview is portrayed in the lives of those commending it. If Bill’s parent’s were cold, unforgiving, and unaccepting unless he cleaned up his lifestyle, then that’s exactly how Bill is going to start thinking about God. Likewise, an person who grows of admiring a number of people only to find out that they’re all atheists is going to be drawn to that system of thought. We always have personal and cultural reasoning, and not merely intellectual reasons, for believing the things that we do (hat tip to Tim Keller on this point).
The second thing I thought was interesting was that Bill was somewhat right. You don’t abandon a sinful lifestyle in order to clean yourself up before you come to God. Apparently a JW that was leading him in “bible” study for several weeks told him something along the lines of “You need to have a pure heart before you pray to God.” Quickly, and rightly, Bill noted to me how unclean his heart is. And I agreed. If God demand perfection before he came to Him, then Christ died in vain! First, we come to God, and as the gospel transforms us and sheds it’s light into our darkened hearts.
Please pray that the Lord would direct this man to people who love Christ, who love the truth, and will love him.
Normally I avoid writing pieces here that speak to political issues (at least in the sense in which we normally use the word “political”). But, as of late, an interesting and alarming discussion has been taking place on the blogsophere on Barack Obama’s opposition to the Infant Born Alive Act. This act would prohibit doctors from killing babies who survive abortion attempts. Of course, there’s a lot more to this issue than I can write on this short entry. Instead I’d like to provide some sources where the reader can track this vital discussion.
Here’s a great short article by J. P. Moreland on a recent media “outrage.”
Such a short paragraph, such powerful truth:
We have become irrelevant.
Many contemporary Christians tend to make one of three errors when dealing with art: One, we declare anything that doesn’t explicitly proselytize, anything that depicts brokenness without redemption to be depraved or unworthy of Christian notice. Or two, we decide that the secular world really does have better art, so we copy it, boldly and without apology or thought into our own creativity. Or three, we try so hard to be relevant that we adopt the attitude and worldview of the culture that surrounds us—instead of being the proverbial salt and light, we end up as dust with nothing to offer in the way of hope, because there is only a perfunctory difference between those of us who claim to follow Christ and those who don’t.
-by Dawn Xiana Moon at Relevant Magazine
Piper offers some theological reflections on this horrible tragedy.
Here’s a clip of Mark Driscoll:
For more of Mark Discoll, see
Cultural relativism starts with the observation that we do not have access to objective moral standards apart from our distinct cultural, historical, and geographical setting. Ethical guidelines are not learned, understood, or accepted in a vacuum; they are mediated by our consciousness, one that has been formed in a particular environment. Now, from this observation, here are two common interpretations of cultural relativism:
1) Because different cultures have differing ethical paradigms, all moral systems are social constructs; there aren’t any objective moral standards that apply to all people, at all times, and in all places.
2) Regardless of whether moral absolutes exist, we cannot grasp them apart of what comes to us through our interpretive communities (cultures, sub-cultures, the circles in which we travel, etc.).
The first statement is of a metaphysical nature, it’s a position on the nature of reality, what really exists. To know this, one would have to stand over and above all of reality to be able to authoritatively state that objective morality doesn’t exist. This assertion is what is referred to as a “universal negative,” one would have to be infinite to know that it is true.
The second proposition is much more modest; it is an epistemological statement in that it refers to our limits as finite thinkers. To say that we do not posses an unmediated view of universal behavioral guidelines, is not to say that they don’t exist. It just means that we must deal with what we have, and it implies that accessing a touchstone to govern what cultures are more “right” than others is inherently problematic (normally those that hold this position deny that God have revealed His character and will).
It is usually held that because we all are “trapped” by culturally received standards, we can’t and shouldn’t ever condemn the values and actions of other interpretive communities. This would prohibit us from judging the practices of the Nazis as “immoral”, since what we consider wrong due to our communal moral criteria was deemed justifiable according to theirs. If the thought of a whole country united in condoning the practice of pedophilia abhors us, we must realize that this is because our socially constructed ethical code labels such an activity an abomination. According to this model, who are we to impose our beliefs on people who don’t share them? After all, different cultures have different standards.
I find that this conclusion does not logically follow from a position of cultural relativism. If no objective moral values exist, then how can one say that it is wrong for one group to judge others, or even to impose their beliefs on others? This moral imposition of an objective standard (“you ought not to judge others” ) is in diametric opposition to their position; it is a complete contradiction. Contrary to this (culturally derived) postmodern notion of tolerance that is smuggled in as an ethical absolute, cultural relativism provides the basis for a group to say, “It is part of our belief system to impose our values on other groups, no one can say that we are objectively wrong to do so. Our cultural ethics are all that we have, so we will be obedient to them!” Despite the common pairing of a postmodern notion of tolerance with relativism, cultural relativism can actually lead to obstinate close-mindedness.
-David R. Torres