Saturday, February 17, 2007

* * Culture Question

So here's a question I've been wondering about . . . Are we called to change culture or create an alternative culture? (2007/02/07)

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Many of us will call to mind Niebuhr's famous Christ and Culture models in this discussion. His five views of Christ and culture include:

1) Christ Against Culture (shun culture)
2) Christ Of Culture (identify, accomodate culture)
3) Christ Above Culture (two kingdoms: world and God)
4) Christ And Culture In Paradox (live in both realms with two sets of rules)
5) Christ Transforming Culture (transform all culture)

This is such an important and widely noted filter for the discussion, it's probably worth considering. Do we fit in here? Do we have perspectives outside this model? How does this model challenge our point of view on approaching or avoiding culture? (2007/02/17)


David said...

I'm not sure if that's an either or question completey.
I've always kind of said that we should dictate the direction of culture rather than it dictate to us, but that's a impossible accomplishment anyway.

Jesus challenged the culture of the day, and he and his followers changed the culture of the day to a large extent, but not completely. Therefore, another sub-culture was also created.

I guess it's important to note that this sub-culture didn't hide from the mainstream culture, but was actively engaged in it.

Makeesha said...

yeah wow is right. I would say that we are to do neither.

I think we're to live in the culture but parallel to it. We're to engage culture for the purpose of positive change but not wait for culture to allow that change to impact our own behaviors.

deeeeep ;)

John Lynch said...

The words that pop out to me are "challenge" (from David) and "parallel" (from Mak). I want them both to sink into me a bit. Mmmmmm...

Here's a practical side of this question: Recently I've been asked to consider giving some money to help a young Christian actor I know produce his first movie. It's a fictional movie with a good story that has some dramatic missional and Christ-oriented points of connection woven into it.

Is that a good investment? I mean, I'm praying on it and am confident the Spirit will lead one way or another; but the question remains. Is that a good missional investment? Is it primarily to shape culture from its Hollywood source? Is it primarily a tool for missional relational one-on-one conversations? Is the screen the best medium for that?

Anyway, I'm looking for some wisdom on it.

David said...

Yeah, that's a toughy. Even for an actor like me.
Definately one of those, God will have to show me kind of things.

John Lynch said...

Totally, David. Thanks for your encouragement; & I'm sure He'll make it clear in time.

I wonder if there's a connection between Christ's "My kingdom is not of this world" comment and the issue of shaping the surrounding culture vs. creating an alternative culture?

Mak, I've been thinking about your comment on living "parallel" to culture; and I think it might be helpful to unpack what we mean by the term, "culture".

If shared worldviews, convictions, beliefs, and assumptions make up the fabric of what culture's all about; then it's part of the human experience. So maybe the question isn't whether or not we live in the boundaries of culture, but rather which culture we're living in?

There are a lot of cultural arenas, to be sure. Our families have a "culture", our churches have a "culture", our cities, regions in the country, and nation, all have cultures. I'm guessing your comment was talking about living "parallel" to the broader context of secular or American culture... is that right? And if that's so, I wonder if you might be suggesting the "alternative culture" model?

I'm eager to dialog more on this. Thanks for the conversation!

Bill said...

Hey bro! Great question!

I think we are to create an alternative culture that gradually seeps into the fabric of our host culture. I think that's what I see in Acts.

John Lynch said...

Hey Bill!

Thanks for bringing up the Acts / early church paradigm. That's such a golden example.

It's true, like you & Makeesha both said, we can't wait for culture to begin living a kingdom life right now. And I like your word, "seep". There is very much the notion that expressions of a kingdom worldview tend to "break out" as we live in the leading and power of God's Spirit.

The Acts church focused on establishing the kingdom life within and among themselves and bringing that kingdom life into every aspect of their living... which had a lot of overlap and interaction with the world and people locked into the popular secular culture. There must have been a relational culture-transfer in those moments - even both ways! Life giving transfers flowed from the kingdom to the world. Life killing transfers flowed from the world to the kingdom community via compromise.

Makeesha said...

I think I meant a bit what bill said but even a bit deeper than that. I'll have to think on what's in me and maybe articulate it better.

John Lynch said...

"Kingdom"... I just realized I used that word a bunch in my last comment; so I've been thinking more on it.

It seems that God's culture is the Kingdom. And living into the Kingdom is living into God's culture. And praying that His Kingdom come is asking for His culture to come.

The Kingdom, like the King, does not compromise or mix with sin or selfishness or independence. It's pure and perfect.

So does a dark and sinful world culture highlight the purity and life-giving light of God's Kingdom Culture? Could cleaning up secular culture actually work against the Gospel?

John Lynch said...