11 September 2006

Evaluating the Christ Against Culture View

Amish kids--hating father and mother?As we have already seen, none of the five schools of thought that Niebuhr devised existed perfectly in history. We have to keep this caveat in mind while we quickly critique each view. I am simplifying broad issues into a few hundred words, and, at times, oversimplification is nearly inevitable. Nevertheless, I find it helpful to critique an extreme manifestation of this position (the Amish) in order to bring out the logical tendency of all positions like it. I’ll point out two points of critique today and round out the week with a third.

First, the Christ against Culture view fails to recognize that the radical statements of Christ (e.g., “hate father and mother”) must be related to the demands of God elsewhere in the Scripture. The demands of Christ are an expression of the universal, overarching moral law of God. Eventually, I’ll show more explicitly that God has expectations for believers with respect to family, to government, to science and technology, and to art. These expectations must be compatible with the demands of Christ and vice versa. No view which places these sides in ultimate contradiction with each other is tenable.

Second, this view often fails to take into account one of the clearest commands of Christ in the Scriptures: the command to make disciples (Matt 28:19)! For instance, Elmer L. Smith points out that the Amish understand Paul’s injunction to be separate from unbelief (2 Cor 6:17) in such a way as to invalidate Paul’s own commission to the Gentiles! Paul explicitly denounces this interpretation of his words in his first epistle to the Corinthians, “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world” (1 Cor 5:9–10).

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