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Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling Paperback – September 9, 2013
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"This book will clarify your thinking, inspire your production, and affirm your parenting." (David Balzer, Mennonite Brethren Herald, August 2009)
"Simply the best book that I've read recently. Not only is it brilliant, it's accessible. I cannot gush about this book enough. It really is that good." (Margaret Feinberg, Christian Retailing, July 6, 2009)
"Theologically rich and practically helpful, Culture Making is a significant contribution to the discussion of Christ and culture and a useful guide for those who want to make something of the world God has created." (Outreach, March/April 2009)
"Thoughtful and engaging. . . . Crouch's book does signal a hopeful development, which is that the evangelical pursuit of culture warfare was and is a dead end." (D. G. Hart, First Principles (www.firstprinciplesjournal.com), March 23, 2009)
"Crouch writes as one who cares what Christians do with their time in light of God's Kingdom coming." (On Mission Today, January 14, 2009)
"Culture Making is a fresh and relevant take on how Christians should relate to the wider culture. This book will serve to make us more effective interpreters of and contributors to the cultural landscape." (Eric O. Jacobsen, PRISM, January 2009)
"As an academic and a culture critic, I am not given to gushing over new publications. But Culture Making brought me pretty close to doing just such a non-scholarly thing! With so much coming out these days on religion and culture, one becomes a bit jaded about the possibility of something really fresh emerging. Well, this book is fresh, compelling, and engagingly written. More important, it goes deeply into its subject." (William Edgar, Themelios (thegospelcoalition.org), vol. 33, no. 3)
"Crouch's voice is intriguing and fresh--offering an alternative that escapes the many 'Jesus-stamped' merchandise items as an evangelical tool and implementing a fresh vision for creativity and engaging cultural lifestyles." (Worship Leader, November/December 2008)
"Good introduction to how Christians need to do more than fatalistically talk about the dangers of the world." (Marvin Olasky, WORLD Magazine, November 15/22, 2008)
About the Author
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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.
Top international reviews
This is a very helpful and thought provoking book, but I do think it gets weaker as it goes on. The first section is the most helpful as it critiques common assumptions about culture, and will most likely get you thinking differently about the subject. The middle section is important, because theology is always important, but if you do not accept some of the premises its helpfulness is limited. And then the third section - about how to actually apply all that has gone before - is the flimsiest.
So, in some ways Crouch falls into the same trap as the worldview advocates he criticizes - lots of good analysis, but a lack of clear application.
That is not meant to be a carping comment, and indeed, I would be suspicious of someone setting out a '10 point plan of action' in a book like this. The whole point is to point us towards the kinds of things we can do rather than be prescriptive about what we should do, so perhaps any expectation of clearer application is unfair.
My conclusion then? Definitely read the first 98 pages, but see the rest as an optional extra.
According to Crouch, culture is not changed merely through thinking. No, changing culture only happens when more culture is made. I found this insight provocative, because it makes all of the things I do worthwhile: everything I do is making and changing culture. In the book Crouch describes four ways people usually work with culture: by condemning culture, by critiquing culture, by copying culture, and by consuming culture. However, by focussing on one of these ways, we miss important things, says Crouch. Instead, he believes we have to be aware of the fact that culture always builds on what went before. Therefor, we have to conserve culture at its best and change it for the better by offering something new.
In the second section of the book Crouch retells the biblical story of creation. He starts in Genesis, by showing that God creates space and possibilities for his creation to live in. Then he moves on to the fall and what sin means for Gods good creation: it's our task to deal with the consequences of sin through our creativity. Through the cross, Jesus faced sin and remade the relation of God with His creation: God became something for all nations and all cultures. This leads Crouch to the provocative and intriguing question if we are creating and cultivating things that have a chance of being used in the furnishing of the New Jerusalem.
In the third and final section of the book Crouch tells - successfully in my view - how to handle culture making as a Christian. This section is chock-full of good ideas, arguments and lines of thought, so I will only mention a few of them. First, we are world changers because we are culture changers. Although this is true, we should not forget that a lot of what happens in life is outside our control, but that should not prevent us from being true culture makers. Second, there is nothing inherently wrong with cultural power (God even gives it to Adam!), but we have to handle it through grace and as good stewards. Third, "where do I and my community of 3, 12 and 120 experience grace--divine multiplication that far exceeds my efforts?"
Crouch closes with a beautiful rallying cry: "make something of the world!" I believe that indeed is what life in this world is about: making something beautiful of this world, despite sin and through God-given grace. Crouch saw this correct.