In case you missed part one of this review, you can go here and check it out. The purpose of this installment is to explore the way Culture Making‘s author Andy Crouch brings Scripture into his thesis that the way to “transform” culture is to add to it by making culture.
I ususally don’t skip reading introductions to books, but for some reason I skipped this books’ intro. So, as I was reading along I became very agitated by what I was reading. In a generally first page to last order, I read lines like these:
- The Bible is itself a manifold collection of cultural artifacts.
- The [serpent’s] temptation takes the form not of an invitation to create but to consume.
- The first human act after the consumption of the fruit is cultural, the creation of that basic cultural good called clothing.
- Mercifully, God improves their culture. He gives them leather for fig leaves – durable clothes.
- God’s response to the ultimate cultural problem [by this he means the fall] is a fully cultural solution – God’s cultural project, Israel.
- [Jesus] would have studied the Hebrew Bible, immersing himself in his nation’s cultural project….
- Jesus was first of all a cultural cultivator.
- In order for the culturally creative movement Jesus sought to unleash to flourish, the brokenness of culture had to be faced head on. And so Jesus accepted the calling of the cross.
- Who else had ever been a more faithful steward of cultural cultivation than Jesus of Nazareth?
- What has not been so widely commented on is the way that the resurrection is a culture shaping event – in fact, arguably, the most culturally significant event in history. This is not primarily a “religious” matter.
- The resurrection shows us a pattern for culture making in the image of God.
- The book of Acts begins in Jerusalem and ends in Rome and along the way visits nearly every commercial and political center around the Mediterranean. . . Which means that Acts is about culture.
- The very specific cultural story of Israel was never anything other than a rescue mission for all the other cultures of the world.
- Jesus’ cultural creativity led him to a cross.
And on and on it went. I know that list seems a bit long yet what I have provided here is but the tip of the iceberg. I quickly became convinced that somehow Crouch had decided to use the topic of culture as an interpretive lens into scripture. I hadn’t gotten too far into the book before I figured out that this is the kind of book you get when you read the Bible through a lens that is not appropriate for the job. This is where my accidental skipping of the introduction comes into play. For there, lo and behold, are the following sentences. “I am by no means the first writer in recent years to recapture a cultural way of reading the good news. We believe that rediscovering the cultural context of the gospel does nothing to prevent it from being good news from above, before and beyond us, and is actually the key to it being fully good news for us.” [emphasis mine]
Crouch nowhere explicitly defends this thesis. Possibly he offers the entirety of the book that follows it as a defense by tsunami [I’d estimate the word ‘culture’ or ‘cultural’ appears upwards of 500 times in the book]. So I had to extract for myself what he might be using to defend his thesis.
Early on in the book, on page 23, Crouch lays some theological cards on the table when he says “Culture is, first of all, the name for our relentless, restless human effort to take the world as it’s given to us and make something else. This is the original insight of the writer of Genesis when he says that human beings were made in God’s image: just like the original Creator, we are creators” [emphasis mine].
Further on in section two of the book, titled “Gospel”, he takes up this theme again. “But what is meant by these words image and likeness?” After offering some alternative options, “insights that bear some truth” (e.g. male/female reflective of God’s non-singularity; our rational faculties, after Augustine’s view; and the parallel with ancient Near Eastern viceroys who would rule in the name of a distant king) Crouch continues with his own interpretation. “But what has been most abundantly clear about God in Genesis 1? . . . Of course, what we have seen most clearly is that ‘In the beginning, God created’. . . So, when human beings, male and female are created ‘in God’s image’ surely the primary implication is that they will reflect the creative character of their maker” [emphasis mine] pg. 103-104.
I contend that I have faithfully identified Crouch’s underlying thesis – that the key to a proper reading of scripture is a “cultural way of reading the good news”. And I believe I have located the thematic passage on which he bases his thesis.
In my next and hopefully final installment I will take up this move of Crouch and offer a reformed account of the doctrine of the imago dei. Having done this, I will be in a position to give a final thumbs up-or-down to Crouch’s Culture Making.