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Christology and Cultural Transformation

“To know that the Lamb who was slain was worthy to receive power not only enables his disciples to face martyrdom when they must; it also encourages them to go about their daily crafts and trades, to do their duties as parents and neighbors, without be driven to despair by cosmic doubt. Even before the broken world can be made whole by the Second Coming, the witnesses to the first coming — through the very fact that they proclaim Christ above the powers, the Son above the angels — are enabled to go on proleptically in the redemption of creation. Only this evangelical Christology can found a truly transformationist approach to culture.”

– John Howard Yoder, The Priestly Kingdom (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 61.


  1. bobby grow wrote:

    A fitting quote for the moment. Thanks.

    Friday, October 17, 2008 at 2:12 am | Permalink
  2. Hill wrote:

    Well said. “Cosmic doubt” is a good way to describe how I feel every time I see a clip of the presidential debates.

    Friday, October 17, 2008 at 8:36 am | Permalink
  3. Robert wrote:

    From Books and Culture’s latest issue, a review of the book by Andy Crouch’s book Culture Making:

    Another particularly helpful provocation comes in the chapter titled “Why We Can’t Change the World.” I confess to having often used the phrase “changing the world” as shorthand for “Christian cultural engagement.” But Crouch challenges my language. He argues that we are confronted with a paradox:

    Culture—making something of the world, moving the horizons of possibility and impossibility—is what human beings do and are meant to do. Transformed culture is at the heart of God’s mission in the world, and it is the call of God’s redeemed people. But changing the world is the one thing we cannot do.

    And then he intensifies his message: “As it turns out, fully embracing this paradoxical reality is at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian culture maker.”

    At the center of Culture Making (around page 140 of about 280 pages, for those who count) is the acceptance by Jesus of the calling of the cross. Jesus’ taking the folly and failure of humanity upon himself in his death and resurrection is the pivot of human history, the great act in terms of which all human culture-making is to be understood. And what the cross makes of human culture is surprising indeed: “The strangest and most wonderful paradox of the biblical story is that its most consequential moment is not an action but a passion—not a doing but a suffering.” Among the consequences of the cross, Crouch suggests, are that—rightly understood—it prevents Christians from indulging in a cultural triumphalism (the conviction that Christian culture-making will somehow achieve the New Jerusalem within history) or progressivism (the conviction that history necessarily trends toward improvement).

    Robert says–So stop wasting your time trying to transform culture. The only transformation you’re called to make is your own heart and that alone will take you a lifetime.

    Friday, October 17, 2008 at 10:20 am | Permalink
  4. erin wrote:

    The phrase “cosmic doubt” spoke to me today. Yoder infuses the ordinary with such hope, while assuming an ordinary despair.

    While I am sympathetic to Crouch’s paradox- I certainly feel it- I cannot understand how transforming one’s heart towards Christlikeness could not move you towards addressing structures of injustice, if only throwing out money changers?

    Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 10:02 am | Permalink

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