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By In Culture, Theology

Culture-Changing Christians

By Kuyperian Commentary Special Contributing Scholar, Dr. Thomas Kidd

Many disappointed Romney supporters have suggested that his defeat spoke to an American culture in decline. For politics to change, they say, culture must change. Glenn Beck, for example, tweeted that “the time for politics is over. I’m doubling down on my efforts to shift the culture.”

Evangelical Christians are especially attuned to talk of changing culture. But what culture is, and just how it changes, is often less clear. Books such as Andy Crouch’s Culture Making and James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World should be required reading for any Christian making plans to change culture. Both books show that culture, or “what human beings make of the world,” in Crouch’s words, is extraordinarily complex, and not susceptible to quick change, especially through politics.

We can certainly point to Christian politicians who have helped change culture in explicitly Christian ways. The great abolitionist William Wilberforce is an excellent example. But think over the past century: many of the culture-changing Christians that jump immediately to mind have not been directly engaged with politics. For example:

C.S. Lewis, the Oxford professor whose greatest influence came through writing children’s books.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian martyred for his resistance against Nazi tyranny.

Mother Teresa, the Albanian-born nun who devoted her life to caring for lepers and AIDS patients, who testified to the dignity of all human life, including the outcast and unborn.

Each of these heroes had things to say of political consequence, but they did not see politics as their method of Christian witness or culture change.

So before we plunge headlong into changing the culture before the 2016 election, let’s think about a few principles for how evangelicals can influence culture.

1) James Davison Hunter argues that culture is shaped most by institutions that have great “symbolic capital,” including universities such as Harvard and Yale, and newspapers such as the New York Times. Popular Christian books may sell millions of copies, but they do not have the symbolic capital or cultural influence of a Pulitzer Prize winner. Christians not only need to engage with institutions of high symbolic capital, but we need Christian voices to be present in those institutions, as professors, journalists, and artists. Christian parents and teachers need to cast a winsome vision of Christian cultural engagement for children and students.

2) Christians should worry as much about preserving orthodox Christian culture as they do about changing secular culture. Indeed, preserving traditional Christian culture is an essential precondition to any wholesome changes in the broader culture. If American Christian culture is infected by theological vacuousness and historical ignorance, by shallow consumerism, or by ethical corruption, then on what basis can we hope to transform the broader culture? As Christopher Dawson’s classic Religion and the Rise of Western Culture demonstrates, Christians have often found themselves having to preserve the heritage of biblical Christianity from a hostile surrounding culture. There’s nothing especially new in our situation today.

3) While some Christians may be called vocationally to institutions of high symbolic capital, all of us can take responsibility for the mini-cultures of our family, church, and neighborhood. I’m afraid that I can’t do much about the voting patterns of Ohio, but I can sure do something about the culture of my dinner table. When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize, she was reportedly asked what we can do to promote world peace. She answered “Go home and love your family.”

Evangelicals can certainly participate in politics, but we should remember that politics tends simply to reflect culture. And culture is not easy to change, especially at the broadest levels. Christians can (and must) do more to bring a witness into institutions of high symbolic capital, but we should never underestimate the sanguine influence we can have, by God’s grace and prayer, on the little cultural spheres we inhabit on a daily basis.

(Article first published at Patheos)<>контентаподбор слов яндекс

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By In Politics, Theology

Every four years, it’s the end of the world again

At this very moment, the fate of America hangs in the balance. Re-electing President Obama will result in the destruction of America as we know it. It will lead to the Islamic takeover of our western heritage. Mitt Romney, however, loves America and knows it is the hope of the earth. He alone can save us from Obama’s agenda of ushering in the apocalypse. Cast your vote for Romney this Tuesday and be amazed at the marvelous deeds he will accomplish. A vote for Romney is a vote for all that is holy and righteous in this land.

Sounds like a pro-Romney argument you’ve heard recently, right? It’s my amateur attempt at writing an attack ad, but I think I captured the overall perspective of those who insist you must vote for Romney if you wish to be a decent American, and a decent Christian. It seems that we are always on the brink of impending doom if we don’t vote for the Republican nominee. Obama is the great enemy and Romney is our coming savior.

Our Democrat friends aren’t immune to this way of thinking, either. They buy into messianic scenarios just as easily. In 2008, it was proclaimed that Obama would establish peace in the world and usher in a much needed era of war-ending, civil-rights-protecting, transparent government. Today, we’re hearing that Romney will overturn Roe v. Wade, ban gay marriage, and let sick people die along with hurricane victims. Obama is the champion we must vote for and Romney is the terrifying adversary.

This apocalyptic mindset is borderline idolatrous. Both parties repeat the same rhetoric and propaganda each cycle, regardless of who the candidates are. Every four years, it’s the end of the world again – except that it’s not. Jesus the Christ is ruler of the universe, not Romney or Obama. He is working all things according to the counsel of his will and for our good (Eph. 1:11; Rom. 8:28). We shouldn’t worry about political scare tactics; the only thing we have to fear is God himself. The cosmos will not blow up if the “wrong guy” is elected. In fact, all leaders are given authority by God (John 19:11; Rom. 13:1). As hard as it is to believe, God planned for Barack Obama to be president. Same with George W. Bush and those before him. But this doesn’t mean that all leaders are justified in their actions. God often raises up tyrannical leaders as an act of judgment (1 Sam. 8:1-22). What it does mean is that God uses our voting strategies to bring about his will. Regardless of who is elected on Tuesday, the president of presidents will still be seated on his heavenly throne.

In his providence, Christ has placed Americans in a nation where voting is an option (not a mandate) and where multiple candidates can be on the ballot. There is no law, biblical or constitutional, that says we must vote. Nor is there a law that says we must vote for one particular candidate. Next time someone tries to guilt-trip you into voting or voting for a particular candidate – with the implication that you are an irresponsible citizen if you don’t – simply smile and say, “Chill out! Jesus is in control.”

Yet, we certainly do have responsibilities when it comes to electing our leaders. We are instructed to pray for them (1 Tim. 2:1-2) and to obey them as long as it doesn’t necessitate disobeying God (Acts 5:27–29; Rom. 13:2-5). We should also use wisdom in our voting strategies. We are supposed to proclaim the lordship of Christ in all areas of life, including politics. This means that we can’t make apathetic or uninformed decisions. But it’s precisely because Jesus is Lord that we aren’t obligated to vote a particular way. We don’t know the future and he has not told us which candidate he plans to elect. As has been previously argued, there are valid points made for each voting strategy. The question to ask yourself is,“which result would best further the kingdom?” Christians won’t always agree on the answer to that. We won’t know God’s answer to that until Tuesday night.<>гугл добавить youtube продвижение

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By In Theology

Close of the Day Family Devotion

I’ve been working on coming up with a good model for family devotions for some time, and after much experimenting and many failures this is something that we have found works quite well, especially with small children.  It’s almost directly taken from Concordia Publishing House’s The Lord Will Answer: A Daily Prayer Catechism, with only slight changes here and there.  Many of the other models we’ve tried, while good, have just proven to burdensome and at times bordered on violating the command not to exasperate one’s children.  I like this because it is fairly short and simple, yet incorporates a number of things I value and wish to teach my children including call and response, some simple prayers to be memorized, Biblical collects, sung or chanted Psalms, Bible reading, and a time of prayer for specific needs and thanksgivings.  Further, it allows for growth as children mature, having a place for more singing through moving from the simple Song of Simeon to working through the Psalms, and allowing for longer Scripture readings or the addition of readings from a Bible study book or devotional work.  It’s not perfect and I’d appreciate feedback or suggestions as I continue to work on it, but we’ve been more faithful to do devotions somewhat regularly with this model than any other we’ve tried.

——————————————————–

The sign of the cross may be made by all in remembrance of their baptism. (1, 2)

In the name of the Father, and of the ☩ Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praise to Your name, O Most High;
To herald Your love in the morning,
Your truth at the close of the day.

 

READING

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

Other readings: Micah 7:18-20; Matthew 18:15-35; Matthew 25:1-13; Luke 11:1-13; Luke 12:13-34; Romans 8: 31-39; II Corinthians 4:16-18; Revelation 21:22-22:5

Alternatively, a longer passage may be worked through night by night, one or two short section(s) at a time.  Examples include, the Creation account, the Ten Commandments, selections from the Wisdom Literature of Solomon, the Sermon on the Mount, the Crucifixion (particularly during Lent or Holy Week), or even an entire book of Scripture such as one of the epistles.

Depending on the age of the children this may be followed (or preceded) by a reading from a devotional or Bible study book and/or discussion. (3)

 

CANTICLE

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word,
for mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people,
a light to lighten the Gentiles
and the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.  
(Luke 2: 29-32, The Song of Simeon or Nunc Dimittis) (4)

Alternatively, here may be sung or chanted another canticle such as the Magnificat (Song of Mary), or a Psalm. (5)

 

PRAYERS

  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • Prayers for others and ourselves
  • Concluding collect:

We thank You, our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ , Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept us this day; and we pray that you would forgive us all our sins where we have done wrong, and graciously keep us this night.  For into your hands we commend ourselves, our bodies and souls, and all things.  Let Your holy angels be with us, that the evil foe may have no power over us.  Amen.  (Adapted from Martin Luther’s Small Catechism)

  • Threefold Amen.

Then go to sleep in good cheer!

Footnotes:
1. Bold type indicates read by all, 
Regular type indicates read by one, Italicized type indicates instructions.
2. Adapted from the Close of the Day prayer (p. 474) in The Lord Will Answer: A Daily Prayer Catechism published by Concordia Publishing House.
3. E.g. “A House for My Name: A Survey of the Old Testament,” Peter J. Leithart.
4. A good tune for this canticle is that used by the Lutheran Church, a sample of which may be seen here.
5. Concordia Publishing House has also provided the Church with an excellent resource for chanting the Psalter using the ESV translation in their small volume, “Reading the Psalms with Luther,” which includes among other helpful things a set of chant tones and the Psalter pointed for chanting.  It is available here.
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