Thursday, November 18, 2010

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

Why do Christians tend to be detached from culture?



"Continuing in the spirit of Francis Schaeffer, but with more careful scholarly acumen, Greg Laughery shows how and why philosophical reflection is important for Christian witness.  This is philosophical wisdom in service to the Word."

James K.A. Smith, Professor of Philosophy, Calvin College.


The patron saints of reductionism and polarization in contemporary Christian thought frequently dominate disputes over language, philosophy, theology, interpretation, and their interaction. Living Reflections moves in a different direction. It establishes a space for dialogue, mediates one-sided extremes, and offers a hermeneutic of relation and distinction, which depicts a new vision for engaging with these contested issues. Challenging and insightful, it invokes a perceptive wisdom going beyond modernist and postmodernist perspectives, affirming the tension-filled and organic character of Christian truth.


Living Spiritual Rhythms For Today


Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

I do not think, that all Christians are detached from culture. But way too much!

Reasons may include IMHO:
- Fear to be too close to the evil world.
- Fear that the evil world changes you or draws you away.
- Your live is so much easier if you have no contact with the world.
- Some bible verses seem to imply this, if you read it with the wrong glasses on.
- No consolidation every few years leads to traditional strange customs that never change while culture lives and changes constantly.

Sisyphos said...

"What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?" Tertullian asked. The tension between revelation and human wisdom was always controversial.
Undetachment to culture may due to this tension, as Lukas and Celine already hinted at.
Is Plato the antecessor of Christ or of the devil? Is Christ a surplus of meaning or a total different kind of meaning?
For a Christian Scripture needs to be an informer for figuring out those questions but probably the quest for a meaningful answers will be marked by eisege and not exegese, by reading into the text and not out of the text.
But if a strong opposition towards culture and philosophy is believed to be the right path, one has to start questioning everything: the canon might have been influenced by pagan thought, the doctrines which were very much formed by Augustine, a theologian being fond of Plato, have to be refigured.
And in doing so one might realize that the concoction of Christian and Greek thought and all the other influences is inscrutable.
What idea, what revolution is Christian? What cultural element is Christian?
It may be as difficult as figuring out whether an egg existed first or the hen.

Angela said...

Sometimes in not embracing culture, people may
be looking for more meaningful culture.

One thing I would love to see is culture emerging from within tight and diverse communities of people. Most of our culture is wide and global. As a Christian,I embrace this to an extent, but want so much for more local art, music, and entertainment to flourish in neighborhoods of people that dynamically effect each other's lives. I don't often
see this even though I embrace as much local
culture as I can.

domocks said...

I think all of you scholars have made good points...Lukas and Céline in that fear and perhaps laziness play a big role in why Christians might want their own "monoculture" apart from the rest of the world. let's face it--it is in many ways easier and less scary to live alongside people who are more or less the same as you. with this, of course, one would losing the beautiful challenge of rectifying one's subjectivity against so many others--this daunting task of gaining greater and greater understanding.

sisyphos also gets at a good point in that dualism is a very easy way to interpret scripture and really, to interpret life in general. dualism is, however, the application of a black and white doctrine to a world of greys, as sisyphos points out in the influence that "culture" had on scripture itself. so what do you do with a Bible that presents some sort of dualism (ie James 3--wisdom from above and wisdom from the earth, or the manner in which good and evil are presented in many eschatological passages (sheep and goats, Revelation))? well, the easy answer is to start seeing the world as black and white, and the tendency for Christians, it seems, is to make the dividing line on a salvific level. "i am saved (sheep), therefore will not mix with the people or practices of the not saved (goats)". I am by no means arguing that this is a good way to interpret scripture, but am merely pointing out that it is/has been a way to do so.

but angela also has a good point in that small, distinct cultures are not necessarily bad, but can be quite good. and i do think that the NT does promote counter-culturalism. so the question becomes: what is the difference between counter-culturalism and cultural abstinence or exclusivism? or, maybe this is more at the root of things: how can one affirm something and live their life following that affirmation, while not living in his or her own little world?

Rhett & Valerie said...

Wow, Greg! You've been unusually silent this conversation.

I think it's bizarre when Christians try to avoid "culture" because, like DA Carson points out in "Christ and Culture Revisited," "culture" is pretty much the air we all breath as human beings. Trying to be "a-cultural" or "ex-cultural" isn't actually possible. You always just end up being in another kind of culture.

But part of that is the anthropology student in me coming out.

There is certainly Scripture to support the fact Christians are definitely supposed to reject certain practices in the world that go against what we know from God's revelation. Jesus is the ruler of the world; not caesar. But total rejection of the world doesn't seem to line up with the incarnation itself, nor with the hope of the new creation and the redemption of all things.

I think part of the desire to reject the world comes from our ideas about the afterlife, interestingly enough. "Heaven" has become such a focus in Christian teaching (mostly as an impetus for conversion) that the truths of the resurrection and new creation get overshadowed in terms of air-time in churches.

If "heaven" is some disembodied existence in the sky, then why work to be involved "down here", on earth?

But it seems like Jesus, though affirming a paradise for his followers after death, looked even beyond that paradise to a further embodied existence in perfect fellowship with God, face-to-face.

If we had a more robust view of the resurrection, I bed we'd have a more robust view of interacting with the world, here on earth.


Rhett & Valerie said...

and by "bed" I mean "bet". Though I am a little sleepy.

John said...

Val - Greg is on his way here to the States for a few days. That's why he's quiet!

My two cents:
Being a Christian newly back in the States and living in a new place, I would say that part of the issue is that we're told that the church is "our support system" and where we should find "community." This can cause us to think that we are SUPPOSED to only have community inside the church, and we're supposed to only evangelize those outside the church. The interesting thing is that none of us live consistently with this - we cannot help but be in the world, unless we live in some weird closed off community (I'm thinking of places like Colorado City, Colorado).

Also, I agree that subcultures are not bad. They're even natural and necessary. It's when those subcultures go from being on a mid-level and become a meta-level thing that there is an issue.

Greg said...

Thanks. I'm away at the moment, but want to give a quick response. I agree. Lots of fear and reading with the wrong glasses - we need wise engagement and some culture making.

Greg said...

Thanks. As I mentioned to Lukas, I'm away now, but I want to respond. These are good thoughts. No doubt it's difficult to identify Christian cultural elements, but that's what makes it essential to attempt to do with integrity.

Greg said...

Thanks. Yes, that's the idea. To be culture making people and to be doing this locally.

Greg said...

Thanks. Good summaries and questions. I'll respond to the latter, as possible, on Monday.

Greg said...

Thanks. Really good points. Bringing heaven and resurrection in are helpful.

Greg said...

Thanks. Indeed. So true that the church can want us looking inwards alone and that's problematic.