Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Gospel and Culture

Another painting from the Red Thread collection, 'Running Home'. The girl is like Paul Revere riding across the countryside to warn the colonialists of the approaching redcoats. Her movement across the sky towards the light on the hill should be a warning to the village below. The gospel is like that, the warning is true and urgent and changes everything around us, like a light on a hill, illuminating our reality.

That is what makes Carl Trueman's criticism of the "transformative" view so frustrating. How would something so important and urgent as the gospel not be a warning to the world around, not shine out like a light illuminating the surrounding world?  'Ideas have consequences', the gospel changes everything. The Gospel motivates us to care for the treatment of children in detention centres, to be frustrated by the hollow denouement of Madmen and to seek human flourishing across our desks and kitchen tables. How could it not?

Another version of Trueman's two kingdom approach to 'Christ and culture', is artificially separating conversion (aka gospel ministry) from the rest of life. As if making disciples (Matthew 28:19), is only about first-contact and not your wallet, bed-sheets or screen. The gospel is heard, understood and applied in a million small ways, during movies, across breakfast or in a ditch. Now, we don't have to blur genres so to speak; painting Bible verses on surfboards in order to apply the gospel to surfing. The local church has a narrow purpose, to make and gather disciples, but God's Kingdom extends way beyond 10am on Sundays. In other words theology like medicine should be studied and understood and then if it's true, applied.

This isn't to condone clumsy campaigns to ban books or to implement the Old Testament laws on modern society (Theonomy) but it does mean we should be having the discussion about what gospel shaped human-flourishing should look like and how in a hostile world do we live out what we believe. Contra Trueman, civilisation ebbs and flows and sometimes the cultural impact of Christianity is disproportionate to it's size. I need all the encouragement I can get to live out the gospel in every aspect of my life.