How to Change the World, 4/4
(Summary: In these series of posts, I’ve attempted to raise an important issue facing Christian leaders today, specifically how we go about fulfilling our cultural mandate in a fallen world. Then I offered a critique of the common assumptions and solutions for how the Church has historically sought to bring about lasting change. Seeing that the Church has embraced a definition of culture that is woefully inadequate, James Davison Hunter suggests culture is so complex that no one person or group can possibly hope to transform the culture. This brings us to this post where we will finally discover the best solution for world change.)
That’s right. I said it. We can’t change the world.
Lasting world-change can only come about when overlapping networks of institutions, leaders, and resources operating at or near the centers of prestige and influence align with one another for a common purpose.
Can any of us make that happen? Such change does not happen over a period of years but generations and centuries! Cultural change is bigger than any one person or institution.
Thus, the great irony for churches and para-churches who ascribe to some form of the “common view” of culture is that it will never produce the intended results. The reason is because they fail to understand the individual components of culture and how culture actually changes.
They also fail to come to terms with the insidious nature of power in our fallen world. You can almost hear your high school history teacher: “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Suppose, hypothetically, that Christians were to find themselves suddenly in the most elite spheres of prestige and influence. Suppose further that our political, social, and economic landscape was such that made the full embrace of the Christian worldview a reality. Can anyone imagine the sort of power that would accompany those new national leaders?
Tragically, history records time and again how fallen-man has abused the power entrusted to him. The OT records the heartbreaking stories of King Saul, King David, and King Solomon who all in succession eventually failed to use power properly. Given the human track record, would Evangelicals even want to succeed in their mission?
Another tragedy of the common solution to world change is that it too closely weds politics to the church. Somehow Evangelicals wrongly reason that by invading the political sphere of society lasting change will result. No. Even in our democratic society in America, politics have become hopelessly corrupt. How much more so in other parts of the world?! What we need are post-political solutions.
We must remember that God’s kingdom is not of this world. Consequently, our better choice is to accept the fact that we are aliens and strangers in it. Individuals, while holding a degree of influence and sway, are powerless to change an entire culture in a single generation. If you doubt me, then try changing the culture of your own church! Yeah, good luck.
Therefore, our primary goal should simply be to represent Christ well through a ministry of faithfulness in all areas, trusting God for the results.
Did you catch that?
Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Relax. Do what is within your power of influence and control, but don’t try to change anything.
Just be faithful. God’s Kingdom must come in God’s terms, in God’s time, and by God’s means. Faithfulness is the means.