Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ask the Question.

Linked to a really interesting article today by Carl Trueman on what he calls the "shibboleth" of cultural relevance in Evangelicalism. He describes a conversation he had with a student about Mel Gibson's uber-blockbuster, The Passion of the Christ. "We then," he recalls, "entered a discussion about whether it was right to depict Christ visually on the big screen." The upshot? Take a look:

At the end of the discussion, he said that he felt sorry for me because my qualms about the visual depiction of Christ were making me irrelevant to ministry in the modern church. [...] What shocked me in this encounter, however, was not that we had different views on the matter, but that the student could not even see that there was any question to be asked. For him, the question of the meaning, relevance, and application of the second commandment was not even a question. He just thought it was obvious that anything which generated interest in Jesus was a good thing; thus, my concerns about the visual depiction of Christ revealed me as an irrelevant old hack, a superannuated puritan who simply didn't get it. [...T]his student did not even have the categories to see that there was any question to be asked.

Yesterday my eighth graders and I talked about worldview. I admit it's a hard line to walk, to explain the importance of living Christianly while not pushing my students toward total neurosis about the Christianness of each decision. I've quoted Luther on the subject of living an ordinary life that God makes extraordinary, and Trueman references Pascal's similar views on the blessing of relaxation and even entertainment.

I guess I don't really have any concluding thoughts about this -- I just want to emphasize my agreement with Trueman that we must ask these sorts of hard questions about culture, but without allowing ourselves to turn into whack jobs who have a "theology of vacuuming" and the like.

Read the article for yourself. It's a nice little rant, with a lot to ponder.

1 comment:

John Dekker said...

Thanks for the link. I really ought to subscribe to the ref21 blog.

I liked what he said about street sweepers - it reminded me of Calvin Seerveld's brilliant article of Christianity and hairdressing, but is certainly an often reglected aspect of the Christianity and culture discussion.

My own view is that we need all of Niebuhr's models of Christ and culture. In regard to movies, sometimes we need to be like Tertullian and say, "There is a movie that Christians ought not to watch. Don't go there" - Christ against culture. Sometimes we need to be we need to applaud the universal truths to be found in non-Christian movies - Christ of culture. Sometimes we need to appropriate the medium of film to make our own movies - Christ above culture. And sometimes we need to get Christians into Hollywood to work at transforming that culture and bringing it under the Lordship of Christ - Christ the transformer of culture.

Oh, and Carl Trueman is speaking in Melbourne on the 5th of August as part of our Calvin Quincentennial celebrations.