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Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling Hardcover – July 10, 2008
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"In Culture Making, Andy Crouch has given us a vision for creativity that is not reserved for the practitioners of high art, but that reveals the dignity of the most ordinary sorts of cultural creation. It is a transformative vision that inspires to action and--in the face of the almost inevitable failures--perseverance. In the end, cultural creativity is not a gift we own, exercise and grow anxious over, but one that we receive and nurture--and through which we come to know grace." (David Neff, editor-in-chief and vice president, Christianity Today Media Group)
"In this graceful, articulate volume Crouch challenges Christian common wisdom about creation and challenges as well our traditional understandings about the Revelation to John and how it articulates with the rest of Holy Writ. As refreshing as it is smart, Culture Making is a significant addition to contemporary Christian thought." (Phyllis Tickle, compiler of The Divine Hours and former religion editor, Publishers Weekly)
"As an artist and an advocate for artists, I am grateful for this book. Andy Crouch's edifying analysis of culture and the church and his timely call for us to be culture makers make this work invaluable in today's faith journey. This is a groundbreaking guidebook for all who are concerned about cultural issues and the church." (Makoto Fujimura, artist and founder, International Arts Movement)
"Culture Making is a book that's been needed for decades, but it arrives at just the right moment. People of faith--now poised to use their influence--have much to contribute to the common good as creators and advocates, not just as critics and judges. But that requires careful thought and clear insight, both of which are abundantly found in this profound and practical book. Andy Crouch has long had a knack for observing the culture around us and then showing us how we can make it better. With Culture Making, Crouch offers all that and more. Anyone who cares for the renewal of our culture must read this book!" (D. Michael Lindsay, author of Faith in the Halls of Power and assistant professor of sociology, Rice University)
"American evangelicals in the last hundred years have found it easy to condemn culture, critique culture, copy culture and consume culture. It has been much harder for them to actively and imaginatively create culture. Andy Crouch is out to change that. I confess I doubt whether they can rise to the challenge. But I am persuaded by Crouch's case that the Christian calling requires it. Here is a voice worth taking very seriously." (Christian Smith, professor of sociology, University of Notre Dame)
"Good books are either brilliant or helpful, but the best books are both--and Andy Crouch has attained that rare combination of virtues in Culture Making. As a Christian, as a parent and as an organizational leader, I would like to make a difference in the world. Crouch not only helps me understand where that yearning comes from, but how to pursue it with passion, commitment, power and spiritual health. Culture Making is a joyful gift of intelligence and practical provocation for thoughtful Christians." (Gary Haugen, president, International Justice Mission, author of Good News About Injustice and Just Courage)
"Andy Crouch's Culture Making models what it argues: that a kingdom imagination that takes our richly enculturated lives seriously shows grace to be real, immanent and compelling. Surely this vocation must be central to God's call!" (Mark Labberton, pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, and author of The Dangerous Act of Worship)
"Grappling with 'the culture' has become an obsession for contemporary Christians, but a misunderstanding of what cultures are and how they behave results in a great deal of frustration. Andy Crouch's Culture Making draws on both his broad experience and originality of insight to offer a bracing and clear-eyed view of the way forward." (Frederica Mathewes-Green, author and columnist, www.frederica.com)
"This is not a good book, because it provokes and prods, incites and inspires. It takes you on an uncomfortable journey, defying the status quo and questioning accepted perspectives. It offers a fresh voice with trenchant thinking, forcing you to blow the dust off the mantle of your own settled proclivities. It resonates deeply within you, even on those points you may question. It addresses the heart of the challenge of our day. No, this is not a good book. It is a great one." (James Emery White, pastor, professor and author of Serious Times)
"In this marvelous book Andy Crouch makes the case for cultural discipleship by giving us an exciting overview of the drama of creation, fallenness and renewal. And along the way he offers much wisdom about the very real cultural realities that we face as twenty-first-century Christians." (Richard J. Mouw, president and professor of Christian philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary)
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1. Christ against culture: a withdrawal model of removing oneself from the culture into the community of the church
2. Christ of culture: an accommodationist model that recognizes God at work in the culture and looks for ways to affirm this
3. Christ above culture: a synthetic model that advocates supplementing and building on the good in the culture with Christ
4. Christ and culture in paradox: a dualistic model that views Christians as citizens of two different realms, one sacred and one secular
5. Christ transforming culture: a conversionist model that seeks to transform every part of culture with Christ
Various theological traditions have endorsed each of these. Andy Crouch moves beyond this paradigm by distinguishing "posture" from "gestures." He argues that we may adopt different "gestures" for different aspects of culture, such as condemning, critiquing, copying, and consuming. However, he insists that our dominant, default "posture" must be that of creating and cultivating culture, which is the thrust of the cultural mandate in Genesis 1. This is an important move from a reactive to a proactive stance toward culture that can rescue the floundering Church from both cultural captivity and cultural marginalization.
Crouch's treatment of vocation also endows ordinary work with new meaning, since work in all areas of life is necessary for the creation and cultivation of culture.
Crouch argues for the Cultural Mandate of Scripture, indicating that humanity even charged by God with the responsibility of creating culture. Some of the best parts of the book are in the chapter called The Garden and the City. Crouch explains that man was created in a garden (Genesis) but ends up in the city (Revelation). He further explains that the city represents the culmination of man's cultural creativity. Crouch shares a lot of ideas with Tim Keller (author of The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism) on this point.
Individually, most of us will never change culture on a grand scale. We may influence our family lives and workplaces but, he argues, this does not constitute culture in the fullest sense. On this point, Crouch steps in the direction of James Davison Hunter (author of To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World) who argues that so few people can actually change culture that we should, rather than trying to change culture, instead focus on a personal ministry of "faithful presence". While these two authors seem to agree on this point, I prefer Crouch because he is more encouraging to real people wondering about their place in the world.
Somewhat early in the book, Crouch argues that many Christians who say they want to transform cultures or worldviews subtly rewrite the problem they study into a fundamentally intellectual problem. Perhaps inevitably, people with strong analytical and philosophical gifts look at the evident problem of Christian disembodiment and propose not a profound program of embodiment but more thinking as the solution. And after we have done a lot more thinking, how exactly does the world change? Well, "then a miracle occurs." (Page 63) To "engage" the culture, Crouch says, becomes a near synonym for thinking about the culture (87).
I read several books the latter half of 2010 dealing with the broad issue of transforming cultures and worldviews, how to do this, and why some succeed and others fail in this regard (Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change, Paul Hiebert ; Communicating Christ Through Story and Song; Culture Shift: Culture Shift: Transforming Your Church from the Inside Out; Lewis, Cordeiro and Bird; Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues With Timeless Truth, R. Albert Mohler; The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died, John Philip Jenkins). These books were thought-provoking in places, but most fell somewhat short in the area of mistaking analysis and commentary for application. So I could see the imbalance Crouch was pointing out in the above paragraph. Problem is, for the next 130 pages of his book, I kept wondering if this was not precisely the same pit Crouch had fallen into. Recycling biblical history to focus on culture and culture building (the exclusive focus of part II but also portions of parts I and III) was interesting in places but far from making the time investment I was putting into the book pay off for me.
Thankfully, the latter half of the third section of the book on Calling - particularly the chapters on Community and Grace as well as the postscript, made the effort worth it. To summarize, some main points include:
1. All Culture Making is Local: This means no matter how complex and extensive the cultural systems we may consider, the only way to change them is by way of a small group of innovative and creative people and a series of concentric circles of people the optimum size of which Crouch suggests are in the neighborhood of 3: 12: 120. We are, after all, according to Crouch, hardwired for villages. (p. 240-244).
2. All Culture Making is a Product of Grace: The way to genuine cultural creativity starts with the recognition that we woke up this morning in our right mind, with the use and activity of our limbs- and that every other creative capacity we have has likewise arrived as a gift we did not earn and to which we were not entitled. And once we are awake and thankful, our most important cultural contributions will very likely come from doing whatever keeps us precisely in the center of delight and surprise." (p. 252)
Where do you experience grace-divine multiplication that far exceeds your efforts? Grace is no exemption from the disciplines: we are called to be painstaking cultivators before we can become creators. Indeed, the disciplines that undergird any effort at culture making are an essential path to grace. Disciplines are private and invisible, preparing our hearts to handle the pressures of our work becoming public and visible (257). There may be no greater value to the disciplines (practicing scales if you are musician, learning languages if you are linguist, learning the basics of math or science if you are mathematician or scientist) than to regularly bring us to these moments of disillusionment with ourselves. Grace is for the poor in spirit, and the disciplines bring us, no matter our ascribed power or actual wealth, to keen awareness of our fundamental poverty. 258
I'll look back at this book again as I seek to synthesize what I gleaned from it in comparison with some of the other books mentioned above. In spite of its shortcomings, I'd recommend it as the best I've come across on the topic so far.