Responses to Coming Together on Culture

In my last blog post, Coming Together on Culture, Part 1: Theological Issues, I said that, despite all the division over Christ and culture in the Christian church today, I perceived that some people in each camp were listening to the critiques and were incrementally making revisions that moved them closer toward the other camps and positions.  I highlighted the Transformationist and Two Kingdoms views, arguing that each model had some imbalances, but that many were recognizing them and incorporating insights from other models. You can see what I wrote here. Most of the critiques I gave the Transformationist side came from the Kuyperians themselves. (See James K.A. Smith’s recent book Desiring the Kingdom and the exchanges in Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought here.)

The post generated some resistance. Michael Goheen, a noted author from the Kuyperian movement, made a comment on our website. He said that he and co-author Craig Bartholomew (along with others), while solidly in the Transformationist camp, had “appropriated the work of Newbigin and would espouse a more missional Kuyperianism. That is social engagement is not first of all to change society—that may happen but…the goal…is to witness to the Lordship of Christ over all areas of public life and to love our neighbor as we struggle against dehumanizing idolatry.”

Meanwhile, Michael Horton, a prominent Two Kingdoms (or 2K) theologian, posted a blog in response to mine, similarly resisting my depiction of the Two Kingdoms position. Although six years ago he wrote: “There is no difference between Christians and non-Christians with respect to their vocations….” and “there is no ‘Christian politics’ or ‘Christian art’ or ‘Christian literature,’ any more than there is ‘Christian plumbing,’” he now writes: “Nothing in the 2K view entails that ‘Christiansdo not, then, pursue their vocation in a ‘distinctively Christian way’ or ‘that neither the church nor individual Christians should be in the business of changing the world or society.’” Then, after reminding us that no political movement can “transform the kingdoms of this age into the kingdom of Christ” he added that nevertheless Christian-led social reforms were good things. Horton confirmed the importance of Kuyper’s distinction between the church as organization and organism, and finally expressed appreciation for the conversation.

These two writers, despite their valid concerns about caricature, seem to me to provide evidence that indeed there may be a “coming together on culture” among Christians. Mike Goheen’s emphasis, still clearly within a Kuyperian model, has incorporated many insights and critiques from other sources and brought a balance to the whole “Christian worldview” way of engaging culture. And Michael Horton’s comments either clarified or slightly modified the often-heard 2K remarks that there is no distinction between the way Christians and non-Christians work in the world. His gracious spirit shows that this conversation can go on and the various approaches can learn from each other.