03 July, 2009

Culture Wars: Is It Really New?

We hear a lot about the so-called 'culture wars' today and a great deal of us think that this is a relatively new thing. The truth is that since God first pronounced judgment on the serpent of old in the Garden, there has been a culture war. From this time there have been two cultures emerging. The first is the culture of the serpent. His culture is that of this world strives for power, popularity, and fame. The second is the culture of 'the seed'. This is the culture that attempts to live unto the glory of God as we patiently look forward the full redemption of His creation and the consummation of all things.

But there is also a culture war, of sorts, within the 'culture of the seed'. What is role of this culture? Are we retreatists who are called to make Christian communities that are apart from the world? Are we called to create monasteries and live in pious huddles? Or are we called to be transformers of culture and have dominion as God has commanded? Are we salt and light in the midst of darkness or are we something else? Something that God has not commanded?

The 20th century hero amongst Presbyterians, JG Machen, spoke to this issue in 1913 at Princeton Theological Seminary. It illustrates that we are not in a new battle; we just have forgotten those who were fighting before our time. Machen said,

In the first place, Christianity may be subordinate to culture. That solution really, though to some extend unconciously, is being favored in a very large and influential portion of the Church today. For the elimination of the supernatural in Christianity- so tremendously common today- really makes Christianity merely natural. Christianity becomes a mere human product, a mere part of human culture... The second solution goes to the opposite extreme. In its efforts to give religion a clear field, it seeks to destroy culture. This solution is better than the first. Instead of indulging in a shallow optimism or deification of humanity, it recognizes the profound evil of the world, and does not shrink form the most heroic remedy... Therefore, it is argued that the culture of this world must be a matter at least of indifferene to the Christian... Are then Christianity and culture in a conflict to be settled only by the destruction of one or the other of the contending forces? A third solution, fotunately, is possible- namely consecration. Instead of destroying the arts and sciences or being indifferent to them, let us cultivate them with all the enthusiasm of the veriest humanist, but at the same time consecrate them to the service of our God.

1 comment:

SottWilli said...

What is the reference to which writing of J. Gresham Machen ?