In his book, Culture Makers, Andy Crouch raises the question, “What does it mean to be not just culturally aware … [or] culture consumers or even just culture critics, but culture makers?” (Crouch, 2008). Drawing from the field of sociology, Crouch first explores the meaning of culture. He then ingeniously retells the story of Scripture through the lenses of culture. Finally, Crouch challenges the reader to seriously consider the Biblical calling of culture making. We often speak of transforming culture, yet culture transforms us more than we would like to admit. How do we go about changing the world, making culture? Reading this book is a great start to that adventure!
Although I studied missions, cross-cultural ministry, and multi-cultural teamwork, I found Crouch’s research and exposition on culture to be enlightening and educational. In particular, Crouch’s review of the correlation between culture and the American evangelical church reveals an ongoing love-hate relationship between the two. The fundamentalist’s posture toward culture was one of condemnation and withdrawal. Neo-evangelicals reengaged with culture through personalities like Carl Henry, the first editor of Christianity Today, and Francis Schaeffer of the L’Abri community home. In the ’60s and ‘70s, the Jesus Movement rather copied culture with songs like, “Why should the devil have all the good music” (which my band still played in the ‘90s!). The Contemporary Christian Music industry took it to a whole new level, which led to current evangelical consumer culture. Rather than rejecting, withdrawing, critiquing, or copying, evangelicals today are more part of culture today than ever before.
Part two, the retelling of the Gospel story from the garden (Genesis) to the city (Revelation), is in my opinion a prenominal piece of literature. God is portrayed as the first culture maker, who created out of nothing, and presented a cultured garden to mankind as a gift. Man was ordained to cultivate what was given, to name what was made, and to continue God’s creative story. The fall did not excuse humanity from its vocation to make culture. Jesus stepped into culture not only to redeem mankind, but also to rescue culture with the advancement of His kingdom. At Pentecost, the curse of Babel is reversed and the newly created culture of the kingdom permeated the Roman Empire like leaven in bread. Christians, by definition, are culture makers. When the Heavenly City settles on earth, culture is preserved and celebrated as the kings and the nations march through its gates, carrying their priced valuables as a gift for the King.
We are culture makers by vocation and by creation as we were made in God’s likeness. Yet, culture is what makes us and, until we discover what that means and how it differs from God’s design, we are far from making anything “for the better.” We want to change the world, but we can hardly change ourselves. Through grace and community, however, we have the power to serve others and to steward what has been given us. Together, we can “make something of the world” (Crouch, 2008). It is encouraging to know that this is what we intend and hope to do as a city-wide Christian community through our Love Hanoi initiative.
By Jacob Bloemberg