on 15 April 2012
The call on Christians to engage with culture has been growing in recent years. This can be seen in conferences that are being run, and books being written. As Crouch acknowledges in his introduction, this book stands within the tradition of Abraham Kuyper's call to Christian cultural responsibility. It is divided into three parts: Culture, Gospel and Calling.
This is a very helpful and thought provoking book, but I do think it gets weaker as it goes on. The first section is the most helpful as it critiques common assumptions about culture, and will most likely get you thinking differently about the subject. The middle section is important, because theology is always important, but if you do not accept some of the premises its helpfulness is limited. And then the third section - about how to actually apply all that has gone before - is the flimsiest.
So, in some ways Crouch falls into the same trap as the worldview advocates he criticizes - lots of good analysis, but a lack of clear application.
That is not meant to be a carping comment, and indeed, I would be suspicious of someone setting out a '10 point plan of action' in a book like this. The whole point is to point us towards the kinds of things we can do rather than be prescriptive about what we should do, so perhaps any expectation of clearer application is unfair.
My conclusion then? Definitely read the first 98 pages, but see the rest as an optional extra.
on 9 December 2011
This book serves as a good introduction into the subject of culture making for Christians. The book consists of three sections: the first section is about what culture actually is and is not, the second tells us how the Gospels talk about culture, and the third and last about our calling with regards to culture. Each section contains interesting and and fresh thoughts, which makes this book a good read.
According to Crouch, culture is not changed merely through thinking. No, changing culture only happens when more culture is made. I found this insight provocative, because it makes all of the things I do worthwhile: everything I do is making and changing culture. In the book Crouch describes four ways people usually work with culture: by condemning culture, by critiquing culture, by copying culture, and by consuming culture. However, by focussing on one of these ways, we miss important things, says Crouch. Instead, he believes we have to be aware of the fact that culture always builds on what went before. Therefor, we have to conserve culture at its best and change it for the better by offering something new.
In the second section of the book Crouch retells the biblical story of creation. He starts in Genesis, by showing that God creates space and possibilities for his creation to live in. Then he moves on to the fall and what sin means for Gods good creation: it's our task to deal with the consequences of sin through our creativity. Through the cross, Jesus faced sin and remade the relation of God with His creation: God became something for all nations and all cultures. This leads Crouch to the provocative and intriguing question if we are creating and cultivating things that have a chance of being used in the furnishing of the New Jerusalem.
In the third and final section of the book Crouch tells - successfully in my view - how to handle culture making as a Christian. This section is chock-full of good ideas, arguments and lines of thought, so I will only mention a few of them. First, we are world changers because we are culture changers. Although this is true, we should not forget that a lot of what happens in life is outside our control, but that should not prevent us from being true culture makers. Second, there is nothing inherently wrong with cultural power (God even gives it to Adam!), but we have to handle it through grace and as good stewards. Third, "where do I and my community of 3, 12 and 120 experience grace--divine multiplication that far exceeds my efforts?"
Crouch closes with a beautiful rallying cry: "make something of the world!" I believe that indeed is what life in this world is about: making something beautiful of this world, despite sin and through God-given grace. Crouch saw this correct.