Engaging Culture: Staying on the Horse

Coram Deo believes that the church must engage culture. Living out this value is designed to keep us from “falling off the horse” in two ways. One way to fall off the horse is to bless the culture’s idolatry, soft-stepping around tough issues and changing the essence of the gospel to make it “palatable” to postmodern ears. The other way is to hold to orthodoxy in a way that ignores or drowns out the questions that the culture is asking. Unfortunately, Christianity at large is guilty of both errors.

Christians usually see the first as a more egregious error – a syncretistic slide toward relativism. But the second may be even worse for the progress of the gospel and the honor of God’s kingdom.

James B. Jordan is as conservative a theologian as they come. For those of you who know your categories, he is a Reformed Presbyterian of the theonomist/reconstructionist bent. So for him to make the statement I’m about to quote is massive in light of his own convictions and the people he generally runs with. I quote Mr. Jordan to point out that engaging the culture is not some radical notion that only church planters talk about. In fact, if Mr. Jordan is correct, it’s our lack of cultural engagement which threatens to doom the church to irrelevance.

Here is what James B. Jordan wrote in a recent article:

“…the Protestant age is coming to an end… The paradigm is exhausted, and the world in which it was worked out no longer exists. We must take all the great gains of the Calvinistic heritage and apply them with an open Bible to the new world in which we are now living. We must be aware that there is far more in the Bible than the Reformation dealt with, and that many of our problems today are addressed by those hitherto unnoticed or undeveloped aspects of the Bible. Those who want to bang the drum for a 450-year old tradition are dooming themselves to irrelevance. Our only concern is to avoid being beat up by them as they thrash about in their death-throes.”

I am a Reformation Christian. If pushed, I’d even be willing to call myself a Calvinist, though I eschew much of the unbiblical and uninformed baggage that comes with that term (usually from those who haven’t studied the primary sources). But Mr. Jordan has hit the nail on the head. Living the heritage of the Reformation doesn’t mean “beating the drum for a 450-year old tradition.” It means taking the great gains of our history and “applying them with an open Bible to the new world in which we are now living.” That’s a great perspective on what it means to engage the culture.

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