Category: On Call in Culture

Common Grace, Abraham Kuyper, Noah-AdamChristian’s Library Press has released the first in its series of English translations of Abraham Kuyper’s most famous work, Common Grace, a three-volume work of practical public theology. This release, Noah-Adam, is the first of three parts in Volume 1: The Historical Section.

Common Grace (De gemeene gratie) was originally published in 1901-1905 while Kuyper was prime minister. This new translation is for modern Christians who want to know more about their proper role in public life and the vastness of the gospel message. The project is a collaboration between the Acton Institute and Kuyper College.

For Kuyper, Noah provides “the fixed historical starting point for the doctrine of common grace lies in God’s establishment of a covenant with Noah, after the flood.”

As he explains further in the beginning of the book:

Until the time of Noah, everything surged back and forth in continual unrest, and was subjected to change. The curse continued its wrathful operation. But with Noah that turbulence was changed into rest through an omnipotent act of the Lord’s mercy. After the flood God provided his covenant: his covenant given to this earth, to all who were called human beings, his covenant even to the animal world and to all of nature. It extends from Noah to the Maranatha for the external order of things, in undisturbed stability, rest, and order. It is the Lord’s design. It is his sovereign good pleasure. (more…)

Gray Matters, Brett McCrackenIn his 2010 book, Hipster Christianity, Brett McCracken explored the dynamics of a particular cultural movement in (and against) modern evangelicalism. In his new book, Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty, he pulls the lens back, focusing on how the church more broadly ought to approach culture, particularly when it comes to consuming it.

Though McCracken’s book focuses on just four areas — food, drink, music, and film — his basic framework and the surrounding discussion offers much for Christians to ponder and absorb when it comes to cultural engagement at large.

In an interview with On Call in Culture, McCracken was kind enough to answer some questions on the topic.

Early on, you explain that your book is not about “making culture,” but about “consuming culture well.” Yet you also note how consumption and creation can intersect and overlap. How does our approach to consumption impact our creative output?

In order to be a good creator of culture, one must be a good consumer of it. We will never make great films if we don’t love the greatest films, know the greatest films, and understand why they are great. The best chefs are the ones who love food the most and take the time to consume it well — to pay attention to flavor profiles, to savor tastes that go well together, to understand what cooking methods work and don’t work, etc. The great artists in history didn’t just make their masterpieces from some innate mastery of technique. They studied the masters first and did the work of understanding why one painting or symphony was a masterpiece and why another one wasn’t. They were good consumers before they were good creators. (more…)

WisdomWonderInterVarsity’s Emerging Scholars Blog recently posted two reviews of Abraham Kuyper’s Wisdom and Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art, one from Dan Jesse, the other from David Carlson.

Carlson nicely summarizes some of the book’s key implications for the life of the believer:

One does not need to do Christian science or Christian art to be a faithful Christian in those domains.  One needs to do good science or good art. Yet, science and art are powerful tools that come without a clear moral compass or centering integration. A believer ought to do art or science in a way that is truly integrated by means of Special Grace.

Jesse focuses a bit more on Kuyper’s discussion of science, concluding that rejecting science “would be a rejection of God”:

What we need to judge, Kuyper concludes, is whether or not science has its starting point with the spirit of the world or with the Spirit of God. The former will always lead us to destruction and the latter towards greater knowledge of our Creator.

When it is all said and done, Kuyper leaves us with a framework to judge science from. We are not to reject science, as that would be a rejection of God. We should not discount science, as it can inform our world. We should not try to proof-text science, and make sure that it conforms with a literal view of scripture, as this would be doing both scripture and science a disservice. Kuyper’s section on science…seems to be calling out to us today. It is issuing forth a call that needs to be heeded by the church. We need to embrace and embody science. (more…)

decision-2_300Over at Desiring God blog, Sam Crabtree offers 16 simple principles, each accompanied by Scripture, to help reorient our thinking about the work of our hands, particularly among those in executive and administrative roles.

Highlighting our persistent human tendency to neglect our Creator, Crabtree cautions against the subtle temptation to begin operating “as if we really can execute on our tasks all by our lonesome, without the constant help of our God.” What distinguishes a distinctly Christian executive?

Some examples:

6. God-centered work is not work with God as an appendage or afterthought.

He is the core, the root, the source, the origin, the power, the point of it all.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24–25)

8. God-centeredness implies, requires, and builds humility.

What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7) (more…)

Faithful in All God's House

I recently shared a lengthy excerpt from Faithful in All God’s House, highlighting the investment-return motif that appears throughout the Bible. “All of God’s gifts to mankind are as a divine investment on which the investor expects full return,” write Berghoef and DeKoster.

Several readers pushed back on the analogy, interpreting it to mean that God rolls out his divine plan according to earthbound assumptions, as if “prudent investment” means being beholden to the outputs of a narrow, materialistic cost-benefit analysis.

It’s troubling on many levels that “prudent investment” has come to reckon imaginations of something so imprudent for so many. We humans, the “agents of return,” are called to live within a framework much more varied, complex, and mysterious than the confines of a Wall Street banker, despite those times when such considerations have their place. We serve a God of love, and just as that love is deep and distinct from distorted human variations, we are called to live and think and act according to an economy not of our own constructing. (more…)

Flourishing Churches and CommunitiesWhat distinct features does Pentecostalism bring to our discussions about stewardship and whole-life discipleship?

In Flourishing Churches and Communities, one of three tradition-specific primers on faith, work, and economics, Dr. Charlie Self provides a response, exploring how Pentecostal considerations influence our approach to such matters.

In the introduction, Self offers a basic portrait of Pentecostalism and “Spirit-filled” Christianity that is easy to connect with some of the key drivers of stewardship — vocation, virtue, responsibility, obedience, discernment, decision-making, etc.:

Spirit-filled Christianity touches all of life. Living in the power of the Holy Spirit includes active participation in the economy, work as worship, and “providential increases” (John Wesley) in the influence of the kingdom of God…

…The heart of Pentecostal identity is the present reality of the work of the Holy Spirit, who empowers all believers for gospel service. This includes the expectation of continual encounters with God that enrich calling and effectiveness and release believers to follow in the delivering, healing, and reconciling work of Jesus Christ. (more…)

SpiritualDangerGreerPeterPeter Greer has spent his life doing good, from serving refugees in the Congo to leading HOPE International, a Christian-based network of microfinance institutions operating in 16 countries around the world. Yet as he argues in his latest book, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, “service and charity have a dark side.”

As a study from Fuller Seminary concluded, only one out of three biblical leaders finished well, despite the good they accomplished during their lifetimes. How can Christians avoid the spiritual dangers that persist in pursuing the good of our neighbors?

Greer’s book offers plenty of answers, and in an interview with On Call in Culture, he was kind enough to offer a glimpse.

As a young man, you noticed a certain brokenness in the aid industry—manipulation, phoniness, failure to uphold the dignity the human person. Yet you began to recognize these same traits within your own heart. Why does the position of the heart matter? Why isn’t it good enough to get busy?

In 2002, a volcano erupted in Congo. I went to help. Up high on a platform, I handed out blankets to refugees. And a photographer was snapping photos. But I wasn’t thinking about the refugees. My thought was: I can’t wait until people back home see these photos of me.

That moment helped me see how it’s possible to appear to be serving God but actually be making our service all about us. Unless we rediscover why we serve, our service can become a way to promote our image, heightening vanity and pride. (more…)

Colonial Church of Edina

Colonial Church of Edina

Pastor Daniel Harrell had a heart for missions, so upon unexpectedly receiving roughly $2 million from a land sale, his Minnesota church was energized to use the funds accordingly. Though they had various debts to pay and building projects to fund, the church was committed to allocating at least 20 percent to service “outside of their walls.”

“The sensible way to spend the 20 percent would have been to find a successful service agency and write the check,” Harrell writes, in a recent piece for Christianity Today‘s This Is Our City.* “But I hated that idea. Surely we could leverage this money in a way that would let us get personally involved.”

The process proceeded as follows:

We had the money. We had the wisdom and experience, especially in fields related to business. What we lacked was our particular calling (or the energy to follow it through). What if we challenged young adults in our church and wider community to generate an idea that could become our calling?

I proposed we take $250,000 and sponsor a social entrepreneurial competition. We could invite innovators ages 35 and younger to submit project proposals with gospel values of grace, justice, love, redemption, and reconciliation. We’d ask that applicants affirm the Apostles’ Creed, because we wanted our effort to promote Christian faith. Our church would provide funding and expertise, networking, creative community, and acceleration toward successful launches. We’d use business acumen to make the projects sustainable and stress measurable outcomes. (more…)

“Detroit developed best when it was bottom-up,” says Harry Veryser, economist and professor at University of Detroit Mercy. “When small communities, small parishes, small schools were formed… that’s when Detroit prospered.”

In a recent discussion on what makes cities flourish, Chris Horst and I argued that cities need a unique blend of local community action, good governance, and strong business to thrive. Cities like Detroit have monstrous and complex problems, and the solutions will not come from additional top-down tweaking and tinkering. Rather, any such solutions will stem from complex networks of strong families, life-giving churches, healthy businesses, and intersecting institutions, all of which is furthered when governments rightly relate to their citizens. (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
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Faithful in All God's HouseFrom Gerard Berghoef and Lester DeKoster’s Faithful in All God’s House: Stewardship and the Christian Life:

The Lord God is a free enterpriser. This is one reason why Karl Marx, who was not a free enterpriser, rejected God.

God is a free enterpriser because he expects a return on his investments. Jesus’ parables of the talents (Matt. 25:14–30) and of the ten minas (Luke 19:11–27) clearly teach us that God expects interest on the talents he invests in each of us. This is implied in the Lord’s command: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

In short, all of God’s gifts to mankind are as a divine investment on which the investor expects full return. We know from the whole tenor of the Scriptures what the nature of that return should be: so putting our talents at God’s disposal that others derive benefit from the gifts given to us. This is summarized in the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). (more…)