“A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” – C. S. Lewis
The more I read the more I become a Christian, or a non-anti-theist. More specifically, the more I read the more I become a historical Christian. A friend and myself recently had a conversation about present culture and our obligation or lack of ability to do nothing other than copy it in order to serve God.
**This post is not going anywhere…
This I denied because of a renewing of the mind by God’s spirit and word, but also because of familiarizing myself with other cultures both present and past. Humans have always been the same because human nature is the same. The tendency today is to magnify perspecitval distances to the point of cosmic abstractions that can never be bridged.
But the Christian and classical approach takes all humans as created in God’s image and fallen. Therefore similarities abound in every culture and in every time. Therefore we can learn about other cultures and incorporate the best of their practices. Therefore we are not trapped like rats in our own cultural milieu, able thus only to say, believe, and do personal subjective valueless trifles that will be replaced in five minutes by the next progressive stage of human evolution.
As I said, the more I read the more I become Christian and historical or classical. Yet my friends all around me become more unstable, temporary, and skittish – my Christian friends. To them the culture is large, larger than life, this juggernaut that moves through history like Hegel’s vision of spirit or mind – passive, inevitable, totalizing. They cannot but capitulate to it. Here I’m reminded of Neibhur and Carson’s work on Christ and Cutlure. I forget the categories. Both finish with an open-ended view, if I’m not mistaken.
Here’s my rub with Christendom in this present form: it’s weak, shallow, capitulating to the zeitgeist, to Hegelian dialectic syntheses, even to Kierkegaardian existentialism. The arguments my friends make are the exact arguments the anti-Christians makes, except the Christians are a few decades or centuries behind the curve. And they do it, they say, because they have nothing else to go off of than the culture. This is weak and it seems like the best-of-two-evils cop-out we hear around voting time.
The Christianity I am drawn to is a strong Christianity. One that started small but grows into a huge tree, or mountain that rules the world. This is the only Christianity that exists and that will last in the future (and that lasts in the present). Historically, this is the Christianity I see espoused by former Christians. One that leads culture, takes dominion of it, in every area of life. Must we use the culture’s language or clothing or music or thought-forms? We take them over, redefine them, and thoroughly Christen them in the deepest sense.
Some might disagree. But they are already using culture’s artifacts and symbols anyway, except they do it as a defeated slave instead of a victorious ruler. This is why most Christian music is a pathetic sham and why it only appeals to people who’ve been within this weak Christianity for too long.
To return to my Christian friends’ Hegelian view of history and culture: at the center of every culture is a cult. Yet they act as though history were inanimate and inevitable, as though there were no living cult center. But there is; and therefore what is it? The cult is man himself. He is the center of all things. This is nothing new. Adam and Eve moved to the center of their own universes when they thought they knew better than God. This is why all cultures are similar, and not as cosmically distanced from one another as postmodernia would have us fearfully believe.
Now, since culture centers on cult, or the worship of something, and since man is the center, the one to be worshipped, then that means everything this culture produces is purposely centered on man and not God. Ours is not an accidental culture but a purposeful culture. Culture on purpose, in direct opposition to all things Christian. We want to be the far off “nobel savage” pagan tribe running naked. Why? We want to rid ourselves of God and everything he brings. No supernatural anything. Only nature, and if all is natural, then all is normal. If all is normal, all is good and equal: A breast is no different than a chin. Why not reveal both? A woman is no different than a man. Both should be treated and look exactly the same in every way. Two men are no different than a man and a woman. Both should be allowed to copulated like dogs – there’s also no difference between humans and animals. No supernatural, only natural. If all is natural, all is normal. If all is normal, all is good and equal. Morals, values, words, actions, humans, human parts, animals, etc. It makes no difference whether you help a lady across the street or push her into oncoming traffic, if you sleep with a woman or man or child, whether you cover your body or reveal it, etc. There’s no shame/guilt because there’s no sin, no sin because all is good and equal, because all is normal, because all is natural, because there’s no supernatural.
I didn’t make all this up. Again, it is our present culture and it is very purposefully crafted in direct opposition to all things Christian. So, to say that what we do is to be according to culture is to say in our case what we do is to be according to anti-Christian ideas at the most fundamental level.
Therefore, to follow culture is to follow man, and man in direct opposition to the Christian God in every area of life. The verb I used was to follow. And that is exactly what many Christians do: whatever the culture produces, whatever humanist man conjures, mimic the same thing in the same way. Now, this would be fine if but for the lag time of a decade or two and for the poor quality of mimicry and of representing the victory of Christ. Instead the timing is late, the quality is poor, and the Christianity is apologetic and impotent.
But we have special revelation – supernatural revelation – that tells us about sin, shame, nakedness, clothing, male and female, marriage, sex, family, God, salvation, Christ, faith, hell, heaven, eternity, etc, etc. And it all begins in Genesis, which is made the basis and pattern for understanding reality.
The Christian approach in the most robust sense is to look to God’s doings, look thoroughly at God’s word, and look at humanity carefully throughout the ages; and then act in that way that is most eternal, true, good, beautiful. But my friend wants specifics. He asks for them as though they dominate him, tyrannize him. Small thing hurt him because he is small. Not only is this legalism – which is for children – it never works. And since no consensus can be obtained, my friends say “to each his own” concerning all kinds of issues. Fragmented and fractured, this is why Christianity in its present popular form goes nowhere, does nothing, and is overcome by whatever the present culture decides.
This postmodern fallout has not a little pushed me toward a more robust, historical understanding of Christianity. Awash in the world of a storm-tossed ocean, I was cast upon a small rock that turned into a mountain that rules the entire world.