Reviewed by Michael Plato
The British theorist and critic Raymond Williams once wrote a book titled simply Culture. What made it a remarkable read was, though he spent several hundred pages using the term, he never actually got around to defining it. “Culture” is one of those big, nebulous words which is extremely hard to get even a vaguely general, let alone a precise meaning for, yet we encounter it virtually everywhere. In the past decade or so it has become something of a buzz word in evangelical circles, where it has been embraced as eagerly as the phrase “world class” by boosters for second tier cities.
We are told that we must learn to “listen to” the culture, “speak to” the culture and “engage” the culture. If we don’t, we might become “culturally irrelevant.” We fret over “Christian culture,” and how shabby it looks next to the airbrushed, botoxed culture of the mainstream. Supporting this preoccupation, it is alleged, is Acts 17. This biblical chapter has become as citied today as John 3 and Romans 8 were in former generations. Paul’s age-old rhetorical technique of appealing to his opponent’s own source of authority has suddenly become a mandate for….well, that’s where things get interesting. In the past few years we have seen a number of books published dealing with the subject of Christianity and culture, among the most prominent ones in the evangelical sphere being Christ and Culture Revisited by D.A. Carson, Culture Making by Andy Crouch and To Change the World by James Davidson Hunter.
Entering the fray is Greg Forster’s Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It. His previous book was The Joy of Calvinism (Crossway, 2012), a cheery defense of the doctrines of grace. This optimism carries over to his latest work, where he makes the case for …[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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Joy for the World