Saturday 10 January 2009

William Edgar on Culture and Calling

William Edgar, ‘Culture and Calling: The Open Question’, Modern Reformation 18, 1 (January-February 2009), 10-11.

The January-February 2009 issue of Modern Reformation contains several pieces devoted to the theme of ‘Christ in a Post-Christian Culture’.

William Edgar, ‘Culture and Calling: The Open Question’.
Michael Horton, ‘Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?’
David F. Wells, ‘Living in the Matrix’.
Jack Schultz, ‘Culture and the Christian’.
David Gibson, ‘Text, Church, and World: A Theology of Expository Preaching’.
Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, ‘Flying for Jesus’.
John Warwick Montogomery, ‘God at University College Dublin’.

William Edgar kicks off by noting the number of recently-published books on faith and culture (by, e.g., D.A Carson, T.M. Moore, Roger Scruton, Albert Mohler, Richard Mouw, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, some of which are briefly profiled here). Even so, he maintains that there is still work to be done on connecting culture and a biblical concept of calling.

We need, he says, to be aware of what understanding of ‘culture’ is operative in works by Christian theologians.

Some authors (e.g., Francis Schaeffer, Roger Scruton, and T.M. Moore to some extent) hold to a Matthew Arnold type of view of culture as civilisation.

Others (e.g., Richard Mouw, D.A. Carson, the essays in Vanhoozer’s edited Everyday Theology) look at culture as a functional, symbolic reality in terms of language, identity, particular human experiences, etc., and seek to reflect on these theologically.

Still others (e.g., James Davison Hunter, Albert Mohler) conflate the term ‘culture’ with the ‘world’ (as Niebuhr did in his classic study).

What is often left out, according to Edgar, is ‘the central idea of calling’ (11).

He notes that ‘something important about cultural development is asserted in the early chapters of Genesis with the mandate to multiply, inhabit the earth, subdue it’, but that there is also an eschatology. Despite the fall into sin, ‘that calling is reasserted in Christ’ (11).

‘So, biblically speaking, if it is appropriate to use the word “culture,” we might say it centers on God’s blessed call to the human race to move throughout history by enjoying and ruling over the earth, using all the tools and gifts given, overcoming the curse, for the sake of obtaining everlasting, blissful communion with him through Jesus Christ, in the fellowship of the Spirit’ (11).

No comments: