Those of you who are consistent readers of this blog will know that the topics of culture and worldview are regularly brought up here. Moreover, I am keen to look at both culture and worldview from a strictly Biblical perspective. A book that I have referenced a couple of times already (and will do so again here) in the realm of Biblical worldview is James Jordan’s Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World. I was able to finish the book over the weekend and before I get any further into this particular post I want to commend it to you!One of the items that Jordan brings into the fore in this work is the idea that reformation in worship will always precede reformation in the wider culture. Negatively put, there will never be any cultural reformation without initial reformation of the worship in the church. Jordan finds this principle in many places but not always in the most obvious. One of the more peculiar (but no less clear) places where Jordan references this is in the worship patterns of both Abraham and Jacob serving as precursors for the wider cultural and civil patterns taken by Joshua in the land of Canaan. Here’s how Jordan puts it:
The places Abraham made as his ministry headquarters were Shechem, Bethel, and Hebron (Genesis 12: 6-8; 13:18). Jacob later made these the sites of his ministry also (Genesis 33:18, 20; 35:1, 6, 7, 27; 46:1). These were the key sites initially captured by Joshua when he conquered Canaan (Joshua 7:2; 8:30; 10:3). Thus Abraham and Jacob were engaged in a “shadow conquest” of the land. More important, we see from this what true conquest is. The building of altars of evangelism preceded the cultural conquest. If we wish to build a Christian civilization in our land, we had best start with altars. (pg. 190-91)
It will probably come as no surprise to you that I had never made that connection in the Bible before. In fact I have never heard of anyone making that connection before. But having it pointed out to me it is very clear. As a Christian I do desire the building of a Christian civilization. Many believers are timid to accepting this sort of language because they associate “Christian civilization” with Jerry Fallwell and the “Moral Majority” of the 1980’s.
The problem is that many Christian organizations that have set out to create societal change have gone about it the wrong way. They have adopted a least common denominator Christianity that looks to get as many people under a doctrinally broad umbrella that can all agree to vote on the same thing and force some sort of Christian civilization through legislation.
To be clear, I am not opposed to Christian legislation. Moreover, I’m not opposed to getting a broad group of people together for a political cause (see: diverse faith groups uniting over the issues of homosexuality and abortion). What I am opposed to is some sort of mechanical or legislative approach to building a Christian society without the vital foundation of renewed worship bringing about renewed hearts.
A couple of years ago I was listening to a sermon by Douglas Wilson in which he laid out the premiss: Gospel. Church. World. In the context of his sermon he was setting up a map for changing the World. But as you can see from his premiss he emphasized the importance of the Church being put right first and even before that the Gospel being put right.
As Christians we must adopt this same approach if we are ever to see change in our society. We must first recover the Gospel. If this will happen then the reformation of the Church will be inevitable. Finally, if the Church is properly functioning as salt and light the how can the World but be affected by it.
Food for thought.