Thursday, August 03, 2006

Salt and Light: The Church in the World

From discussions here to those on Faith and Practice (see comments) and The World from My Window (3-part series) to a couple of Mark Driscoll's sermons, I've been giving more thought recently to the nature of the Church's interaction with and relationship to the world as a gospel-proclaiming voice. I hope to flesh out some of my conclusions in the coming days in contrast with Carl Henry's approach in The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism.

For the meantime, Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan discusses Christians as "Salt and Light in Culture" in another of the Desiring God Conference video interviews. At the end of the day, I don't know whether his vision of Christianity as salt and light would look like mine, but I really like the way he describes his vision:
I think that the "cultural transformationalists" have underemphasized the importance of thick, strong Christian communities who serve as counter-cultures. The Anabaptists and the Hauerwasians and all that—they've put all the emphasis on really, really strong Christian counter-cultures that show the world how people ought to live, rather than trying to get out there into the culture and bring your Christian worldview into it.

I don't know why you can't do both. I have never been able to understand why you can't do both. I think that the traditions tend to . . . each tradition tends to be weak because it doesn't do the other.
It seems to me that the worst of all worlds is when 1) cultural redeemers live in culture and think they're redeeming it when they're really just wallowing in the world, while 2) separatists create a counter-culture and think they're confronting mainstream culture with true spirituality when they're really just wallowing in religious pride.

1 comment:

Ken Fields said...


I left the following comment to your question over at my blog, too.

I would tend to agree with Keller's statements. My fear in this whole debate is that Christians are being pushed to become like the culture in order to reach the culture.

Can't we be in culture without being like culture?

When we send missionaries cross-culturally, do we expect them to attend the seances and witchcraft festivals in Africa? Do we expect them to enter into the mosques? Should they attend the Buddhist festivals in India?

As for the "redeeming culture" comments, my problem is the emphasis. I've only listened to two sermons by Driscoll, and in both of these sermons the emphasis is on redeeming culture rather than redeeming people. The redemption of culture is preached as the means to the end of redeeming people. I think this is backwards. I believe that the only way we are going to see any redeeming of culture is through God's redeeming of people. Therefore, the redemption of people is the means by which we can redeem culture.

I guess my issues with Driscoll could be boiled down to a single issue ... it's not that he's a heretic (although he seems to constantly be pushing his people to consume alcoholic beverages, almost insinuating that to enjoy life and culture as God designed, you MUST drink non-light beer), it's that his emphasis seems a bit skewed in the overall scheme of things.

When this happens, holiness and purity usually are de-emphasized (although he would argue this point). I'm wondering if eschatological views (i.e., post-millennialism) might play into this whole debate ... if we succeed in redeeming the culture, we will usher in the return of Christ.

I don't know if this is the case, but I wonder if it's true!