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Where in the world is the Church?: A Christian view of culture and your role in it

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Have Christians misunderstood what it means to be in the world but not of it? Has the church, in a sense, neglected the world to the detriment of all? Michael S. Horton has written Where in the World Is the Church? for those Christians who struggle with a subculture that stifles rather than encourages their divinely given impulses and ambitions.He does so with the hope tha Have Christians misunderstood what it means to be in the world but not of it? Has the church, in a sense, neglected the world to the detriment of all? Michael S. Horton has written Where in the World Is the Church? for those Christians who struggle with a subculture that stifles rather than encourages their divinely given impulses and ambitions.He does so with the hope that theologians will learn more about other disciplines and that Christians in those other disciplines will anchor themselves more firmly in biblical theology before they attempt to "integrate" their faith and life.


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Have Christians misunderstood what it means to be in the world but not of it? Has the church, in a sense, neglected the world to the detriment of all? Michael S. Horton has written Where in the World Is the Church? for those Christians who struggle with a subculture that stifles rather than encourages their divinely given impulses and ambitions.He does so with the hope tha Have Christians misunderstood what it means to be in the world but not of it? Has the church, in a sense, neglected the world to the detriment of all? Michael S. Horton has written Where in the World Is the Church? for those Christians who struggle with a subculture that stifles rather than encourages their divinely given impulses and ambitions.He does so with the hope that theologians will learn more about other disciplines and that Christians in those other disciplines will anchor themselves more firmly in biblical theology before they attempt to "integrate" their faith and life.

30 review for Where in the world is the Church?: A Christian view of culture and your role in it

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Listen to a brief discussion of Two Kingdom theology here. Here's more on the consequences when the church is the church. 2.5 stars, mostly because of 2K stuff. Introduction Many Xns consider "secular" things necessary evils or useless distractions from true Xnity, and the hymns "This World Is Not My Home" & "This Is My Father's World" appear (& are) contradictory, if they take the time to think about it (9). This book is not a work of deep scholarship [I do wish there were more citations], but rat Listen to a brief discussion of Two Kingdom theology here. Here's more on the consequences when the church is the church. 2.5 stars, mostly because of 2K stuff. Introduction Many Xns consider "secular" things necessary evils or useless distractions from true Xnity, and the hymns "This World Is Not My Home" & "This Is My Father's World" appear (& are) contradictory, if they take the time to think about it (9). This book is not a work of deep scholarship [I do wish there were more citations], but rather intended for a general audience. Horton wants to guard against too much integration of faith & life & too much effort in making things distinctively Xn (12). When Horton says "church," he refers to the institution, not individual Xns. Chapter 1: How to Be a Worldly Christian The first chapter is very good most of the way through, as he argues that God is sovereign (Satan not the god of this world), & that Xns (especially since the Reformation) have pursued excellence in the family, art, music, literature, science, education, & other areas. There's also an interesting section on Kuyper. But this is where he undoes the good of the early parts of the chapter. Horton hamstrings Kuyper's concept of sphere sovereignty by relegating it to the individual lives of believers (32). Horton prefers rigid boundaries between Christ's lordship in redemption & His lordship in creation. Pluralism is so prevalent (33) that, for Horton, Christendom is an empty dream & not worth anyone's efforts, including Christ's. The bad guys are the Xns caught up in the Christian Right (19). Chapter 2: Sphere Sovereignty: Minding Our Own Business Olasky's endorsement on the back is telling: watch here (23:40–29:16) to see Olasky & Wilson go back & forth about how much Xns should expect to change culture (go back to 12:07 for a fuller context). The subtitle of this chapter is telling as well, but Horton is adamant that "minding our own business" is not escapism (38). Horton is right to urge against an over-dependence on politics (36–37), but when he argues that the institutional church should certainly not be involved in politics*, he often seems to imply that individual Xns who work for the common good in politics are not really doing God's work. Horton seems to assume that nations are neutral/good enough to be fine without being distinctively Xn, & that civil duties have no morality attached to them (39–40, 47). I once heard Leithart say that Luther said something like this: a magistrate doesn't need Jesus to be a good magistrate. Horton summarizes Niebuhr's 1951 classic, Christ and Culture (see my review here), although Horton's summary of the "Christ above culture" position is a little fuzzy, & he makes no allowance for postmil folks, even in the "Christ the transformer of culture" position (47–49). Horton ultimately advocates a mixture of "Christ and culture in paradox" (2K) & "Christ the transformer of culture" (51). See pp. 49–50 for Horton's defense of a perpetual position of exile. See here (1:30–1:46) for a video where Horton tells Keller that the institutional church has a limited calling—you know, like the Great Commission. Chandler & Keller push back & say that, while the institution church must be careful about statements that it makes (e.g., on climate change)—so as to guard against a loss of confidence if/when the church is proven wrong—pastors nevertheless have a responsibility to equip/disciple people to go out into the world & be transformational in their spheres. *I wonder if Horton would approve of a hypothetical well-known pastor (obviously a leader in the institutional church) who made an appearance at a pro-life rally. Trueman says that Xns who do pro-life work shouldn't do so as Xns, but merely as civilians. Is it possible for a well-known pastor to do anything "merely" as a civilian? In the above video with Horton, Keller, & Chandler, Keller says that it's practically impossible for a pastor to do something as a mere citizen (not because the pastor doesn't want to, but because people are just always going to see him as a spokesperson for the church). Chapter 3: "Vain Philosophy": A Cop-Out for Anti-Intellectualism? Horton says some good things (based on Augustine) in response to Turtullian's separatism. But Horton makes a little too much of the point that the Bible's scope is limited (e.g., the Bible doesn't tell us how to treat diabetes). He uses an example of dying to make his case (p. 62), but he assumes that an unsaved doctor in a country that for centuries has been shaped by biblical principles would act the same way as an unsaved doctor in a country without that cultural history. For example, a Scandinavian country that has abandoned biblical principles may allow doctors to urge euthanasia as a way to conserve resources & prematurely end the lives of suffering patients. These two doctors—both unsaved—make different particular choices based on different general principles. My point is that while the Bible may not speak to every particular, its general principles have particular consequences for societies that obey or ignore them. (Horton uses the language of ultimate & proximate [p. 63]. For more on that issue, see here.) In this chapter, Horton also makes some standard 2K claims, asserting the neutrality of areas (such as philosophy, music, poetry, & fiction) & arguing that there is no need to "redeem" those disciplines (pp. 70–71). However, by mocking the idea of "Christian philosophy," Horton ignores the fact that someone's Xnity will (or ought to) influence how he does philosophy. It's a fluke if an unbeliever reaches similar conclusions, because plenty of unbelievers don't reach similar conclusions. Unbelieving philosophers who reach similar conclusions have likely been influenced by Xn cultures. Examples of God's common grace toward unbelievers exist, but it's inaccurate to claim that one's Xnity makes no difference in secular areas. I understand the desire to avoid slapping "Christian" on everything, but it's a mistake to swing to the other extreme & say that there is no need for Xns to reach into disciplines affected by the fall & adjust their fundamental principles. They are not fine the way they are (& the extent to which they get close to being fine is most likely a tribute to the influence that Xnity has had on cultures throughout the centuries). I'd argue that being a Xn composition professor is not only possible, but is also a good thing. The fact that unbelieving composition professors get some/many things right doesn't mean that they always will, or that other unbelieving composition professors will get nearly as many things right. A blind man at a gun range might hit the bullseye, but it's an accident, & there's no reason to expect it to happen consistently. Furthermore, if a culture is such that unbelieving composition professors teach their students to be generally charitable to opposing viewpoints, that's not necessarily a sign that the discipline of composition will never need a thorough transformation. It simply means that at that point in time, the culture is such (likely because of the influence of Xnity for centuries) that even unbelieving liberal professors see the value of tolerance in academic writing. However, it's entirely possible for a culture to change in such a way that tolerance is no longer a civic virtue. In fact, it's common these days for conservatives to observe that political liberals aren't as liberal as they used to be, in the classical sense that they value a variety of viewpoints. It's not a stretch to say that some unbelieving composition professors may militate against tolerance for conservative or Xn viewpoints, in which case a distinctly Xn way of teaching English would become more apparent. (This matter is far easier to prove when it comes to literature.) Chapter 4: Christianity and the Arts A problem that Horton seems to be addressing is people who feel the burden to make their art (or interpret art) in a very churchy way—a way that kind of ruins it. (For example, a dad who is always making his kids tell him the worldview of whatever movie they've just watched could quickly become very tiresome. This is related to the Jesus Juke.) While I want to affirm that this is a real problem, I cannot go so far as to say that Xn who are artists have no responsibilities (Makoto Fujimura is excellent on this point). I don't think appreciating art for art's sake is very Xn. The best literature, for example, fortifies us to continuing working in this world. Some stories don't tell the truth about the world: for example, those that urge readers to trust their hearts or look inside themselves for answers. The same thing goes for food. A Xn chef doesn't need to bring out a steak in the shape of a cross, but at the same time, a thinking Xn is going to think about how portion size, food sources, healthy options, etc. are affecting customers. (In a real sense, culinary artists are literally shaping others.) We are always being shaped, & we need to recognize that as we participate in culture and as we create culture. Horton argues that Bach was recognized as a talented musician outside the church (74). But does that have anything to do with the religious state of the culture? Horton is willing to admit that writers' worldviews come through in their secular (not explicitly religious) writing—e.g., Stephen Crane & George MacDonald are clearly different (78)—yet he still wants to maintain that distinctively Xn fiction is necessarily problematic. He's thinking of kitschy art (e.g., CCM), & I don't disagree with him there. (The Lewis quote [84] is tricky, because while he says that consciously edifying art is bad art, elsewhere he admits to intentionally smuggling theology through his fiction.) But I would still argue that there are ways for Xns to be Xn in their secular artistry (music, fiction, etc.), & still be respected artists (N. D. Wilson comes to mind). Horton says that Milton, Bunyan, Handel, & Rembrandt are examples of Xns who didn't make "Christian art," but rather were "simply Christians who created good art" (82), as if "good art" were this neutral category that anyone can achieve, regardless of worldview. While I acknowledge that because of common grace, unbelievers can create art that is worthy of enjoyment & reflection, it's not clear to me that there is nothing explicitly Xn about the work of the four artists that Horton mentions. They were Xns who created Xn works of art, which became classics in large part because the culture was so heavily influenced by Xnity (see my comments in Ch. 3). It's common these days to disdain products of Western civilization precisely because of their Xn nature (see 91), so it's nonsense to say that unbelievers are always going to appreciate art that is objectively good because they're just naturally fair-minded people. That's assigning far too much neutrality to unbelievers. Horton stresses the distinction between art for church & art for culture—we judge them by very different criteria (94). Art for culture should not have any religious motives behind it, apparently (83). Horton is right to say that Xns are not bound to creating art that is explicitly Xn (91), but his implication that a Xn worldview will have no affect on someone's artistic endeavors is flawed. His concession that I mentioned above (78) does not go far enough, because he keeps repeating this category of "simply good art," as if it's a neutral category that anyone can achieve & that stands alone as "good," without that goodness being determined by Xnity. In other words, I'd argue that any work of art as an unbeliever is good only to the extent that it conforms to (general) Xn principles. Explain why a secular work of art is "good," & I'll show you how it points to Xn truth. Some may argue that it's creational truth, not Xn truth, but my response is that because of the fall, creational truth is apprehended best by Xns. The extent to which unbelievers apprehend creational truth is the extent to which God allows them to think like Xns. It may help to distinguish between good & Good. Goodness is one of the Transcendentals, along with Truth & Beauty. I'm arguing that whereas Good art is always good, you cannot call something Good if it is merely good. No one can argue that in some technical ways (photography, etc.), pornography can be Good. It's not neutral. Similarly, as Jamie Smith has argued in You Are What You Love (185–86), we need Christian philosophers, & thank God for the ones we have. On the plus side, Horton quotes from Lewis's Taliessen Through Logres & English Literature in the Sixteenth Century. Chapter 5: Art in the Believer's Life Random comments: Introductory analysis of Hawthorne's "The Artist of the Beautiful," which embodies the Romantic privileging of the spiritual over the material. Hawthorne thought that it was a shame that artists couldn't pursue beauty without being forced into explaining how it's useful/practical. Both extremes are harmful: thinking that art is essentially spiritual & only for the elite, or thinking that art always must be reduced to moral propositions. Reformation education allowed people to participate in literature, art, music, etc. Benefits of reading include entertainment, education, & empathy. Beyond general comments, the Bible provides little guidance for evaluating art. Some un-Xn works of art are nevertheless worth of appreciation for the way they capture the human experience. Storytellers ought to cultivate the habit of telling the whole story, like Scripture does: the good, bad, & ugly. References to Donne, Herbert, Milton, Bunyan, & Spenser (111–12). Chapter 6: Christianity and Modern Science: Can't We Be Friends? Random comments: Horton, like many others (Kuyper, Jaki, Polkinghorne, Kaiser, Merton, Spitz), attributes the flourishing of modern science to the Reformation (cf. pp. 201–4). Book of nature & book of Scripture. Reference to Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions & paradigm shifts. Enlightenment thinkers assumed that science could answer ultimate questions. Naturalism ironically assumes order but posits chaos (117). Kaiser's "four theological foundations upon which science flowered": "the comprehensibility of the world, the unity of heaven & earth, the relative autonomy of nature, and the ministry of healing and restoration" (119). Horton elaborates on these points for half the chapter. Horton uses his 2K system to guard against the church's making scientific declarations that it has no business making (see 135). Horton describes Reid's Scottish Common Sense Realism (SCSR) as a response to Kant's noumenal/phenomenal split. Kant's rationalism, Hegel's idealism, & Derrida's deconstruction are all pitted against SCSR, which leads to Horton's support for Old Princeton's (Warfield/Hodges) evidentialist apologetics (129–34). Mitchell: It's question-begging to assume that theism isn't true if it can't be proven by materialist principles (131). Horton makes some helpful points here (e.g., faith is not irrational), but he's very optimistic about the neutral ground on which believers & unbelievers can participate, as if all you have to do is present enough evidence, & then voilà, agreement! He acknowledges that there are other apologetic approaches (presuppositional, classical), but he prefers the evidence as a way to show the common person the compatibility of science & faith. Ch. 6 in Keller's The Reason for God might have some good connections to this chapter. Chapter 7: Working for the Weekend Random comments: Reference to Max Weber's work (& some problems with it) as well as Leland Ryken's. "It is theology that gives meaning to every activity of human existence." Horton is very opposed to the idea of a Xn empire in America. When Horton wants the institutional church to "be the church," he means this: preaching the Word faithfully, administering the sacraments, & practicing church discipline (142). Horton is happy to talk about Xn individuals being shaped by the institutional church & going out into the world, but as he's written in previous chapters, he's against being distinctively Xn in "common" areas, like, basically everything (plumbing, art, etc.). (Horton even says that believers & unbelievers parent on the same common basis [188]. Yikes.) Avoid apathy & triumphalism (147). Take rest seriously (148–54). Horton rightly focuses on the family & discusses activities: Lord's Day, evening meal (catechesis is primarily the parents' job, not the church's), family night, & reading aloud. Don't let even church activities crowd out family time. Marriage is good (158). Chapter 8: A World Gone Crazy The rejection of God coincides with the horrors of the 20c [causation, not simply correlation]. Horton locates modernity at the Renaissance/Enlightenment & says it continues to today; he defines it as a belief in progress & universal reason. Horton's admittedly reductionistic history (167) moves from Joachim of Fiore to the Anabaptists to Hegel's & Marx's dialectic, & briefly mentions Adam Smith (industrial capitalism), Dewey (modern education), Freud (psychology), Schleiermacher (theological liberalism), & Darwin (evolution). Horton moves to Hume's empiricism & Kant's rationalism. Horton discusses some of the results of modernity, then looks at the place of evangelicals in the midst of modernity. Conclusion Horton uses Spener's pietism to discuss one of the dangers of being in the world: being completely separated from the world (think of Tertullian). The other danger is worldliness (think of Justin Martyr's heavy reliance on Greek philosophy). The rest of the chapter is a primer on a Xn worldview (how to be in the world as a Xn), with a Creation-Fall-Redemption structure. Horton is much more careful than typical Contemporary Grace Movement people when he talks about sanctification, but he gets back into the anti-kingdom building (184, 187, 189–96) in this chapter. Permanent exile is a big thing for 2K folks; it's consistent with their amillennialism. The book ends with lots of 2K stuff; I've never understood why amillennialists/2K folks urge transformative activities or think it's possible (203). As in Ch. 7, Horton mentions the common ground on which believers & unbelievers function (189–96), including parenting (188). We don't need the Bible to tell us how to do "common" things, apparently (194–95). But I'm not sure why Creational categories are thought of as neutral. They're good (Gen. 1). Unbelievers act according to the Fall, while Xns act according to Redemption, which is a movement back to the goodness of Creation. The reason to call Creational things Redemptive (or Xn) now is that Christ gets us back to Creation.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Erik Lee

    You've got me. I'm a Hortonite (or, Hortonian?) This book deals with, you've guessed it, the place of church in culture. That's right, I've put it in that order because frankly, the culture is looms larger than the church in this side of the eschaton. If you are in a mainline Protestant church, you've probably heard the prevailing notion that the church must be involved with bringing back the Judeo-Christian ethos of American heritage (Billy Graham, Carl Henry, James K.A. Smith). Surprisingly, t You've got me. I'm a Hortonite (or, Hortonian?) This book deals with, you've guessed it, the place of church in culture. That's right, I've put it in that order because frankly, the culture is looms larger than the church in this side of the eschaton. If you are in a mainline Protestant church, you've probably heard the prevailing notion that the church must be involved with bringing back the Judeo-Christian ethos of American heritage (Billy Graham, Carl Henry, James K.A. Smith). Surprisingly, there are two sides to this debate. Against the transformationalist view of the Christian church propounded from many a pulpits today, Horton suggests a different kind of prescription: keep the sacred and the holy separated. By attempting the fuse the two together, Horton cites Contemporary Christian Music for instance, we have done disservice to both (how many rap artists enjoy Lecrae?). As we merge the two realms, the church and culture, the church loses her distinctive marks under the banner of relevance. Horton also includes historical examples as well. Tapping into sphere of art history, Horton argues that the Reformation reoriented their aesthetic priorities so that the artists could go on painting non-religious themes, resulting in an artistic revolution. The book is filled with examples such as the one above to further his argument that says, "let the church be the church and culture be what it is." Let's enjoy what the secular world (under common grace) offers us and let us be faithful to the radical difference of the church. Enjoy reading!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    Michael Horton is my favorite Christian thinker and writer. Most of what I have read from him has been in the Modern Reformation magazine of which he is editor in chief. I have started in on his books now, this being the first one. I loved this book! The ideas he puts forth in it are challenging to me in a very good way. I was so encouraged and liberated. What freedom there is in the gospel and liberty for enjoying all the good things God has given us in this life! A must read!!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anderson Paz

    O livro tem oito capítulos e é uma introdução básica ao conteúdo de cosmovisão cristã no âmbito da cultura. Em geral, Horton sustenta que o cristão não pode fazer dicotomia entre sagrado e secular. Cristo é Senhor de tudo. O cristão não pode ser anti-intelectual. É preciso da revelação especial para um diálogo cristão robusto. É preciso manter a antítese e a graça comum para um bom engajamento cristão. A arte tem sua esfera de soberania. A arte deve refletir o belo da cristão divina. A arte não O livro tem oito capítulos e é uma introdução básica ao conteúdo de cosmovisão cristã no âmbito da cultura. Em geral, Horton sustenta que o cristão não pode fazer dicotomia entre sagrado e secular. Cristo é Senhor de tudo. O cristão não pode ser anti-intelectual. É preciso da revelação especial para um diálogo cristão robusto. É preciso manter a antítese e a graça comum para um bom engajamento cristão. A arte tem sua esfera de soberania. A arte deve refletir o belo da cristão divina. A arte não precisa de justificativa. O cristão deve desenvolver uma intuição cristã para distinguir a boa arte da má. No que toca à ciência, o calvinismo a libertou do domínio da igreja. A ciência tornou-se um ídolo e não é neutra. Os cristãos devem trabalhar na ciência a partir de um realismo de bom senso. É preciso ter uma ética do trabalho, pois a vocação e trabalho devem ser para a glória de Deus. É preciso agir no mundo para a glória de Deus, mas não ser engolido pelo mundo.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ronald Dom

    Horton traz um compilado de como a igreja tentou tratar a Bíblia e ela própria como a única regra não apenas de fé, mas de parâmetro para tudo que se fazia debaixo do sol. Como se a Bíblia tivesse respostas para todos os problemas do mundo. E como os crentes com o tempo foram se afastando da cultura, das artes, ciência, política e criando guetos e nichos exclusivamente evangélicos.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Adam Ross

    On the arts, wonderful. On philosophy and science, awful.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Frode

    Horton is a good writer, very clear and logical.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Javier Angel

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

  10. 4 out of 5

    Frank

  11. 5 out of 5

    heartwork.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michial

  13. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dempsey N. Holloway

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Thumpston

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ronnie

  18. 4 out of 5

    David

  19. 5 out of 5

    Richard

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mark N

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kenny Pecher

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nicolas Valin

  23. 4 out of 5

    Last Word

  24. 5 out of 5

    Felipe

  25. 4 out of 5

    Luke Evans

  26. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Vaughan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Drew Dill

  28. 5 out of 5

    Justin Edgar

  29. 4 out of 5

    Craig French

  30. 5 out of 5

    Zach Jones

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