In Season 1 Episode 4 of The Eudo Podcast, Dr. Paul M. Gould explains how we can show Christianity and reasonable and desirable by communicating the truth, goodness, and beauty of Jesus and the gospel, cultivating all that is inviting and invigorating, and taking up our mantle as sub-creators created in the image of God to make new things and new meaning.
“Posture” vs. “Gesture”
According to Crouch, a posture is our learned but unconscious default position, our natural stance. Gestures, on the other hand, are bodily movements such as pointing, or waving of a hand, or hitting a tennis ball – these bodily movements, can become habits, that shape new postures over time.
There are four postures that Christians have taken to culture:
- Condemning Culture. This is a posture of suspicion and condemnation toward all activities that aren’t overtly spiritual. When we have a posture of condemnation toward culture, we tend to think in categories of “us” vs. “them” and our sermons tend to be on the dangers of the world, rather than the delights of the world. The problem with a posture of condemnation is that it wrongly assumed that culture is something distinct from our own daily life and rhythm of being as Christians.
- Critique Culture. Instead of overt condemnation, we critique, analyze, and point out the shortcomings and errors of those in culture. This posture still embodies a kind of “us” vs. “them” mentality and one of the problems with it is that it just doesn’t go far enough. It is not enough to analyze or understand culture, we must do more than think about culture.
- Copying Culture. In this approach to culture, Christians focus on creating parallel sanitized versions of secular cultural institutions and goods. So, we now have Christian schools, Christian music, Christian t-shirts, Christian superheroes (such as Bible Man), and Christian romance novels. The problem with this stand as a posture is that we become passive —we are not exercising our own creative capacities.
- Consuming Culture. On this posture, Christians unhesitantly and uncritically consume whatever and everything produced by culture. We happily look forward to the next season of Game of Thrones, we consume the same drinks, smoke the same cigars, drive the same sport cars, go to the same concerts, watch the same horror movies, and basically capitulate our own creative impulses to others.
None of these postures are appropriate for the Christian. Rather, when we go back to Genesis 1, we find two characteristically biblical postures toward the world: that of an artists and gardeners, or cultivators and creators.
- Cultivators are people who tend to and nourish what is best in human culture.
- Creators are people who dare to think and do something that has never been thought or done before, something that makes the world more welcoming and thrilling and beautiful.
The 3 C’s
First, we communicate the brilliance and beauty of Jesus and the gospel.
- We awaken the longing for truth by showing the evidence for Jesus and the gospel.
- We awaken the longing for goodness by living integrated lives and pointing to others who live whole lives under the banner of Christ.
- We awaken the longing for beauty by drawing attention to works of art that point to that far-off country and set us on a path, through the imagination, to find the source of beauty in Christ.
Second, we cultivate in our own lives and in the world around us the good, true, and beautiful.
- We work to build others up in Christ and help them find their meaning and happiness in the gospel story.
- We support ministries and churches that are making a difference.
- In particular, we support and affirm those who are called to serve in key culture shaping institutes such as the university (the key domain for truth), the arts (the key domain for the cultivation of beauty), and the city (the key domain for the cultivation of goodness).
Finally, we create new cultural goods and artifacts, new institutions, and new meanings.
- We write stories, sing songs, build bridges, blog posts, twitter feeds, and chairs with beauty in mind.
- And we live a life of self-denial, as a new creation, created in Christ to do God works.
The goal of cultural apologetics, ultimately, is to bring others to the point of asking the question: What do I think of Jesus?
Next time, we’ll consider a necessary step on the path to showing Christianity reasonable and desirable—the important step of understanding the culture we find ourselves within.
- Crouch, Andy. Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Press, 2013.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. Tree and Leaf. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1965.