Christianity and Culture

Last Sunday Dave preached a great sermon on the need for every church and every Christian to shun the unbiblical categories of sacred and secular and instead embrace the lordship of Christ over all spaces, institutions, and human endeavors. While listening to the message, I thought of three related quotes that over the years influenced my thinking on this subject.

The first is by Abraham Kupyer who was the prime minister of the Netherlands at the turn of the 20th century but was also a prominent and respected journalist and theologian. Kuyper famously said, “Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!'”

You may recognize that this blog’s title is inspired by Kuyper’s statement that Jesus claims every square inch of creation as his. Personally, I find it to be a helpful reminder that there isn’t any part of creation that Jesus isn’t Lord of. As Dave emphasized in the sermon, it is unbiblical to divide creation into sacred and secular because those categories assume that there are some parts of life and the world that Jesus is less interested in.

The second quote comes from Charles Malik. A Lebanese academic, philosopher, and government official who served as Lebanon’s Foreign Minister from 1956-1958, Malik was a committed Christian in the Greek Orthodox church.

The problem is not only to win souls but to save minds. If you win the whole world and lose the mind of the world, you will soon discover you have not won the world. Indeed it may turn out you have actually lost the world.

Unfortunately, the evangelical church in America has an anti-intellectual streak that teaches that too much education is harmful to a person’s faith. This too is unbiblical. Just think of Daniel who the Scriptures declare learned the language, literature, and philosophy of the pagan Babylonians. His education contributed to his rise in the Babylonian government and gave him a great platform influence for the gospel. The Crossing must value the life of the mind and those who pursue advanced degrees.

The third quote comes from J. Gresham Machen the great American theologian of the 1920s and 30s, who founded both seminaries and denominations and wrote books that are still widely read today.

False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root.

The Christian who is concerned for people’s salvation must also be concerned for the culture we live in for it is the cultural ideas and values that shape both Christians and non-Christians. To win a soul but lose the culture is to forfeit the future for a short term gain. If Christianity is to be considered a viable worldview, then it will require followers fully engaged in the intellectual realm.

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