Greg Thompson on the dangers of the culture war mentality
I haven’t yet worked through his whole series of posts on the church and culture, but Greg Thompson’s description of the dangers of the culture war mentality is sharp and to the point. Calling this model of cultural engagement that of domination, Thompson writes,
The domination paradigm suggests that the fundamental calling of the church is to triumph over her cultural enemies. In this view the basic task of the church is to extend its own values into the world while the basic threat to the church is those whose values differ from its own.
The strengths of this paradigm are that, unlike fortification churches, these churches rightly believe that God has called His people into the world and as a result tend to move intentionally into the culture. And unlike accommodation churches, they believe that God has called them to retain their “peculiar” identity (1 Peter 2), and thus tend to labor intentionally to preserve the integrity of their communities. But its weaknesses are profound. Like fortification, this paradigm tends to view the world in fundamentally oppositional terms. And yet it expresses this opposition not in withdrawal, but in aggression. Inherent in this aggression—which most frequently takes a political form—is a sort of aspiration to triumph, a perspective in which neighbors with whom one differs are viewed not as people to be loved, but as people to be defeated. In this respect and with bitter irony, it is now widely beheld that churches governed by the dominance paradigm come tragically to embody the Nietzschean character of the very culture they seek to subvert. But such a character is not reflective of the call of the God who lays down His life for the good of His enemies, and who calls His church to do the same (Matt. 5).
Good stuff. Note, for those wondering, Thompson is not just picking on the domination model. He also warns against thinking of the church’s task in terms of fortification and in terms of accommodation. Thompson concludes,
Unlike fortification, the incarnational church seeks to follow Jesus into every sphere of creation. Unlike accommodation, the incarnational church not only moves fully into the world but also retains the integrity of its God-given character and proclamation as it does so. And unlike domination, the incarnational church sees its movement into the world not as an angry movement of conquest but as a hopeful movement of redemptive love; seeking not to triumph over its neighbors, but to work for their flourishing.
This vision of the church’s calling as a movement into the fullness of culture, bearing the fullness of the gospel, and yet doing so for the purposes of redeeming love is what James Davison Hunter has referred to as faithful presence. And it is this paradigm that must be embraced if the church is truly to be the church in and for our time.
The whole post is worth reading.