Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Thoughts on Christian Culture and Christendom

As a Christian, I desire to see the dominion of Christ over every area of life. Not content to see Christianity restricted to a private religious realm, with others I seek an entire way of life and thought which is subject to Christ and his word, a culture which is shaped by a Christian worldview.

We seek to develop Christian culture, but not as if there is only one cultural expression of Christianity, or as if it is something to be created out of thin air. We seek to develop Christian cultures, to put Christ at the heart of every culture. Christendom has been composed of various Christian cultures united by a common commitment to Christ and the Bible. This approach affirms national, cultural, and familial identities and loyalties as we express our faith and obedience as unique nations, cultures, and families. These distinctions are not obliterated in a single Christian monoculture, though they may be radically transformed by Christ just like the individual Christian. The commandment to honor father and mother teaches us to honor, receive, and build upon what is good in our cultural inheritance. 

Yet this approach also affirms the unity of the peoples and cultures of the world as they submit to Christ. It remind us that any particular Christian culture is one variation on a theme which it shares with others. Not only do we identify with our particular culture, but also with Christendom.

The primary instrument of Christendom’s growth, and the institutional expression of Christ’s kingdom, is the visible church of Jesus Christ and its ordinances (such as the word of God, sacraments, prayer, pastoral care and discipline, and worship). Christ has given his church a commission as well as the means to carry it out and his presence to make them effective. As Isaiah prophesied, the house of God and its instruction is central to the discipleship and transformation of the nations (Is. 2:1-5). Cultures become Christian as the gospel of Jesus Christ produces repentance and obedience in the hearts of men, changing the way they live their lives.

While human sin will continue to mar this process - all Christian cultures are in the process of being discipled - the goal of this process is not something ugly, barren, or harsh, which is how many imagine a Christian social order to be. Rather, a Christian way of life is a restoration of humanity and its culture, infusing it with renewed justice, wisdom, peace, and joy. When God’s ways are faithfully taught and demonstrated, they are capable of attracting admiration and imitation from unbelievers because these ways are inherently wise, beautiful, good, and true. It is for us to avoid obscuring their goodness by our sins and follies, to defend them from slander, and to put them on display in our lives.

Satan and the sin of man resists Christ, and we should be prepared to experience hostility and hinderances to our efforts to follow Christ in all our ways. Sinful habits are woven into the heart of man - ours included. So remember to rest on the power of Christ to subdue the raging of the nations. Ground your hopes on his gospel. And begin reformation with your own ways and the ways of your house. Be humble about your abilities and faithful in your particular calling - this is a vast project shared by the whole church from generation to generation. And even if others despise or slander you, remember your goal is to love them and to seek the good of your people and culture. And do so with hope. Though the church endures difficulty and trials, it shall be an instrument used by Christ to advance his reign, extend his blessings, and restore human culture in its diversity to the service of God.

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