How Christians Consume Culture
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
How should Christians engage culture? How should Christians consume different things in culture? This is a question we looked at this past Sunday in worship. We used Andy Crouch’s book Culture Making as a way to frame the conversation (though in truth we only looked at the first third of the book). Crouch talked about two postures that Christians ought to take when it comes to culture: cultivation and creation.
When we talk about being cultivators of culture, what we are looking at is what Paul talks about in the above verse in Philippians. If there are good things, if there are true things, if there are pure, lovely, admirable things: think about them. There are good things in culture: both Christian culture and culture outside of the church. There are noble things, true things, beautiful things in the world. What Paul tells us here is that those things are ours.
When I listen to the music of Les Misérables I am almost brought to tears by the beauty of it (and by almost brought to ears I mean I openly weep). It is pure, it is true, it is beautiful. I see the truth and beauty of the Gospel through the songs of that musical. God is there. So as a Christian, I claim it as mine. I see God through the songs, lyrics, music. And my spirit soars.
If there are parts of culture where you see God moving, whether it’s a Matt Redman song or an Adele song, claim it. Be uplifted. Cultivate in your life the places in culture where you see God moving and working.
Similarly, if there are cultural things that are not life giving, leave them. Don’t watch. Don’t listen. Don’t engage.
Oftentimes I think Christians can have a larger impact on culture if they would selectively engage with the things that are lifegiving, the stories that are redemptive, the parts of culture were you can see and experience God. This will be incredibly subjective as our experiences of God are subjective. But rather than condemn all of culture full stop, what if we sought out the places where the word of God becomes revealed in our hearts through things in culture?
Crouch also says that we ought to be cultural creators. The Church has been the place of cultural creation for centuries. Think how many of the best paintings are based on biblical scenes, involve churches, etc. Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, all the great musicians made church music. Where can the church be creators of culture in the twenty-first century? What can we make? How can we use the resources at our disposal to make things of immense beauty?
We serve a God that we claim is the source of all truth and beauty. How can we channel that into creating things that are deeply compelling to humanity? This is our cultural challenge.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” How should Christians approach culture? By curating things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. And by creating things that are true, noble, right prue, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. By reflecting the character and image of God into the wider world in which we find ourselves.