Culture Vulture (1)

You know: it has been a long time since I have honest-to-pete blogged anything. Sure -- I've kept this space active  enough with internet junk food, and thanks to all of you for coming back in spite of the lack of, um, gravitas.

And you'd think that what I'd lead off with is a little series on my thoughts and impressions on T4G '08, having been there and done that, but I admit that I am still processing what I heard there, so just hang loose until I figure out what I think about that event, if you're interested at all.

What I'm blogging about today is a link JT posted last night about Christians and culture -- because as I read it, it just didn't sit right with me. And here's what I'm not gonna do: no fisking today. There's no reason to nit-pick this essay because I think its error is not in the details but in the presuppositions.

Look at my blog for a second, will you? I mean: look at it. I built it to look like a comic book. In some ways, it's a little weird -- and I get that it's not for everyone. But it's really who I am superficially -- I'm the grown up who, as a kid, collected over 1000 comic books, and they have left their cheap ink and newsprint smell all over the place in my mental landscape.

I have "engaged the culture" via the idiom of comic book art -- because it's what I know. There are other things, undoubtedly, that I know, but frankly I'd be willing to bet that I wouldn't have 2200 visitors a week if I was talking about the structural distinctives of Wallace Stevens' late poetry, or the aestetic of American poetry that runs from Whitman to Williams to Stevens, or the literary motifs in the Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser, or any of the other stuff I banged my head against for almost a decade in college. I'll bet most of you have nodded off by now anyway, and I am certain that Abraham Piper stopped reading someplace around here because I have crossed over the boundary of 22 words.

But I bring that up because I think someone has to ask the question: is Frank engaging a culture or is Frank seeking to engage people who happen to be inside a culture? Is my goal to renovate a culture so that Christ can or will come into it, or is my goal to toss the Gospel grenade into culture and take people out of their sinful culture and into Christ?

See: this is critical. I love Doug Wilson's optimism -- I love that post-millenial Christus Victor mentality that takes Rom 1:16 seriously and thinks that when God says that the Gospel is the power to save, God isn't talking about a hypothetical power, or a potential energy to save, but a predestined certainty which has as its intention the necessity of fulfilling the promise to Abraham. We are not ashamed of the Gospel because, whatever it sounds like, it is the power to save the Jew, and also the Gentile.

But here's what I don't like or get in the post-mil enthusiasm over God's intention to save those whom He will save: the misguided idea that somehow the victory of the Gospel prepares the way for Christ.

And this is the problem I have with that linked article: it assumes that people redeemed by Christ will somehow still find things like art galleries and novels and movies somehow interesting enough to be committed to them as necessary stuff. In the post-mil view, they are necessary stuff. They are part of the victory of Christ over all things: that for Christ to be Lord of All, He has to be Lord of the Cinema, and Lord of the Paint Brush, and Lord of

But here's what it says in Rev 19:
    Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
This is the Jesus who impresses Mark Driscoll, and frankly, He's the Jesus that's going to come back, right? But this Jesus is not coming back to take the handoff from optimistic culture mavens who out-finessed Oprah, The NYT Book review, CNN and This is a Jesus who's coming back to strike down the nations who didn't want to receive Him.

Think about that: "strike down the nations". That means the nations are not waiting or pining for Him: they're going to be in a position where they need to come down a peg or two. And when He strikes them down, it's not going to be a sort of glancing blow: He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.

You know: if anything needed a comic book to show what's happening here, that phrase needs one -- because the phrase means that all of God's wrath is going to be squeezed out either on them or somewhow from them. When Jesus comes back, it won't be to accept all the Oscars from all the stars who have made Christian movies and got Academy Awards for them: it will be to strike down the nations in wrath.

I know: that's a downer. That's actually pretty ugly, and it offends almost everybody. But eschatologically, that's what's coming. What Revelation tells us is coming is not a sort of cotillion or coming-out party for Jesus.

And this, frankly, must effect our "missiology".

What has finally gotten under my skin is the idea that somehow we are trying to save a "culture" or somehow "redeem" a "culture". It's funny, but that word "culture"? It doesn't show up in any Bible translations (except, of course, the Message, and sort of by accident in the AMP). But when the NT talks about the ones Christ came to save, it doesn't say He came to save them and their culture -- even if they get to keep their languages in order to praise Him. It says something more like this:
    Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
That doesn't sound like saving cultures: it sounds like cultures sort of all get trashed at the cross, and the hostility of one culture toward another no longer has any foundation.

There's something much more interesting going on here which I want to think about. But to allow you to get some work done today, I'm going to break this post up into pieces and come back tomorrow with the next installment. I am sure you won't like it.