CHRISTIANITY AND CULTURE: THE CASE FOR REFORMATIONAL CULTURAL ACTIVISM

Gideon Strauss (Dept. of Philosophy, University of the Orange Free State)

 

A NOTE ON THE TERM "CULTURE"

The term "culture" has suffered a severe reduction in modern thought. It is often understood to refer only to the intellectual and aesthetic pursuits of an elite. This is not how the term is used in this talk. "Culture" is the full range of human activity, subject to God’s creation norms in all realms. To quote Hans Rookmaker (The Creative Gift: Essays On Art And The Christian Life. Westchester, Illinois: Cornerstone Books, 1981):

Life should be one, and culture is simply the creation of life’s forms, customs, and institutions, as well as our utilization of nature and its resources, When a farmer cultivates, his methods and tools are all part of culture. When a composer writes a song, that is also culture. He chooses sounds and expresses ideas, creating a form whereby people can express themselves.

Christians have through the ages understood the relationship between Christianity and culture in different ways. Our understanding of this relationship is not merely an academic matter; rather, it is one of fundamental religious importance. It shapes the earthly life of Christians, and plays a fundamental role in relationships among Christians, and between Christians and non-Christians.

 

H. RICHARD NIEBUHR’ S TYPOLOGY

This typology of the different understandings of the relationship between Christianity and culture is probably the most widely known and influential of all recent such attempts.

In Christ And Culture (New York, Hagerstown, San Francisco, London: Harper Colophon Books, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1975; original edition 1951) - one of those "must read’ books – Niebuhr (p39 – 44) identifies five approaches to the relationship between Christianity and Culture:

 

 

Christ against Culture

The Christ of Culture

Christ above Culture

Christ and Culture in Paradox

Christ the Transformer of Culture

 

the church of the center

 

Among the latter three (the church of the center) he identifies a certain relationship, in that they each distinguish and affirm both Christ and culture, albeit in different ways.

 

Christ against Culture

This view rejects this world as evil. Christ is understood as presenting people in every culture with a strict ‘either - or’ decision: for him and against culture, or for culture and against him. It considers the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus’ authoritative and sufficient kingdom law, requiring his followers to live on earth as sojourners. Salvation requires retreat from culture - including art, politics and the military - to an elect community. This is the Christianity of the monastery, of Tolstoy, of the Amish and of the early Quakers.

Christians such as these have always served the Christian community by their reminder of the radical and total Lordship of Christ over and against all other lords, but have failed by restricting his Lordship to an arbitrarily limited sector of human life. Such a Christianity is fraught with theological problems, especially regarding the Trinity. The most radical Christianity has often led to an abandonment of the essence of Christianity, as in the Quaker enthronement of private conscience above Scriptural revelation, and Tolstoy’s substitution of the scriptural and historical Christs with a "spirit" immanent in Buddha, Jesus, Confucius, and himself (p.40-41, 45-82).

 

The Christ of Culture

The second view reduces Christ to a mere figurehead of one’s own culture, embodying all its values and invalidating any critique. Revelation is accommodated to reason, salvation is reduced to moral influence and the distinction between Cod and world becomes vague. Of course such cultured people believe themselves to be sincere Christians, while reducing Jesus to (merely) another cultural hero. His life and teachings are considered the pinnacle of human achievement, an embodiment of the best in humanity. He is considered part of the cultural heritage, to be preserved and passed on to subsequent generations (p.41, 83-115). This is the Christianity of liberal and nominal Protestantism, of Abelard, of Kant, Jefferson and Schleiermacher, of Hegel, Emerson and Ritschl. (As the precursor to all these, Niebuhr sees the Gnostics.)

The Christ of Culture is a reminder that all Christianity is to some extent a Christianity of its culture. "Roman Catholic reaction against the Protestantism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries seems often to be animated by a desire to return to the culture of the thirteenth… Nothing in the Christian movement is so similar to cultural Protestantism as is cultural Catholicism, nothing more akin to German Christianity than American Christianity, or more like the church of the middle class than a workers’ church. The terms differ, but the logic is always the same: Christ is identified with what men conceive to be their finest ideals, their noblest institutions, and their best philosophy" (p.103). Although these Christians often aspire to improve their culture without much concern for the extension of Christ’s kingdom, by helping people to understand Christ contextually, they contribute to the common Christian task, even if their work must be completed by those who articulate the transcendence of Christ more clearly. The Christ of Culture has drawn our attention to previously neglected aspects of the true Christ, and in the accommodation of Christ to culture there is not only the disobedience of men, but also the (common) grace of God. Cultural Christianity cannot completely divorce itself from fullness of meaning in Christ.

Cultural Christianity fails by accommodating Christ, abstracting some aspect from the biblical Christ (p.108-115). Like the Gnostics, cultural Christians rewrite the gospels in apocryphal and skewed forms. Cultural Christians are often like their opposite, the anti-cultural Christians. Both fail to attract more than the minutest number of people to the faith, and hold surprisingly similar views on sin, grace and the Trinity. Both suspect theology - the anti-culturals for its excessively worldly wisdom, the culturals for its insufficient rationalism. Neither cultural nor anti-cultural Christianity can accept the doctrine of total depravity. Each affirms some sinless realm: either the personal spirit, or the holy community. Sin is seen in both cases to be located in the animal passions and certain social institutions. Both lean towards law rather than grace, seeming to believe that by obedience to the laws of either God or reason, men can achieve the necessary ultimate ends, to which grace is but a mean. Like anti-cultural Christianity, cultural Christianity cannot accommodate the Triune God - it requires either a Gnostic more-than-triune or a liberal less-than-triune God. In every instance reality (Creation, Fall and Redemption) eventually reveals the inadequacy of Cultural Christianity. As Niebuhr points out, "…it is not possible honestly to confess that Jesus is the Christ of culture unless one can confess much more than this" (p.115).

 

Most Christians, claims Niebuhr (1975: 116-120), fall in between the two extremes of cultural and anti-cultural Christianity - constituting the so-called "church of the centre". This view does not simply oppose Christ and culture, or consider the latter as totally depraved, insofar as it is at least the Creation of the Father. It holds a diversity of views, but nonetheless views closer to each other than to those of the two extremes - views consonant with a broad Christian theological orthodoxy. In the "church of the centre", Niebuhr distinguishes three tendencies: the synthesist dualists (Christ above Culture), the paradoxical dualists (Christ and Culture in Paradox), and the conversionists (Christ the Transformer of Culture).

 

Christ above Culture

This view sees nature as supplemented and fulfilled by grace, while both find their origin in Christ. Cultural institutions are seen to be founded in limited natural law, while Christ’s supernatural law enables us to reach salvation. Thomistic scholasticism is an example of this synthesist dualist approach (p.42, 116-148). It understands Christ’s relation to culture somewhat as the cultural Christians do: he fulfills cultural aspirations and restores the institutions of society. Yet something in him does not arise out of culture and does not directly contribute to it. Culture does direct people to Christ, but in such a preliminary fashion that it requires a great leap if men are to reach him. True culture is impossible unless, beyond all human achievement, "Christ enters into life from above with gifts which human aspiration has not envisioned and which human effort cannot attain unless he relates men to a supernatural society and a new value-center’.

Synthesist Christians hold the relation between Christ and culture to be "both-and" rather than "either-or", yet without the cultural Christian accommodation and reduction of the nature of Christ to contemporary opinion. The synthesist opinion of Christ is high, seeing him as both Logos and Lord, Similarly, the synthesist sees culture as of both human and divine origin, and thus subject to both reason and revelation. This high view of both Christ and culture distinguishes the synthesist from both cultural and anti-cultural Christians.

The distinction between the synthesist and other traditions of the "church of the centre" is the particular way in which it attempts to combine the distinct elements of the perceived duality in the Christian life into a single structure of thought and conduct (p.120-141). It is an attempt that finds its ultimate expression in the scheme of Thomas Aquinas, and which continues to attract Christians of both Catholic and Protestant persuasion because of its comprehensiveness. It is lacking perhaps in view of its slight nostalgia for a previous age, which in some instances does not quite translate into an appropriate contemporary analysis and programme. As Niebuhr (p. 142—144) points out:

Apart perhaps from some... exclusive believers, all Christians find themselves in agreement with the synthesists’ affirmation of the importance of the civil virtues and of just social institutions. Augustinians and Lutherans regard these virtues and institutions in a different light, but join in acknowledgement of their importance for the follower of Christ and for every citizen of the commonwealth of God. What distinguishes the synthesist of Thomas’ sort is his concern to discover the bases of right in the given, created nature of man and his world. His insistence that the "ought" is founded on the "is", though this in turn be founded on the "ought" in God’s mind, appeals with all its realism to all who are aware of the dangers of wishful thinking... There is an appealing greatness in the synthesists’ resolute proclamation that the God who is to rule now rules and has ruled, that His rule is established in the nature of things, and that man must build on the established foundations. He expresses in this way… the principle that the Creator and the Savior are one, or that whatever salvation means beyond creation it does not mean the destruction of the created. …the synthesist offers to Christians an intelligible basis for the work they must do in co-operation with non-believers... The synthesist… seems to provide for a willing and intelligent co-operation of Christians with non-believers in carrying on the work of the world, while yet maintaining the distinctiveness of Christian faith and life.

Alongside of this… stands… its unswerving witness to the fact that the gospel promises and requires more than the rational knowledge of the Creator’s plan for the creature and willing obedience to the law of nature demand and assure.

However valuable the synthesist approach may have been historically to Christianity, it is nonetheless subject to certain defects. The very project of synthesis necessarily leads to the "absolutizinq of what is relative, the reduction of the infinite to a finite form, and the materialization of the dynamic" (p245). Syntheses by their very nature are provisional and symbolic, but this their adherents cannot recognize. Thus synthesist Christianity always tends towards cultural conservatism, an institutionalization of Christ and the gospel, and an attempt to establish grades of Christian perfection. Synthesis eventually fails because of its inability to recognise fully the radical evil of sin present in all human work (p.145-148).

 

Christ and Culture in Paradox

This view sees the world as radically corrupt, but not abandoned by God. He preserves order against chaos through social structures. The view of Christians as sinners justified by grace living in a world of necessary evils leads to a private, personal Christian morality with little intention of public influence (p.42-43, 149-189). This view recognizes a duality of Christ and culture, in which both are seen to have an inescapable authority, but in opposition to each other. As Niebuhr points out (1975: 184), paradoxical "dualism may be the refuge of worldly-minded persons who wish to make a slight obeisance in the direction of Christ, or of pious spiritualists who feel that they owe some reverence to culture." Supporters of this view hold that Christians cannot in this life escape the tension between these two authorities. They believe that both the cultural Christians and the synthesists accommodate the claims of Christ to those of secular society, agreeing in this with the anti-cultural Christians, but disagreeing with the latter insofar as they affirm the need to obey God through both obedience to societal institutions and obedience to the Christ who judges these institutions. They see humanity as subject to two discontinuous moralities in two discontinuous realities. A precarious and sinful life is inescapable, and only justifiable in view of our extra-historical justification in Christ. Of this type, Niebuhr sees Luther as the clearest example, with others like Kierkegaard and Troeltsch as variants on the theme.

The paradoxical dualist approach (in common with the cultural and anti-cultural Christianity, and in opposition to synthesist dualism) struggles with one big issue: the profound and irresolvable conflict between God and humanity (or rather, in view of the very existential nature of the dualist approach, between God and us). The paradoxical dualist understands this conflict, and grace and sin, from the perspective of reconciliation - the great turning point in Christ: a fundamental interruption, a profound turnabout which thereafter forever reverberates in the thought and life of the paradoxical dualist much more evidently than among other Christians. Grace is not in any way a natural and reasonable truth for the paradoxical dualist. This profound experience of personal grace is linked to a very high view of the holiness of God which, while it does not eradicate the distinction between human folly arid wisdom, crime and punishment, profanity and holiness, nonetheless tenders these human distinctions relatively insignificant. This is not a judgmental understanding of the fundamental corruption of human culture, but rather an acceptance of divine judgment in solidarity with the rest of mankind. This condition is for the paradoxical dualist the fundamental and ever-present reality of this life (p.149—156).

The paradoxical dualist cannot share the synthesist dualist’s high view of human culture. With the anti-cultural Christian he has to admit this world to be abandoned to godlessness. Yet he realizes his inability to escape culture, and recognizes God’s sustenance of culture, and of humanity within it. Paradoxical dualism is forever bound to speaking in paradox, a tension most evident in the opposition of law and grace, and of divine wrath and mercy. This complexity is increased by his dynamic Trinitarian awareness. The dualism of Luther is therefore dynamic and dialectical, unlike the static parallel moralities of his later followers (p.178):

Living between time and eternity, between wrath and mercy, between culture and Christ, the true Lutheran finds life both tragic and joyful. There is no solution of the dilemma this side of death.

This approach reflects the actual daily struggle of Christians who in this time of conflict and grace cannot presume to live up to the requirements of the eternal. Paradoxical dualism reports the Christian experience rather than expounds a program of the ideal. While witnessing to the power of Christ, it recognizes the power of sin. It may not be internally consistent in analysis but it is consistent with much of Christian experience. It also portrays more accurately than most the dynamic, relational nature of Christian faith, expressing the freedom of reaction to divine action, and service of the neighbour rather than the self, against strict and static obedience to the direct requirements of the law.

These virtues are accompanied by the related vices: tendencies to antinomianism and cultural conservatism. Though the dualists do not intend it, they still make forms of rationalization available to the wayward and the weak. Their understanding of culture more as restraining evil and preventing anarchy than as a positive force toward true life, and their lack of commitment to the broken temporal reality has lead dualists often to identify fall and creation too closely, not entirely doing justice to the creative work of God. These factors have caused dualism to be largely a culturally conservative force, for better or for worse. This is the primary difference between the dualist and the conversionist approaches (p.179-189).

 

Christ the Transformer of Culture

This view sees the world as fallen, but able to be sanctified personally and socially (p.43). Conversionists agree with anti-culturalists and paradoxical dualists about the fallen perversion of human nature, and the transmission of this perversion in and through culture. The brokenness of culture is recognized without recognizing any particular need for Christian separation from or mere endurance in human culture. Rather, Christ is seen as converting people within their cultures and societies, not apart from them. Nature does not exist without culture, and people turn from self and idols toward God only within society. Here Niebuhr’s examples include Augustine, John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards.

The conversionist approach is part of the great central tradition of Christianity. It rejects the path of anti- cultural isolation without attempting to ameliorate Christ’s judgment of this world in the manner of the cultural Christians. At the same time, it holds a more positive attitude towards culture than the paradoxical dualists, believing it to remain under God’s sovereign rule even as He judges it, and understanding Christian obedience to include cultural action (p.190-229).

The theological roots of this positive attitude towards culture are to be found in an undiluted affirmation of the doctrine of creation, emphasizing the participation of the Word in creation, at once holding creation and redemption in mind without subjugating either. With regard to sin, the conversionist view emphasizes the radical nature of the fall, but distinguishes it clearly from creation, and does not identify it excessively with life in the material realm, as do the dualists. According to Niebuhr (p.194), conversionists believe that...

Man’s nature has become corrupted; it is not bad, as something that ought not to exist, but warped, twisted, and misdirected… culture is all corrupted order rather than order for corruption, as it is for the dualists. It is perverted good, not evil; or it is evil as perversion, and not as badness of being. The problem of culture is therefore the problem of its conversion, not of its replacement by a new creation; though the conversion is so radical that it amounts to a kind of rebirth.

These convictions about creation and fall combine with a view of history as not merely the course of human events but rather the interaction between God and men (p.195):

For the conversionist, history is the story of God’s mighty deeds and of man’s responses to them. He lives somewhat less "between the times" and somewhat more in the divine "Now" than do his brother Christians. The eschatological future has become for him an eschatological present. Eternity means for him less the action of God before time and less the life with God after time, and more the presence of God in time. Eternal life is a Quality of existence in the here and now. Hence the conversionist is less concerned with the conservation of what has been given in creation, less with preparation for what will be given in a final redemption, than with the divine possibility of a present renewal.

For the conversionist the kingdom of God is transformed culture, a conversion of the human spirit from self-worship to the worship of God. This is a very real kingdom, since outside of the rule of God nothing can exist, as he sustains everything every moment and as in every moment human beings deal with him (p.228-229).

Niebuhr seems not to criticize the reformational or conversionist approach, except to notice that other approaches more clearly "image into the world" certain aspects of the common Christian faith (e.g. - 1975: 68—69, 107—108, 143, 18S—186).

 

REFORMATIONAL CHRISTIANITY: Integral Antithetical Conversionism

One desire has been the ruling passion of my life. One high motive has acted like a spur upon my mind and soul. And sooner than that I should seek escape from the sacred necessity that is laid upon me, let the breath of life fail me. It is this: That in spite of all worldly opposition, God’s holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school and in the State for the good of the people; to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which Bible and Creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God.

Abraham Kuyper, Lectures On Calvinism (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1931, 9th printing 1976 p.iii)

Reformational Christianity in the line of Augustine, Calvin, Groen van Prinsterer, Kuyper and Dooyeweerd clearly understands the relationship between Christianity and culture from a perspective Niebuhr would call conversionist.

Reformational philosophy distinguishes between integral and dualistic understandings of this world, rejecting the latter. It affirms the validity of the human mandate to cultural activity on the basis of the creational order, and thus sees all the world encompassed in creation. Attempts to devise a dualistic interpretation of reality, normally conceived of in terms of a distinction between the secular and sacred realms of reality, are conclusively rejected. Gordon Spykmnan clearly stated this position in an essay contained in D.E. Holwerda’s Exploring The Heritage Of John Calvin (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eaker Book House, 1976, p. 166):

Confessing redemption as the restoration of creation, (the Reformational worldview) stood for the sovereignty of God over all, and held that the saving work of Jesus Christ liberates the Christian community for obedient discipleship and responsible stewardship in every sphere of life. Scripture reopens the doors to every corner of Gods creation. Christian liberty is a gift of God in Jesus Christ, a freedom which is to be exercised in holiness. Such holy freedom impels Christians to reclaim every sphere of life for the King - home, school, church, state, college, university, labor, commerce, politics, science, art, journalism, and all the rest.

On the foundation of the creational responsibility of humanity, and the subsequent directional conflict between faith and apostasy, sin and devotion, Reformational Christianity distinguishes between synthetical and antithetical Christian approaches to culture. The former sees Christians as radically opposed to non-Christian cultural activity, while the latter attempts a synthesis between Christianity and non-Christian cultural activity.

The relation between these two sets of distinctions (dualistic/integral and synthetical/antithetical) provides
one of the valuable analytical tools of Reformational cultural criticism.

 

Integral

Dualistic

Antithetical

Calvin, Kuyper, Stott, Rookmaker

Amish, old-time Pentecostals

Synthetical

Liberal theologians

Thomas Aquinas, Dorothy Sayers

(I have a problem with placing Lutherans in this scheme - maybe this illustrates their paradoxical dualism well!)

Reformational Christianity has, perhaps more than any other Christian tradition, advocated the vigorous development of a distinctly Christian culture, on the basis of an integral understanding of the world and an antithetical approach to non-Christian culture. This has not been intended as an attempt at the formation so much of a counter-culture as at transforming the common culture. Where this purpose has through the course of time weakened it has often, however, exactly produced a counter-culture, or at its worst, an introspective, subculture. But antithetical, integrally conversionist fervour has time and again resurged, to re-invigorate Reformationlal Christianity, and repeatedly to reshape the common culture.

 

CONTEXTUALITY

Contextuality is a controversial but inescapable topic when talking about Christianity and culture. The term was introduced in 1972 by Shoki Coe and Aharon Sapsezian, directors of the World Council of Churches’ Theological Education Fund, in their report Ministry And Context (referred to in Sinclair B. Ferguson and David F. Wright (eds.), New Dictionary Of Theology. Leicester, England/Downers Grove, Illinois, U.S.A.: Inter-Varsity, 1988, p265) as a necessary extension beyond missionary "indigenization". "Indigenization" did supposedly not sufficiently address "the process of secularity, technology and the struggle for human justice which characterised the historical moment of nations in the third world".

According to its advocates "contextuality" is the ability to respond in a meaningful way to the gospel within the framework of one’s particular set of circumstances. It is a necessity, rather than an accessory, to Christian faith and life (and, of course, theology) because of the incarnational nature of the Word (Bruce 3. Nicholls, Contextualization: A Theology Of Gospel And Culture. Downer’s Grove, Illinois, U.S.A.: InterVarsity Press/Exeter, England: Paternoster Press, 1979, p.22). Contextualization therefore implies addressing biblical truth to both the traditional indigenous culture and contemporary factors in cultural change.

Two approaches to the question of contextualization is common in contemporary theology: existential contextualization and dogmatic contextualization (Nicholls 1979: 24—36). The former is the more common form, and is the only understanding of the term in liberal ecumenical circles. Two principles lie at the foundation of this approach: the essential relativity and culturally conditioned nature of text and context, and dialectical thinking. Existential contextualization rejects an understanding of revelation as objective and authoritative because of its assumption that knowledge can never be free of subjectivity. It proposes a range of contextual theologies, each conditioned by its own community of faith, rather than a single biblical theology. This approach has virtually without exception proceeded from an initial rejection of the exclusivity of Christian claims to truth, to a comprehensive syncretism of Christian and non-Christian belief and practice.

There is clearly a need for the courageous and innovative use of cultural elements that do not stand in contradiction to biblical truth, while avoiding the temptation of compromising authentic Christian faith and life. Syncretism may be a process of unconscious assimilation as easily as an intentional process. In the West truth has suffered extensively from such unconscious assimilation. Two kinds of syncretism can be identified: cultural and theological, the latter almost inevitably leading to the former (Nicholls 1979: 28-34). Cultural syncretism may be the result of enthusiastic but uncritical use of cultural symbols and religious practices as vehicles of biblical truth, resulting in a fusion of Christian and non-Christian beliefs and practices, or of an aggressive, self-conscious and bigoted identification of the gospel with one’s own culture, a vice not entirely uncommon among Christians through the ages, resulting in cultural imperialism rather than a genuine communication of biblical truth. Theological syncretism operates in terms of a number of recognizable principles: the denial of biblical revelation as final or absolute, the unhistorical universalization of Christian particulars (including reducing the historical Christ to an extra- historical idea, or of the personal God to an impersonal Absolute), complimentarity (in which the synthesis or consensus of a sum total of "truths" are considered to be greater than the expression of any particular one ‘truth’), and progressive absorption (claims to trans-cultural uniqueness and finality are absorbed by naturalistic, humanistic ideology and practice). Syncretism inevitably results in a surrender of evangelism and the church to slow decline and death, with at best the maintenance of a vague unprincipled social concern.

Dogmatic contextualization sets out from an authoritative biblical theology, the dogmatic understanding of which is then contextualized in a given situation (Nicholls 1979: 24). The Gospel is not negotiable. At the same time, cultural contact is a given in all contexts where the biblical message is proclaimed. Proper hermeneutics becomes ever more important. The cultural context is not the starting point. It is, however, the necessary path of communication. Biblical contextualization depends on an emphasis on the nature of God as both and equally Creator and Saviour, and a turn away from alienation and idolatry to true relationship and worship.

In Niebuhr’s terms, existential contextualization would be characteristic of the cultural Christian approach, while dogmatic contextualization would be more thoroughly in the tradition of the "church of the center". Contextualization is clearly not a matter pertaining only to theology or evangelism. While liberal theologians have stripped the process of contextualization of any firm biblical content, evangelical Christians have perhaps understood the term too narrowly: as an evangelistic cake with a social action icing sugar coating, more in an attempt to seem relevant or fashionable than as an expression of any comprehensive and intrinsic philosophical understanding of reality.

Conversionist Reformational Christianity provides a foundation for the comprehensive contextualization of biblical truth in diverse cultural contexts. Such contextualization can never be the mere accommodation of biblical truth to human requirements. It is rather the exact opposite: the reformation of culture in the light of the universal gospel, the latter stripped of irrelevant cultural baggage and understood as the timeless and absolute appeal and promise of an eternal God.

INTEGRAL ANTITHETICAL REFORMATION

What are our Christian cultural responsibilities in Africa?

A reformational approach would require a process of piecemeal but comprehensive reform. Based on a belief in the integral wholeness of creation - including human culture - Christian cultural activity may abandon no realm of existence. All of creation must be renewed, reclaimed for the Kingdom, transformed in terms of the God given creational principles. Such an integral approach provides at the same time a defense of structural plurality against institutional absolutism - the creational wholeness of all that is, in its glorious diversity, counters the exclusive exaltation of any particular created realm or thing.

Antithetical reformation recognizes the cultural consequences - due to the Fall - of the radical opposition between Christianity and apostate faiths. While recognizing a common created humanity, it is not deluded about the inevitable failure of all attempts at a fundamental synthesis between Christian and non-Christian cultural goods.

Integral reformation implies a profound respect for the dignity of created human beings, growing out of neighbourly love. This implies an ethic of reformational practice, characterized by both courage and humility - courage in principled conviction, and humility in realization of human inadequacy.

Integral antithetical reformation affirms the 2qodness of the whole creation, the profound brokenness of creation lapsed, and the messianic hope of creation redeemed. This provides an understanding of the cultural responsibilities of the Christian, which is informed by a tough, compassionate and joyous realism. Integral reformation encourages Christian cultural activism - with a human face.

 

M2M Issue 2 October 1992, p.24