Monday, March 22, 2010

Cultural Renewal Thesis

The City Theology represented by such slogans as "in the city for the city," and "cultural renewal" which is prevalent in many young reformed circles (e.g., Tim Keller, Acts 29 Network, etc.) has caused me concern for years. My suspicions have been becoming more focused of late, which I will state in the form of a few questions. Perhaps the Lord will grant me strength and time to undertake a research project.

1. Biblical/Exegetical:
A. What biblical support is there for City Theology (CT)? What texts are used to promote it? More specifically, can CT be supported from the New Testament? Do we see the NT church engaging in CT? If it is a biblical focus of the church, we should see the NT church engaging vigorously in it. The answers to these questions would have the most authority in the investigation.

B. How does the care for the poor factor into the NT church's mission?

C. The reformed tradition has a certain way of reading the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament that emphasizes the continuity of the Testaments often at the expense of their disontinuity (a New Covenant approach is preferred). What is the relationship between CT and the continuity/discontinuity assumptions that a reformed interpretaion of Scripture brings? It seems that for CT to work, certain Old Testament assumptions about theocracy have to be brought in to New Covenant communities wholesale. For example, the text of Jeremiah 29 is often used in support of CT, usually without any attempt to understand it in light of Christ and the NT. Jeremiah 29 has far more to do with the promises to Abraham than it does with the mission of the church.

2. Historical/Theological:
A. How does CT relate to the contemporary (particuarly Baptist) understanding of "revival," and how does this understanding of revival compare with that of Edwards and others in the Great Awakening? In genuine revival, cultural renewal is a side effect, but not the main goal/focus. An encounter with God, brought about by his sovereign Spirit produced greater intimacy with God, soul care and evangelization which in turn produced, as a side effect, cultural renewal - better communities. It seems that proponents of CT are attempting to create the side effect without the help of God in first bringing a revival, a sovereign act of grace.

B. How does the question of "relevance" factor in here? Are the gospel and the church being re-fashioned to become more "relevant" to the cultural drift toward revitalizing communities? Further, is there a postmodern influence in moving away from soul care/building up of the church toward instead building up of the culture?

If we seek cultural renewal, we should seek God's face together, that he would pour out his Spirit in genuine revival. We should seek to bring the beliefs and practices of "church" in line with the NT portrait of the church.

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