Reach into the mixed bag of culture and you could pull out almost anything: food, theology, cars, physician-assisted suicide, tradition, furniture, music, plastic trinkets from Taiwan, talk radio, dog breeds, hairstyle, theories of evolution, historic battles, the impossibly long first chapter of Ben-Hur, clay pots, even politicians. Culture is the intersection of nearly every aspect of human existence, and as such it is impossible to escape.
Not that we need to escape it. The Preacher said,
“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God” (Ecclesiastes 2:24, ESV).
The first response in the Westminster Catechism is similar: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” There is a consistent theme within Christianity of the importance of enjoying life on earth, not only through sacred avenues, but also through culture and the humanities.
In fact, Christians are better equipped than anybody to enjoy the world around them. A lot of people tend to think Christians are long-faced pietists who never have fun—and many do live up to this description—but when God created the world He proclaimed it good and never revoked that judgment, even after the Fall. Taking delight in God’s creation (and Christians believe He is the author of all things) is not just an enjoyment in the thing itself, but also in God Himself.
Equating culture and the humanities is a poignant identification because it illuminates the relationship between human nature and mankind’s creative and intellectual impulses. Culture is perhaps the one universal language among societies, since everyone is impacted by the one in which they live. If we follow this thinking to its logical conclusion, we could say that culture reveals what it means to be truly human. If humans are made in the image of God, and Christ is the pinnacle of humanity, then as His followers Christians have not only the right but the duty to take delight in the good that is found in and among the human race.
Art & culture is central to what Exodus is about. Not only is it important for Christians to enjoy art and culture and to analyze it according to biblical standards, they should create it and influence society in the name of Christ. This is the major impetus behind Christian education: to raise our children, not just to sit idly by, but to engage and transform culture through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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