Four Reformed Views of Christ and Culture

Posted: October 5, 2009 by Scott Kistler in Calvinism, Christ & Culture

Kevin DeYoung links to an article by Ray Pennings about how four different Reformed camps think about the ancient question of Christian engagement in culture.  It’s short but interesting.  I’m a little surprised by the names that Pennings gives to the camps, but it looks like he explains them in a print-edition only article of December 2008 issue of Comment magazine.

Matt Harmon summarizes the views of the camps that Pennings delineates:

(1) neo-calvinism, which focuses on the comprehensive claims of the gospel; (2) two kingdom approach, which stresses the distinctiveness of the church from the culture; (3) neo-puritans, who emphasize the sovereignty of God and the role of the individual in seeking the good of the city; (4) old-calvinism, which contends that cultural engagement inevitably leads to worldliness.

Check out the whole article if this is a topic that interests you.

  1. I am fascinated by the splintering views which are far more nuanced then most people are willing to admit. There is a bit of truth in each view and thus I live in a mediating tension under each view. Stay tuned for what wins the day. I would say that Al Mohler’s quote is excellent. I tentatively gravitate towards a “two kingdom” view, however do think that God speaks so clearly on certain areas of public policy that we must be engaged in that arena. One such issue is abortion. I am not pro-life to make enemies, but rather because I truly believe that even under God’s “common grace” He is burning hot with this wicked practice in this country.

    At the end of the day, I gravitate towards the command from our Lord to love our neighbor. There is no qualification on that. Whether they be believers, pagans, upstanding folks from another religion, I am bound to love them. I can’t withdraw from them, I can’t just share the Gospel and feel my job accomplished. I must love my neighbor with an enduring love, that will likely entail some measure of grief, suffering, and self-abasement.

    • Scott Kistler says:

      Great points, Rick. I think that I would see a tiered approach. Like you, I would say that we have to start with loving our believing and unbelieving neighbors. All of these perspectives would have to agree with that.

      Then, we need to figure out our lives in the church. How can we worship and live together as the body of Christ?

      I think that I would go along with Doug Wilson’s view that the culture-transforming depends on a healthy church; we need to get ourselves right first before we start talking about ordering the culture in a comprehensive way.

      I think you’re right that the truth in each requires a tension. The “Old Calvinist” view reminds of the perils of engagement too.

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