We have already seen a number of the historical and theological reasons for American Christians’ cultural retreat:
Yet we suggest the most overlooked reason for the failure of the church to influence culture is the loss of the Biblical doctrine of work.
This has had a much greater influence than the reasons suggested by James Davison Hunter in our last post. T.M. Moore writes that our vocational calling is inseparably linked to our interaction with and our impact on the surrounding culture:
So no matter what your job, or whatever your work might be, God intends that you should devote your labors to something greater than personal interest, economic prosperity, social good, or future beneficence alone. God intends your work to contribute to the restoration of the creation, and the people in it, to raising life on this blue planet to higher states of beauty, goodness, and truth, reflecting the glory of God in our midst. We will only fully appreciate the value and potential of our work when we see it in that light.
God changes culture through Christians’ faithful participation in their vocational callings. This is the primary instrument which God uses to change culture.
James Davison Hunter, in his book To Change the World, is correct when he says,
Cultures are shaped when networks of leaders, representing the different social institutions of a culture, work together towards a common goal. Again and again we see that the impetus, energy and direction for changing the world were found where cultural, economic and often political resources overlapped; where networks of elites, who generated these various resources, come together in common purpose.
The elites, as Hunter calls them, are engaged in their own vocational callings. Christians must do the same if we want to once again make a difference in our world.
Also exploring this theme, Tim Keller writes,
Christians cannot simply rest satisfied with individual conversions or separated enclaves when they discern the central plot-line of the Bible. The purpose of redemption is not to help individuals escape the world. It is about the coming of God’s Kingdom to renew the world. If God is so committed to this purpose that He suffered and died, surely Christians should also seek a society based on God’s peace and love.
We are called to build this society by being salt and light in our vocational callings. We already have Christian leaders in important positions representing the different social institutions of our culture. The problem is that they do not fully understand why God has put them into these positions.
They are like sleeper cells waiting to be awakened by the Biblical doctrine of work. God is calling them to work together with others in similar positions towards the common goal of impacting culture for the glory of God and his Kingdom.
How has the Biblical doctrine of work affected you? How can you work with others towards the common goal of impacting culture?