This week I introduce a blogger Justin Tse whose specialty is in the area of geography. This blog reminds me why being a culture warrior is not always a great idea.
Please read his good blog and his article. http://jkhtse.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/converge-magazine-subverting-the-culture-war-why-i-am-a-christian-in-the-secular-university-and-not-a-culture-warrior/
While interacting with Justin’s original rough draft, another angle occurred to me. Before I talk about it, I totally agree with Justin’s formulation of the Great Commission, but more importantly, his article (please read it) builds a wider narrative from Matthew’s book narrative context. Although Justin is a geographer by training, I wish every Bible major would do what he does with Matthew. We have to stop focusing on the minutia of a few verses and put verses into wider narrative.
Why is the culture war a problem? First, many evangelical Christians are mistaken that culture is the enemy. Biblically speaking, culture is never the enemy. Satan is. So is death. Many have mistaken culture for Satan and death. Surely, some may guess that culture can express values that are Satanic, but do I dare to say that orthodox faith also does so? This brings me to my second point.
Second, have we notice that Jesus’ primary enemies were the religious people? While Jesus explicitly cast out demons quite often in the Gospels, his primary attackers were not demons. They were the religious people. I dare say that the enemy is not only external to the church. Society should not be expected to behave like Christ or to buy into Christ’s values. Rather, the real problem exists within the church also. No Christian has ever declared war on the church but perhaps some ought to.
On this resurrection Sunday called Easter, what does the culture war have to do with what is external and internal to the church? The death and resurrection of Jesus had changed some things, but some things would remain the same. Having written a commentary in Chinese on Acts, I can guarantee that the same opposition Jesus experienced became the opposition to the church. The societal culture would inevitably clash against the church. The clear manifestation of Satan also occurred in Acts in the same way as in Luke’s Gospel. Satan remained the enemy who actively opposed the work of the disciples. Yet, we do not see the disciples actively opposing and fighting the society. They could critique it in their dialogue by using language society understands (e.g. Acts 17), but never directly went against it. Society and culture were never the enemy.
What then changed after Easter? People changed. Peter who denied Christ three times spoke up repeatedly for Christ in spite of persecution and grave threats to his life. Even Paul had changed. He formerly persecuted Christians but now became Christ’s biggest spokesman. The entire Acts narrative is an illustration of how Easter (and subsequent Pentecost) had changed the world through changing the community of faith. People change. As a result of this great change, society would see the changed community and see the power of Easter. This change includes not just individual life changes but a continuous process of house-cleaning (e.g. Acts 5).
Why do some people think that the culture war is a good idea? It is because they find it easier to point finger at the society. Society is going to do what society is going to do. Sometimes society does amazingly wonderful things. Sometimes not. That’s the way things go. It is easier to point finger at society, but with one finger pointing forward, there are always three fingers pointing back at ourselves. Critique of the church is never easy or fun, but Easter demands a self-critical approach to life in faith community.