In Culture Matters: A Call for Consensus on Christian Cultural Engagement, T. M. Moore advocates that Christians in the 21st century can and must develop a consensus on how to engage culture. (Yes, Moore’s thesis is indeed his subtitle.) Throughout this work, Moore explores five people and/or groups in Christian history whose faith compelled them to participate within their cultures as agents of God’s kingdom. He then extrapolates principles from their approaches and suggests points of application for contemporary followers of Christ–sometimes even including a modern example of contextualization.
In Chapter One, Moore uses St. Augustine’s City of God to present a way that Christians can critique culture, surmising that Augustine was timely, principled, fair, reasoned, theological, evangelical, and a visionary. Chapter Two offers insights from Celtic artists in the Dark Ages on how Christians can forge new culture through art by making certain the message, knowing their media, adopting and adapting, communicating actively and clearly,accepting the challenge of innovation, activating the church, and serving the community. Moore interviews Phil Keaggy as a contemporary example of an effective Christian artist. John Calvin’s innovation in education constitutes the focus of Chapter Three, in which Moore emphasizes the utter necessity of educational reform, instruction must care for the whole person, and that learning must gain a new vision for “renewed selves and a renewed culture” (85). In Chapter Four, Moore assess Abraham Kuyper’s work in cultural reformation, highlighting Kuyper’s teachings that culture matters to God, sin corrupts culture, Christians are called to culture, culture is powerful, Christians must challenge culture, the need to pay attention to contemporary culture, and pursuing culture for the glory of God. Chuck Colson is represented as an example of how Christians can work to reform culture. Finally, Czeslaw Milosz’ poetic writings draw Moore’s attentions in Chapter Five on how Christians can speak prophetically into culture by sharing a message of transcendent truth; exploring everyday encounters and experiences; using questions, propositions, and persuasion; converting people to hope; communicating a transcendent metanarrative; and speaking faithfully. More shares the music of David Wilcox as a contemporary example of prophetic poetry.
Moore’s last chapter concludes, “parameters can be articulated and a variety of forums created to enable significant numbers of believers from all communions of the faithful to realize a common voice and stance toward the making and use of culture in all its forms,” (146). He then offers creative ways for Christians to gain consensus in their communities.
Overall, I agree with Moore’s premise that Christians need to actively work to create a consensus on how to engage our surrounding culture. I appreciated how Moore drew my attention to the work of faithful Christians throughout church history–some of which I knew nothing about. Other reviewers have suggested that a reader needs prior knowledge of these people before reading Culture Matters. I, however, disagree. Though I recommend reading this book slowly in order to gain the most from it, Moore’s explorations of differing cultural engagements provided a nice launching point for deeper study. Now, I am intrigued and desire to study some of these figures more. I also have gained a more perceptive eye to notice instances of Christian cultural engagement–whether beneficial or not–when I come across them in ordinary life.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars