Interesting read, thanks. Random thoughts…
Piece focuses on creation and the implications of creation for cultural responsibility. But there are other major pieces of the cultural responsibility question that seem to get neglected in some of these discussions. For example love of neighbor. Seems to me that you can develop a very good case for cultural responsibility on that alone even without a creation-based cultural mandate. But I do think the implications of creation are weighty.
However, the two kingdoms guys are actually doing better IMO when it comes to understanding how the church (vs. the individual Christian) relates to culture and politics. Culture is not really a church mission.
You’re exactly right about the important place of loving one’s neighbor. It does happen to be the second greatest commandment of them all! And it justifies a great deal of work in science and math, particularly. Science and engineering and other math-heavy fields have a direct impact on the lives of our neighbors, from preventing excessive soil erosion along major waterways to diminishing elderly deaths from the urban heat island effect.
My current thinking is, however, that 1) the Creation Mandate is still right there in Scripture and has never been abrogated, and 2) that the arts are harder to justify on the basis of the second commandment than on the basis of the Creation Mandate. Gen 1:28 seems to underlie a great deal of what Christian liberal arts colleges find themselves doing whether we admit it or not. Our impulse to steward the Western artistic traditions and build on them fits very well with Gen 1:28.
I’m with you, however, in saying that changing culture is not the church’s mission, per se. The church as church isn’t required to form institutions to combat societal decline or promote righteous causes (cf. DeYoung and Gilbert’s fairly recent book).
But I’ve always found the following question to be helpful: what if a major and influential politician gets saved? What if a lot of them do? What if they land in your church? How will you disciple them? Will they be counseled to leave politics? Will the extent of the pastor’s counseling to him be focused on issues of personal integrity or of overt public morality (like abortion and gay marriage)? Or does the Bible (and does general revelation) put forward some macro-level instruction about the “vision of the good” toward which politics should aim, and the means to get there?
I’m kind of slow, and I’m still wading into this debate, but my sense is that fundamentalists will balk when they realize that the two kingdoms guys are saying, “The Bible doesn’t apply to all of life, just the spiritual realm.” Conservative American Baptists may have the separation of church and state in their blood, but they also have a fundamental impulse to recognize God’s authority in Scripture. The ultimate reason I oppose gay marriage is not that I believe it will do societal harm, but that God says it’s wrong. Even to know what societal “harm” is I have to know what God says a righteous society will look like.
I welcome your thoughts, Aaron. Thanks for posting on my little blog.