Thoughts about being positive about creation

Discussion about 'cultural engagement' or 'loving the city' or 'Christian Hedonism' provoke a lot of heat and a lot of crossed wires. But it's an important discussion, I think.

Here's some things I think need to be stressed:

  • We must never lose sight of the fallenness of this world, and the imminent return of Christ to bring the new heavens and earth.
  • We must not so worry about losing sight of point one that we never make room in our theology for making positive statements about this world. Failing to say something true for the fear of implicitly denying something else is not an option.
  • 'Cultural engagement' is an unhelpful way of casting the discussion, because it can imply that this has to do simply with 'relevance' and be focused on deliberate Christian efforts to be be relevant. This discussion is not primarily about Christian cultural behaviour, it's about the objective value of God's creation.
  • 'Transformation/redemption' are unhelpful categories, not merely because they are using biblical terms contrary to biblical emphasis. Moreover, their focus tends towards the mission of the church/of Christians in a way which I am not convinced about. It seems to me to be an extremely subsidiary goal, that our gospel ministry will make our societies good places to be.
  • Casting the debate in 'vs' terms gets messy and foolish: secular work vs gospel work, social justice vs evangelism etc.
  • First of all, best to think in terms of objectivity. The world simply is a good creation of our loving God. People simply are rightly deserving of love and care. Arising out of this, it is better to think in terms of love and worship and thanksgiving.
  • The primary distinction, I think, is between love and mission, being and doing. The two interrelate, but they are distinct. The great commandments and the great commission do not compete, they are not 'twin missions'. One is about our very existence, the other is about our task. The two work together and refine each other in a range of ways, but we must not simply melt one into the other: 'true love is to tell someone the gospel', 'mission is anything that show someone the power of the gospel'.
  • The 'cultural mandate' of Genesis 1:28ff is the 'first great commission' in a sense and therefore our service to God in this creation is a mission. That does complicate my presentation a little bit. I simply want you to know that I am aware of that.
  • The healthiest ministries hold these things together well, even if they don't have articulate them clearly.