“We live at a time in which Christians are more consumer driven than truth driven. We have unknowingly become apprentices to the blind guides of hedonism, naturalism, and pragmatism, and this is eroding our ability and motivation to communicate and embody the Word of God in this generation” (Preface)
In his groundbreaking book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Mark Noll made one of the most devastating assessments of Evangelicalism when he said,”The Scandal of the Evangelical mind is that there is no Evangelical mind.” Since then, those words have haunted Evangelicalism and in many ways been the wake up call to a renewal for Christians to love God with their minds as well as hearts. For too long Christian thought retreated behind closed doors where it grew stale among dust and cobwebs.
There has however, been a spark of life in the Evangelical mind. There have been many who have rightly called Christians to reclaim the gift of the mind for the glory of God. Hopefully, Noll is less right than he was almost twenty years ago in regards to the absence of the Evangelical mind.
Following a long train of books calling Christians to love God with their minds, Jonathan Morrow has recently written a book urging Christians to apply their minds in a quest for applying God’s truth to contemporary culture. Think Christianly: Looking at the Intersection of Faith and Culture is a balance between Christians taking their faith seriously in their own lives, the church and the world and then bringing God’s truth to bear on all of life before a watching world.
The Biblical Call for Engagement
If the Christian faith is to intersect with culture than there must be some sort of engagement with it. This is precisely what Morrow is seeking to explore. How does a thinking Christianity engage the culture? The Biblical impetus for this cultural engagement is found in Colossians 4:5-6:
Walk in Wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (ESV)
These words are written for all believers and all believers are in culture. All Christians live in culture but not all Christians actively engage culture with the mind to apply God’s truth to it. This is a responsibility for all Christians. Morrow helpfully gives four ways in which Christians relate to culture.
- Condemning culture – In this regard, Christians condemn the sinful practices within culture such as porn, global slave trade, misuse of natural resources, rejection of the poor and abortion.
- Critiquing culture – Here, Christians analyze cultural mediums such as art. This critique should not be condemning but should offer helpful ways in which to improve the form and think about its effects upon others.
- Consuming culture – This would involve owning and using cultural products such as cell phones or computers. These are natural products of cultural advancement and growth. Christians should still think about their use of these products but they are not bad in themselves.
- Copying culture – There are some products of culture that the church can use to advance the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Using media like the radio and t.v. have been staples for Christians. With the advent of social media, Christians have been able to get the gospel out to more and more people.
These four basic ways in which Christians engage culture show us that culture is not inherently evil. But neither is all of it good. Christians must think about their involvement and always evaluate their involvement with it according the the gospel.
A Foundation for Engagement
Since Christians are to engage culture, then we must be ready to do so. There is no excuse for sloppy thinking or haphazard approaches to fighting at the intersection of faith and culture. What Christians need to realize is that Christianity, because, rightly understood, it is based on God’s truth, speaks to all of live. It is a worldview that actually addresses every area of human existence and thought. It is a comprehensive worldview.
In order to bring the Christian worldview to bear on all of live through cultural engagement, Christians must have a handle on both the Christian worldview and the competing secular worldviews. Knowledge of competing worldviews makes for more honest assessment or it and more persuasive interaction with it. Knowing the thought process of your enemies is half the battle to defeating them. Similarly, Christians must know the ins and outs of their own worldview. There is nothing worse than an ill-prepared soldier. It is wrong to represent the gospel unprepared to show how it relates to the basic areas of life.
The greatest example loving and truthful cultural engagement is that of Jesus. Though Jesus said plenty about the future, he also said a lot that pertained to the present. During His 3 year earthly ministry He was always with people. He always knew what each person needed. Whether teaching, loving, rebuking or challenging, Jesus engaged the culture and its thinking with the truth of the gospel.
Areas of Engagement
Taking our call to engage the culture and prepare for it are not enough. We must actually do it. Morrow has given himself a tall order with this third section of the book as he succinctly presents and addresses a number of issues within the culture in which Christians have an answer and need to give it.These issues range from issues surrounding the Bible itself, sex, the media, global justice, politics and science and faith.
Morrow ably sets up the issues at hand and give clear, thoughtful, helpful and direct answers to how the Christian faith speaks to each issue he addresses. Though each chapter is short, and each issue could be addressed within the span of its own book, Morrow’s answers are not simplistic but rather pack a powerful punch that any Christian should be willing to claim as their own.
In my opinion, this third section of the book is the strongest section. Every Christian will learn from Morrows example of hos to think and apply Biblical truth to every area of culture. Morrow does not shy away from the hard issue and questions. He is decidedly against the Bible supporting homosexuality and yet he addresses the issue with sensitivity and love. He is against idolizing creation through our caring of it yet rightly states that humans are the pinnacle of God’s creation and not to be valued as less than it. He does not minimize the tension in our society and the church between science and faith and provides a thoughtful and honest evaluation of the current debate.
Think Christianly is a helpful book in many ways. It is both a short introduction to the concept of worldview, a short introduction to the Christian worldview and best of all it is a model for how the Christian worldview provides answers to the questions being asked and the issues being grappled with in our culture. I highly recommend this book!
NOTE: I received this book from Zondervan for free in exchange for a review and was under no obligation to provide a favorable one. The thoughts and words expressed in this review are my own.