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Making culture

Books

Issue: "Obama," Nov. 15, 2008

Andy Crouch's Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling (IVP, 2008) is a good introduction to how Christians need to do more than fatalistically talk about the dangers of the world. Crouch praises Francis Schaeffer and others for emphasizing cultural engagement but notes that "the faculties that were most fully developed and valued were the ability to analyze and critique, not to actually sort out how to participate in the hurly-burly of cultural creativity . . . evangelicalism, so deeply influenced by the Schaeffers and their many protégés, still produces better art critics than artists."

Crouch is particularly helpful in showing readers how to ask five questions about man's creations ranging from omelets to highways: What does this cultural artifact assume about the way the world is? What does it assume about the way the world should be? What does it make possible? What does it make impossible (or at least very difficult)? What new forms of culture are created in response to this artifact? The interstate highway system, for example, assumes a level of technology, wealth, and political unity; assumes the world should be smoother and faster; makes possible a car culture and further-out suburbs; etc.

Udo Middelmann's Christianity versus Fatalistic Religions in the War Against Poverty (Paternoster, 2007) explains why redistributing income does little to fight poverty, unless the fatalistic worldviews that generally underlie poverty and add to it also come under attack: "Most proposals for aid show a tragic ignorance of the basic economics of poverty and wealth as an unawareness of the influence of antihuman cultural and religious practices."

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Middelmann also recognizes that some descriptions in Acts of early church behavior are descriptive, not prescriptive: He asks "whether the poverty of the Jerusalem church in later years-when Paul collected alms in the other churches for the poor in Jerusalem-had anything to do with the readiness with which the early church sold all things and gave to the poor. . . . When you give away capital rather than interest and benefit, you cut the branch on which you are sitting."

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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