Brian Dijkema: 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the publication ofCreation Regained. It’s been read widely around the world, and many have described it as the best introduction to the Christian worldview. For many, in all kinds of different places around the globe, your book was the little door into a much deeper tradition of Christian thinking about culture and society. But I’m sure there are a dozen or so people who haven’t read it. How would you describe Creation Regained to somebody who’s never heard of it before?
Al Wolters: Well, it’s an introduction to a comprehensive Biblical worldview that stresses the breadth of Creation, the extent of the Fall, and most importantly, the fact that salvation in Jesus Christ really means a reclaiming, a regaining, of the entire length and breadth of Creation with all of its cultural domains.
BD: “Cultural domains” is not the kind of thing that comes up in dinner conversation, at least not in my house. What do you mean by that and what do you mean by Creation being “regained” in all of these places?
AW: Well, Creation is much broader than we tend to think of it. When we say “creation” in our culture we often speak of material things. But it also includes things like the structure of the family, for example, or something like tenderness or justice or the institutional church. Things of this sort are all structured as part of Creation.
Creation refers to those girders, those basic principles that are woven into the very fabric of civilization, of culture, of society. Therefore if you’re going to talk about sin and salvation, seeing Creation as comprehensive as that will affect how you look at the family, how you look at the state, how you look at art, and how you look at advertising. All of these things are affected by the Fall and all are in need of being reclaimed in the power of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The book is, in a sense, a simple representation of the tradition in which I grew up—the neo-Calvinist tradition. That tradition sees Creation as a very broad and differentiated thing, filled with distinctive structures which are made to move in certain directions. Structure refers to the way things are meant to be—the way God instituted family to be, the way God meant the state to be, the way God has a design for advertising. These are all developments of Creation which are corrupted by sin and all of which need to be redirected, need to be redeemed, reclaimed in order to conform more closely to the way God meant it to be from the beginning.
That distinction between structure and direction is actually not my distinction. I learned it from my teacher Evan Runner. So structure refers to that creational substrate if you like and direction refers to the ways in which all of those different things are either perverted or are reclaimed in Christ.
There once was a child named after his father. He was perhaps named after his dad in the way boys sometimes are in an attempt to create family commitment and paternal instinct in situations where those things are suspected to be lacking. This boy was Jay Vivian Chambers. He was born in 1901. His mother had been a touring actress (but never anything close to a star). His father was a commercial artist and also, it turned out, a bisexual, who would eventually abandon the family and then return, but with the tendency to be unaccountable for his time. They were sometimes known in their New York community as “the French family.” Jay had a younger sibling. Both his father and his younger brother would pre-decease him, despite the fact that he did not live a long life himself.
Later on, his grandmother would join the household. She was increasingly insane. As a young adult, Jay would occasionally have to confront her and take away her scissors, which she wielded in a threatening manner. He didn’t get away without scars, including mental ones. In his memoir, he would write of his wish as a young man that the house of horrors in which he grew up would burn to the ground.
Ultimately, then, for Frederick Douglass reading meant freedom.
His ability to read a text, to synthesize that information, and then let it change his thoughts and compel him to action directly led to his fight against slavery, both as an individual man seeking his own freedom, and later as a statesman, fighting for the rights of his fellow man. A single man’s desire to read and attain knowledge changed the landscape of America forever.
Throughout his life, Douglass’s library would grow, and it now serves as a great insight into his thoughts and beliefs. In reading through the list, you get an idea of how incredibly wide-read Douglass was. We see everything from classic Christian pieces, to abolitionist texts, to popular novels of the time, to history and science textbooks, and even seemingly random works on subjects like the dental arts and knitting(!).
This new book on knowledge by Esther Meek looks wonderful. Makoto Fujimura (a favorite around here) says that “A Little Manual for Knowing—essential reading for every university, every business, every church, and every home.”
God’s severity, Moser suggests, is revealed in the severity of the world. When naming a feature of the world, the term “severity” is meant to highlight the difficulty, rigor, and stress of human life. When used to name the feature of God in virtue of which he allows life to be severe, it names the property whereby God is compelled (by his nature) to strongly encourage (but not compel) humans to undergo the painful change needed to be happiest — that is, to be in full communion with a God worthy of worship. And it is the property of being worthy of worship that leads to God’s severity. God would not be worthy of worship if he allowed humans to slouch their way toward metaphysical mediocrity or float adrift on an island of false paradise.
The fine folks over at Christianity Today have reviewed Brett McCracken’s new book, Gray Matters:
McCracken’s new Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty is an accessible, readable approach to the issue of “culture.” McCracken gives no hard definition of culture in the text, but he makes his focus clear: “This book is about pursuing God and giving him glory as mature, nuanced consumers of the ‘gray areas’ of culture.” He zeroes in “on four areas of pop culture that we don’t often think about as necessarily theological: food, pop music, movies, and alcohol.” Building off of McCracken’s acclaimed debut, Hipster Christianity, the point of Gray Matters is not to stimulate the making of culture (per the work of Andy Crouch), or to reposition evangelical cultural engagement (as was James Davison Hunter’s task), but to consume culture well.
In addition, Brett offered five book recommendations, all of which influenced his own book.
I reviewed Brett McCracken’s new book. Here’s an excerpt:
If you’ve ever been told you shouldn’t watch a certain movie, or listen to a certain album, or drink a certain (fermented) beverage, just because you are a Christian, this book is for you. There’s really no plainer way to say it. Many of us grew up in homes that were strict on many of these fronts (I remember my first ‘secular’ album, and now I find myself writing about guys like Kanye West). That isn’t to say that we aren’t right to step away from certain things. In fact, this is probably the strongest point in the book: many young evangelicals have opted to land so firmly in the camp of ‘liberty’ that they’ve strayed into a license to do all things. They drink, smoke, watch R-rated movies, and listen to the vilest rap and death-metal music they can find. The temptation is to take “all things permissible” and ignore “but not all things are beneficial.” Gray Matters holds a healthy middle ground: as the subtitle suggests, there is a middle ground here. There are some films we simply ought not watch, and some that perhaps I shouldn’t watch, even if it has no negative (and possibly even a positive) effect on you.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Brett McCracken about his new book Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty. His previous book Hipster Christianity dealt with the collision of the church and cool. His latest work examines the complex interaction between Christianity and culture. He was gracious enough to answer some questions about it in the next two posts.
Trevin: You start off the book talking about Lee the Legalist and Lance the Libertine – two types of Christians, one who is indifferent and even hostile to culture, and the other who is licentious and all-embracing of anything. Why do we as evangelicals have a problem swinging between these two extremes?
Brett: I suspect part of it is simply that we evangelicals are zealous and passionate. In general, we equate “the middle ground” with that most distasteful of dispositions: being lukewarm. And so when we see something as problematic, we tend to overcorrect in the opposite direction. In almost everything, Christians have a hard time with nuance and complexity because they see it as a compromise.
Culture. It’s quite the buzzword among Christians these days. From Andy Crouch’s Culture Making to a revival in interest in Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture to, well, blogs like this one. Everyone seems to be exploring how Christians should interact with, embrace, create, and redeem culture. But the problem is that many efforts to address the intersection of Christianity and culture are theoretical, rather than practical.
Enter Brett McCracken, a Los Angeles-based writer and journalist who has just written a book entitled, Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty. In it, he practically addresses how Christians can wade through moral gray issues–from alcohol consumption to secular music and films. As I said in the endorsement, the result is “a truly spectacular book that carves a path between an oppressive, rules-based religion and a powerless, free-for-all ‘faith.’” Here we discuss the pitfall of legalism, the potential pitfalls of this generation, and how Christians should navigate the issues that aren’t as black-and-white as they wish.
JM: You say in your book that things like alcohol, edgier films, plays, concerts, and art have “moved from being forbidden to being celebrated by believers.” Isn’t this the role Christians played historically, as culture creators? What role do you think believers have when it comes to setting trends and creating culture?
For Brett’s answer and the following discussions, check it out here.
Nathaniel Claiborne’s review is one that spends time breaking down the text into chapters–the first I’ve seen that does that. Here’s how he starts, though:
First off, this is an interesting book, and I mean that not in the sense the content itself is interesting, but that the nature of the book is interesting. Usually books are about some particular topic and explore it from different angles. This book is about exploring and specifically about the interface of questioning, confidence, and doubt. It’s almost like reading a book about reading books, but is more about the disposition that lies behind reading itself. Usually, if you read a lot of non-fiction books, you are doing some sort of exploring, and Anderson wants to explore the nature of that exploration.
See the rest here.