Thursday, October 2, 2008

Creating Culture

Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, Andy Crouch (InterVarsity Press, 2008)

Reviewed by Walt Mueller

(Note: Portions of the following review appeared in the fall edition of Engage: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU, currently downloadable for FREE!)

For too long Christians have not understood nor have they assumed their place in God’s world. The debates over how to relate to culture have put us everywhere on the spectrum between the extremes of fearful retreat and mindless accommodation. Here at CPYU we are committed to and promote what we believe to be a Biblical approach to matters of faith and culture, understanding that the will of the Father is for His followers to be in but not of the world. Culture is a fallen mix of elements, some which our faith requires us to challenge, and some which our faith requires us to affirm. At all times, we must be about the business of engaging the world with the Gospel.

Inherent in this understanding - but not always communicated with great clarity - is the reality of the imago dei – or image of God – that is a foundational part of our created makeup and which has deep ramifications for how we live as God-imaging creators in God’s world. In his new book Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, Andy Crouch lays out a reminder - and for many - a new understanding of this timeless truth, specifically that all Christians are called to be culture makers. Believing that culture is “what we make of the world,” Crouch calls readers to celebrate their creativity and live the Kingdom of God by approaching everything from the making of a sculpture to the making of a western omelet as calling and doxology.

I’m a long-time fan of Andy Crouch and his writing. However, I’ve never met Andy. Perhaps that’s why I was a bit uneasy as I read through the first half of the book. Discussions with other readers of Culture Making indicated that they sensed some of the things I was sensing in the first half of the book. First, Crouch seems to indicate that those who talk about engaging the culture (that’s us/me... so maybe, I thought, I was just being a bit defensive) don’t go far enough or fully understand a more complete calling to create culture. That bothered me somewhat as I know that for me and many others, creating culture and engaging culture are two sides of the same coin. And second, I sensed what might be construed by some as an arrogant tone on Andy's part. I say this cautiously as I’m convinced that Andy is not that kind of person. Still, as I read I wondered if he believed he was telling all readers some things that none of them had ever heard or embraced before. That’s not, however, the way it is in the circles I’ve run in for thirty-some years. All that said, the book turned the corner on both of my concerns as it moved into its second half. All in all, this is a good book.

Culture Making is significant for a variety of audiences. For the typical Christian reader, the book will most likely rattle your previously held theological assumptions. This is something that has to happen if the church is to be the church and the Christian is to find his or her place in God’s world. For the youth worker and parent, the book will offer a framework that can and should shape the way you nurture kids, preparing them for a life of service to God and His Kingdom that will truly reflect their created purpose as human beings made to make.

Related Links:
Culture Making website

Review by Gideon Strauss in Books & Culture

Review by David John Seel Jr. at Ransom Fellowship

FREE fall edition of Engage: Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU

1 comment:

David Ketter said...

Good review. :)

I've met Andy before, and I'd agree with you that it's not arrogance in what he says, but it can make culture-engagers uneasy. I think, to some extent, this is a difficult tension between creating and engaging.

That said, I also think that the reformed framework helps us understand a lot of this. Reformed perspective has always prized and treasured regeneration and recreation and renewal (sometimes synonymous, sometimes not) and, in that sense, I think what we find if we synthesize the Mueller and Crouch claims is that we engage with culture to regenerate it. To adopt the language of the Hebrew Bible, we engage with culture, to make it holy.

When Israel received the Sabbath commandment, no one kept the seventh day as holy. It was "corrupted" and "ordinary" and like any other day of work. Yet, when God tells them to "remember the Sabbath and make it holy", He is also providing His people with a model for understanding cultural regeneration: we need to engage with the culture around us to sanctify it to God's good purpose and kingdom.

Just my thoughts, at any rate. I apologize for that long of a comment.

In the Gospel,

David