“Culture is defined as “theology externalized,” or, “the outward manifestation of a people’s inward beliefs.”
And David Rothstein responded
“As far as I know, this is not a commonly accepted definition, even among Christians, though of course you’re free to use it. I personally don’t find it helpful since most things that we associate with culture do not necessarily manifest theological systems—or at the very least cannot be fully explained in these terms.”
First off, the definition isn’t mine but comes from Henry Van Til who borrowed it from Paul Tillich. You might want to interact with them and show why they are wrong on the definition of culture before you so casually dismiss it.
Here is the appropriate section from Van Til’s book, “The Calvinistic Concept of Culture.”
“It is…more correct to ask what the role of culture is in religion than to put the question the other way around, as Hutchison does, ‘What is religion’s role in culture?’ For man, in the deepest reaches of his being, is religious; he is determined by his relationship to God. Religion, to paraphrase the poet’s expressive phrase, is not of life a thing apart, it is man’s whole existence. Hutchison, indeed, comes to the same conclusion when he says, ‘For religion is not one aspect or department of life beside the others, as modern secular thought likes to believe; it consists rather in the orientation of all human life to the absolute’. Tillich has captured the idea in a trenchant line, ‘Religion is the substance of culture and culture the form of religion.’
The Westminster Shorter Catechism maintains at the outset that man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. However other-worldly this may sound to some, Presbyterians have interpreted this biblically to mean that man is to serve God in his daily calling, which is the content of religion. This service cannot be expressed except through man’s cultural activity, which gives expression to his religious faith. Now faith is the function of the heart, and out of the heart are the issues of life (Prov. 4:23). This is the first principle of a biblically oriented psychology.
No man can escape this religious determination of his life, since God is the inescapable, ever-present Fact of man’s existence. God may be loved or hated, adored or debased, but he cannot be ignored. The sense of God (sensus deitatis) is still the seed of religion (semen religionis). All of primitive religion is corroboration of the cry of the Psalmist, “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or wither shall I flee from thy presence?” (Ps. 139:7).”
Second, your assertion that “most things that we associate with culture do not necessarily manifest theological systems—or at the very least cannot be fully explained in these terms,” is just plain errant. History, Law, Education, Arts, Family life, Ecclesiastical, Fashion, Architecture, and all other institutional infrastructure of a culture is explained by theology.
But I would disagree w/ you that the handling of that common reality by those committed to hostility of Christ allows them to understand the dialect with which the Christian speaks.
I never claimed that unbelievers understand the significance of “justification,” “sanctification,” or “regeneration.”
And I never said that was the dialect that I was speaking of. The Christian dialect is based on the fact that objective meaning exists by virtue of God’s reality. The Christian believes and speaks with the dialect that recognizes that, all things are what they are because of who God is. The non Christian dialect locates meaning subjectively and their dialect is based on their own fiat word legislating meaning. Because this is true when I say “culture,” for example, the Christian finds meaning in God’s word that, “As a man thinketh in his heart so he is,” and then by good and necessary consequence understands that God’s definition of culture is that it is the manifestation of men thinking in their heart (theology externalized) while the non Christian or the unbiblical Christian will try to define “culture” (our working example) based upon their own self legislating subjective fiat word.
Bret had asked,
Is the clothing that the hooker wears the same as the clothing that the pastor’s wife wears?
I live in a neighborhood inhabited by many unbelievers, but as far as I know, none of them is a hooker. My next-door neighbor happens to be Jewish and his wife dresses much like many pastor’s wives that I know of.
And what does this prove?
It merely proves that the Jewish wife is not dressing in a way that is consistent with her denial of the God of the Bible. It is common grace that your neighbor Jewish wife is not immoral as she could possibly be given her Christ hating presuppositions. I never denied common grace.
However, that your Jewish neighbor’s Jewish wife is not dressing like a trollop is not due to the fact that she has given up her work of determining meaning by her own legislative fiat word. It just happens to be the case, by God’s common grace, that her subjective legislative fiat word coincides with God’s objective fiat word when it comes to modest dress. As Christians we are always glad for this felicitous inconsistency that results from common grace.
Bret had inked,
“Are our houses furnished the same way? I can foresee a consistent Christ hater having a secret dungeon for S & M games.”
Again, you’re having to stretch past the edges of socially acceptable behavior for all your contrasts. I am quite certain that the vast majority of my non-Christian neighbors are apparently not “consistent” Christ-haters and don’t have secret dungeons.
Honestly, it almost seems that you can’t tell the difference between “non-Christian” and “criminal.” Prostitution is illegal, gang bangers are likely to end up in prison, and while S&M may not be as frowned upon as it once was, there is a reason why they still keep those dungeons “secret.” But most of my non-Christian neighbors somehow manage to stay out of trouble with the law. There’s no denying that certain behavior that has become more socially acceptable in the society at large is not acceptable for professing Christians, but this is consistent with the thesis of a cultural realm that is common and not exclusively Christian.
First, a slight correction … “Prostitution is not illegal in some places in this country.”
This is a key point of our interaction David. Note what you have done here. You have told us that your standard is “socially acceptable behavior,” but my question in response to you is, “what is the standard for socially acceptable behavior” (?).
What is the standard for what is “criminal?”
The answer to both of those questions is God’s legislating law word. To the law and to the Testimony as Isaiah says. But you don’t like that answer because you want to seemingly want to allow “socially acceptable behavior” to be the standard. But by that standard Homosexuality and Abortion are perfectly acceptable behaviors for our social order since they are now socially acceptable and now no longer criminal.
I can tell the difference between non-Christian behavior that isn’t criminal and criminal behavior but then I have a standard that allows me to make such a distinction.
And again, I am glad that God’s common grace is operative for your neighbors the way it is but the fact that God’s common grace prevents your neighbors from being consistent in their Christ hating does not mean that such a thing as a common sphere exists that is not to be normed by God’s word.
Bret had inked,
“The non Christian, as they are increasingly consistent w/ their anti-Christ presuppositions will despoil and mar all the culture they share with the Christian who is becoming likewise increasingly consistent w/ their Christ embracing presuppositions.”
I know that Van Til spoke in terms like these, but I’m not sure what you mean by it. If you simply mean that unbelievers abuse God’s good gifts for selfish ends, then granted. Or if you mean that anti-theistic philosophical systems are opposed to Christianity, then duh. But in what sense do non-Christians “despoil and mar” culture? (Did Aristotle despoil logic? Did Itzhak Perlman despoil violin music?)
When hip hop and gangsta rap is called “music” culture is despoiled. When modern art is considered art culture is despoiled. When homosexuality is legalized culture is marred and despoiled. When the church allows women in office the culture is marred and despoiled. When education teaches humanism culture is marred and despoiled. When law becomes ordered by logical positivism culture is marred and despoiled. When families are redefined and are fractured because of the theology of foreign gods culture is marred and despoiled. When science embraces evolution culture is marred and despoiled. Enough examples David?
In terms of philosophy, according to Dr. David Noe, one of the R2K aficionados, we are told there is no such thing as Christian philosophy.
“If by “Christian philosophy” one means philosophizing (the production and evaluation of rational arguments that deal with such things as ethics and metaphysics, for example) that deals with explicitly Christian topics, then at first glance the adjective has some salience. But deeper reflection, I argue, proves that this designation is also problematic. Presumably a very bright non-Christian reasoning consistently, diligently and with complete access to the basic data of special revelation, can more often reach sound and valid conclusions than the most devout yet dim-witted believer on the topic of our Lord’s incarnation.
If that is true, what would it be about the believer’s philosophizing that makes it uniquely Christian? If we cannot tell based on the product of his or her work whether our philosopher was practicing “Christian philosophy” even on topics that deal explicitly with matters of faith, does the noun “philosophy” receive any meaningful modification when we add “Christian” to it? Could one really be said to practice Christian philosophy in that instance? Are we not rather just back at the same point with philosophy done well (producing both sound and valid arguments that tell us something meaningful about the world), but that it is Christian when done by Christians with specific goals and dispositions motivating them and non-Christian otherwise?”
So, if there is no such thing as theistic philosophy how can there be such a thing as anti-theistic philosophy. I don’t think R2K acolyte Dr. David Noe would understand you “no duh” statement. Of course Dr. Noe’s problem is that he doesn’t take account of the fact that the non Christian philosopher takes as his starting point that the God of the Bible is not and should not be His starting point. Dr. Noe allows autonomous man to be his own authority and so questions whether or not Christian philosophizing exists.
Finally in terms of logicians like Aristotle or violinists like Christian Ferras, once again we rejoice in a common grace that results in felicitous inconsistency.
Bret had written
“The things you classify as “accouterments of culture,” are indeed a consequential manifestation of ultimate theological commitments. Will we as a culture build Tepees for houses? Will we listen to hip hop or classical? Will we fund with our taxes a gulag archipelago or will we fund interstate highways.”
If a native American becomes a Christian, is he required to move out of his tepee and into a suburban home? What is it about a teepee that make it non-Christian, and which ultimate theological commitments are manifested in suburban homes? I don’t know that these things are patently obvious. Preference for hip hop or classical is an issue of low culture vs. high culture, which of course transcends the antithetical divide. And I don’t know what is particularly Christian about interstate highways.
I never said that Teepees weren’t or couldn’t be Christian. I said that they were consequential manifestations of ultimate theological commitments.
If you can’t see that it is patently obvious that a people who build Teepees and a people who build Cathedrals have different conceptions of God, I’m sure I can’t explain it to you. If you can’t see that hip hop is anti-music as opposed to the music of a Bach I can’t explain it to you. Some of these matters ought to be self evident to someone who believes in Natural Law.
Van Til could say this about your examples,
“It is God’s longsuffering patience which would lead you (unbeliever) to repentance that enables you to do all those things which “for the matter of them” are “in themselves praiseworthy and useful.” God intends to accomplish his ultimate end, the establishment of his kingdom. That is the reason why you are now able to contribute positively to the coming of that kingdom. The harps you make, the oratorios you produce, the great poems you have written, the scientific discoveries you have made will, with your will or against your will, all find their place in the unified structure of the kingdom of God through Christ. Now, then, in God’s name repent, for otherwise the Israelites will “borrow” your treasures and you shall perish in the Red Sea like the Egyptians (91).”
Now clearly this quote from Cornelius Van Til reveals he not hold to R2K because he understands that realities from the R2K common realm all find their place in the Kingdom of God.
Bret had wrote,
“I keep telling you that in the “already,” of the “already, not yet” the world to come is already here but you keep telling me that world to come is still all not yet.”
David Rothstein responds,
But what I keep hearing you tell me is that the “not yet” of the “already/not yet” is already here—or at least that we can cause it to arrive by being more epistemologically self-conscious. Perhaps it is a matter of differing millennial positions (though even Van Til, as far as I know, was amil).
The “already” is already here. That is why the “push me, pull you” is called “already, not yet.”
And I do believe that as we grow in faith that the Spirit who leads us into faith growth does cause us, both personally and corporately, to be transformed from glory unto glory.
Van Til was indeed amil although all of Old Westminster was postmil.
In the end David, for the Christian his regeneration is a introduction to the ability to consistently find proper meaning in everything. Outside of Christ the meaning that the pagan finds is a meaning that is autonomously legislated by the pagan’s fiat word. Once regenerated he begins to move increasingly in glad submission to God’s legislated meaning, discovering that his Redemption and regeneration has awakened him for the first time to the meaning of objective meaning.
This reality explains why the Christian can not allow any project to succeed that would allow the pagan to have objective meaning in and of themselves or by their own authority in any realm (R2K). This desire to be the one who creates or, supposedly discovers meaning, is the very thing that is in rebellion to God and has to be overcome by the Spirit of Regeneration.
This is not to say that the pagan who legislates their own meaning always gets matters wrong. Clearly they don’t. Common grace exists. It is to say that when they get meaning right they can not account, epstimelogically speaking, and on the basis of their own presuppositions, why the meaning they have assigned to this or that is the proper meaning. If even a blind old sow can find a acorn once in awhile so a unregenerate pagan can stumble on proper meaning occasionally even if they do so in spite of themselves.