At last fall’s evangelical-oriented Resurgence Conference, Grammy award-winning hip-hop artist Lecrae Moore encouraged the American church to rethink how it engages culture, urging Christians to move beyond what has become a narrow, overly introverted “sacred-secular divide” (HT):
We are great at talking about salvation and sanctification. We are clueless when it comes to art, ethics, science, and culture. Christianity is the whole truth about everything. It’s how we deal with politics. It’s how we deal with science. It’s how we deal with TV and art. We can’t leave people to their own devices. We just demonize everything. If it doesn’t fit in the category of sanctification or salvation it’s just evil…
…I believe that the reason why the church typically doesn’t engage culture is because we are scared of it. We’re scared it’s going to somehow jump on us and corrupt us. We’re scared it’s going to somehow mess up our good thing. So we consistently move further and further away from the corruption, further and further away from the crime, further and further away from the post-modernity, further and further away from the relativism and secular humanism and we want to go to a safe place with people just like you. We want to be comfortable…
…I’m not saying let’s redeem the world and create this utopian planet. I’m saying let’s demonstrate what Jesus had done in us so the world may see a new way, God’s way, Jesus’ way … the picture of redemption that Jesus has done in us. So Jesus redeems us and we desire to go to the world and demonstrate that so that others can see what redemption looks like.”
These tensions can be difficult to ride, as evidenced by the struggle in American evangelicalism that Lecrae points to. To counter this type of unhealthy dualism, Abraham Kuyper’s elaborations on the doctrine of common grace are very helpful, equipping us with a robust theology of public service and cultural engagement.
In Wisdom & Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art, Kuyper addresses two of the areas Lecrae mentions, arguing that science and creativity are not threats to our faith, but opportunities to glorify God. In his introduction to Wisdom & Wonder, Vincent Bacote summarizes the full impact of Kuyper’s contribution on these areas, illuminating the ways that properly ordering our perspective on these matters can further clarify our vocations and amplify our public witness:
Abraham Kuyper’s project on common grace is a welcome contribution to larger discussions about the role of Christians in society. In recent decades, some evangelicals in the United States have struggled to discern how to live with a robust faith and proper commitment to cultural political, economic, and social engagement. For many, it seems as if the only options for Christian engagement are either some version of Christendom, which can appear to be an effort to run society according to the express dictates of Scripture, or a form of alternative witness, which is a kind of antithesis that emphasizes the practices of the Christian community as opposed to direct involvement in political and cultural domains.
Common grace helps us to see that other choices remain. God’s sustaining work in creation encourages us to participate in the various areas of life, striving to discern the best ways to pursue education, art, politics, and business as we participate within these domains. Faithful Christian engagement means the pursuit of the fullness of human life in the totality of God’s created order.
For more, see Wisdom & Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art.