Again, Russell Moore warns us against a false sense of cultural success:
The idea of the respectability of Christian witness in a Christian America that is defined by morality and success, not by the gospel of crucifixion and resurrection, is just another example of importing Jesus to maintain one’s best life now.
…If we see the universe as the Bible sees it, we will not try to ‘reclaim’ some lost golden age. We will see an invisible conflict of the kingdoms, a satanic horror show being invaded by the reign of Christ. This will drive us to see who our real enemies are, and they are not the cultural and sexual prisoners-of-war all around us. If we seek the Kingdom we will see the devil. And this makes us much less sophisticated, much less at home in modern America.
… If the kingdom is where Christ is, then we dare not assume the power of the state for the purposes of the church, and we dare not subordinate the ministries of the church to the authority of the state, The kingdom is defined by the gospel and the gospel is defined by the kingdom. If the gospel is abstracted from kingdom, then our mission is simply about the initial evangelism of new believers If we abstract the kingdom from the gospel, though, then the kingdom be about mere morality, and, thus, an easy client from the pretend Messiah of state power. The gospel is a gospel of the Kingdom of Christ.
-Russell Moore, Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel, 65
Powerful words from Russell Moore:
As American culture changes, the scandal of Christianity is increasingly right up front, exactly where it was in the first century. The shaking of American culture will get us back to the question Jesus asked his disciples at Caesarea Philippi: “Who do you say that I am? As the Bible Belt recedes, those left standing up for Jesus will be those who, like Simon Peter of old, know how to answer that question. Once Christianity is no longer seen as part and parcel of patriotism, the church must offer more than ‘What would Jesus do?’ moralism and the “I vote values” populism to which we’ve grown accustomed. Good.
A church that assumes the gospel is church that soon loses the gospel. The church now must articulate, at very phase, the reason for our existence, because it is no longer an obvious part of the cultural ecosystem. That articulation of the gospel will mean engagement because the most pressing issues are not ancillary to the gospel, in the way some other cultural and political issues are. The temptation will be, as always, to overract to the sins and foibles of the last generation, with a pullback altogether in an attempt to avoid culture wars and social gospels. A recalibration is called for, to be sure. We are a different people facing a different context. But if we see the cosmic contours of the gospel, we must not swing into a kind of libertarian spirituality that reduces the gospel simply to matters of personal salvation and personal morality. First of all, the culture increasingly finds personal salvation and personal morality to be themselves politically problematic. There is no cordoning them off from a culture in which the personal is the political.
More importantly, an attempt at wholesale withdrawal might exempt us from some of the hucksterism and moralism of some figures in our parent’s and grandparent’s generations but it will take us back to the opposite errors of some in our great grandparents generation, back to divorcing the gospel from the kingdom, the love of God from the love of neighbor. We could shrug off our social witness altogether, as a defense against legalism. But we would be wrong, and we would, ironically, fall into a pharisaism of the other side, building hedges around a temptation to avoid falling into it. More than that, we would be abandoning a post to which we were assigned and from which we have no permission for leave. The test will be we can engage the culture without losing the gospel.
-Russell Moore, Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel, 25, 26
If anything speaks to the confusion of our age it’s the poem Creed, written in 1993 by English poet and music journalist Steve Turner. (The postscript, called Chance, was Turner’s follow-up).
Creed by Steve Turner
We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don’t hurt anyone
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.
We believe in sex before, during, and
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy’s OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.
We believe that everything’s getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
And you can prove anything with evidence.
We believe there’s something in horoscopes
UFO’s and bent spoons.
Jesus was a good man just like Buddha,
Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher though we think
His good morals were bad.
We believe that all religions are basically the same-
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of creation,
sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.
We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens
they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then it’s compulsory heaven for all
Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn
We believe in Masters and Johnson
What’s selected is average.
What’s average is normal.
What’s normal is good.
We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.
Americans should beat their guns into tractors
and the Russians would be sure to follow.
We believe that man is essentially good.
It’s only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.
We believe that each man must find the truth that
is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust.
History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth
that there is no absolute truth.
We believe in the rejection of creeds,
And the flowering of individual thought.
If chance be
the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky
and when you hear:
State of Emergency!
Sniper Kills Ten!
Troops on Rampage!
Whites go Looting!
It is but the sound of man
worshipping his maker.
“Christians cannot long think about Christ and culture without reflecting on the fact that this is God’s world, but that this side of the fall this world is simultaneously resplendent with glory and awash in shame, and that every expression of human culture simultaneously discloses that we were made in God’s image and shows itself to be mis-shaped and corroded by human rebellion against God.”
D. A. Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited
Back in November 2010 the Center of Pastor Theologians interviewed John Frame on Politics and Theology. The short interview is helpful in grasping the larger contours of Frame’s political
The 9 question interview includes the following:
- For readers who are not familiar with your work, can you describe your contribution to the question of how the individual Christian and the Church relates to the State?
- Richard Mouw and Carl F. H. Henry have suggested that the Church’s role is not coterminous with the responsibility possessed by individual believers. Do you agree or disagree?
- Please identify for our readers two influential thinkers or political concepts to which you often respond (perhaps one positive, one negative)?
- How would you summarize the political responsibilities of the average American in the pew—that is, someone with voting rights, but little political capital, and little or no economic capital for political action?
- How does Romans 13 help us understand the limits placed on the church and/or the individual believer in our engagement with political matters?
- How do biblical books such as Deuteronomy and Proverbs help us to understand God’s perspective on politics? Does the fact that they share political and ethical insights with other Ancient Near Eastern cultures (or that they offer critiques of those cultures and their political systems) influence your view of their relevance?
- Some political theologians note that Daniel simultaneously models service, critique, and a message of divine judgment. Are all three of these to be implemented by believers? Are they postures we should always exhibit, or are they more appropriate at some times than others?
- If a young church planter says to you, “In my social and cultural context, I need to avoid political topics. This enables me to address the gospel without any baggage and has helped our church create a community of diverse perspectives centered on Christ and his work. But am I doing the right thing? Should I be bolder?” How would you respond? Which passages would you use as a resource for guiding his or her thinking?
- What is the best article or essay a young pastor could read on politics, political interpretation of Scripture, or political theology? The best book?
It’s a helpful piece. Look into it.
In his influential work, The Unfolding Mystery, Edmund Clowney clearly presents the relationship between Adam’s task in the Garden of Eden and Christ’s redemptive work:
The command to Adam and Eve was to rule over the earth. Adam’s rule is now exercised by Christ. As so often in the work of salvation, the fulfillment far outstrips the expectations that are aroused by the promise. Christ exercises a dominion far greater than that given to Adam. He is the Lord, not only of this planet, but of the cosmos…Jesus also accomplishes the command to Adam that he fill the earth. Paul uses the term filling as well as dominion to describe the present Lordship of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:20-23; 4:10). Jesus does not simply come to rescue man from the depths of his loss. He comes to accomplish for us the calling of our humanity. His is the perfect and final dominion of man over the cosmos. Christ, the second Adam, can say, “Here I am, and the children God has given me” (Heb. 2:13; Is. 8:17f). A great multitude that no man can number are gathered from every tribe and people in the name of Jesus. He who fill all things with his power assembles the fullness of Israel and the fullness of the nations in the day of his glory (Rom. 11:12, 25, Rev. 7:9). His accomplishment of Adam’s calling does not make our service vain. To the contrary only because he has fulfilled man’s calling can all work be made in meaningful, for our fellowship is with him. His victory is our hope. In humility, not arrogance, we receive from the victorious Lord a renewed calling to do his will to this world.
For more see:
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: