An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Philosophia Reformata 73(2008) No 2 is out

The latest issue of Philosophia Reformata is now out. It contains papers by Andrew Basden, Dick Stafleu, Lambert Zuidervaart and Jonathan Chaplin. It also has my review of B J van der Walt's When African and Western Cultures Meet.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

David Wayne - the Jolly Blogger - needs our prayers

David Wayne needs our prayers - he has colonic cancer which has spread to his liver. He has had surgery over Christmas and now is waiting for chemo. Updates here.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

At last ....

... the on-line event of the century: Dooyeweerd's magnum opus is now on-line:

Dooyeweerd H. A New Critique of Theoretical Thought I-II
PDF(pdf file 53 meg)

Dooyeweerd H. A New Critique of Theoretical Thought III-IV
PDF(pdf file 7 meg)

Thanks to Kerry Hollingsworth at Reformational Publishing Project

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

A Christmas reflection by Roy Clouser

Perhaps it’s just a sign of age, but every year I find the Christmas story more emotionally power-packed than the year before.

Sure, its celebration has been grossly commercialized, cheapened by over- decoration, by slickly packaged for movies and TV, and even declared illegal in government buildings. It’s been badly eclipsed by the charming 19th century fairy story a New England father wrote for his children. But – so far, at least – it hasn’t been completely stifled. Just when it seems about to be replaced by its own trappings, the real story shines through again: a section of The Messiah on the radio, the words of a carol in a shopping mall, a picture on a greeting card, or Linus’ moving recital of Luke 2 in Charley Brown’s Christmas.

What hit me this year harder than ever before was how the central characters of that story are such absolutely ordinary folk going about their everyday lives, and how its message is so clearly for us ordinary folk going about our everyday lives. We now think of Mary and Joseph as saints, but to their friends and relatives they were no different from thousands of other pious Jews awaiting the coming of the Messiah. The baby Jesus looked and behaved like any other newborn. The business about the birth being in a stable, and their having to use a manger for a crib, shows how far they were from being celebrities.

To be sure, the birth itself was a miracle. But at the time only Mary and Joseph knew that. The only other thing that was out of the ordinary was the appearance of angels to announce the birth. And look where they went to do it! They didn’t go to Rome to talk with the Emperor, or to Jerusalem to discuss theology with the Chief Priest; they didn’t appear to the loyal Jewish underground seeking to overthrow oppressive Roman rule, or to historians to make sure all was recorded properly. Instead they went a couple of Joe Average blue-collar workers who’d pulled the night shift on a Judean hillside – men who are not even named in the story!

By having the angels declare the Great Gift from heaven in this way God shows us just what he thinks of human power, fame, wealth, pomp, and wisdom. He says, in effect, that since his gift is to all people it just won’t matter which ones he picks to be the representative recipients of his birth announcement.

Every year I feel more like a shepherd.

Roy Clouser

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Odds and sods

David Kyozis takes a look at friendship.  His first post is here.

Rattlesnake6 looks at what Herman Bavinck had to say about revelation and culture. He warns:

There is a movement afoot today for Christians to be more involved in culture and cultural activities. I applaud that initiative and hope and pray that more Christians will become truly involved with “the arts.” I have a proviso, though. As Christians engage in “the arts” they will not jettison, compromise, or neglect good theology in the process. ...

It is unwise, according to Bavinck, to go off half-cocked or with some half-baked notion of engaging the culture. First and foremost, he challenges us to do justice to the rights and requirements of the Christian confession.

Not sure what novel to read next? Then try to find some suggestions.

Losing the Big Picture: How Religion May Control Visual Attention by Lorenza S. Colzato1, Wery P. M. van den Wildenberg and Bernhard Hommel1:


Despite the abundance of evidence that human perception is penetrated by beliefs and expectations, scientific research so far has entirely neglected the possible impact of religious background on attention. Here we show that Dutch Calvinists and atheists, brought up in the same country and culture and controlled for race, intelligence, sex, and age, differ with respect to the way they attend to and process the global and local features of complex visual stimuli: Calvinists attend less to global aspects of perceived events, which fits with the idea that people’s attentional processing style reflects possible biases rewarded by their religious belief system.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Themelios 33 (3) is now out

The latest edition of Themelios is now out.  It includes an article by Tim Keller and book reviews of Culture Making and Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Paideia Centre for Public Theology

The Paideia Centre for Public Theology is an academic Christian study centre committed to relating the Gospel to all areas of life. Christ is the “author of life” and thus holds the key to life “under the sun.” But this clue needs to be pursued with all the rigor we can muster and that includes the highest levels of academia. Rooted in spirituality and liturgy, and in the context of intellectual community, the focus of the Centre is academic work from an overtly Christian perspective.

Al Wolters, Craig Bartholomew, Elaine Botha, Ryan O'Dowd and others are all involved.
On the site are papers by Bartholomew and Wolters - it is well worth checking out.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Music for a Sunday morning

John Cale shows how it should be done:

But check out Jeff Buckley's version here. Fantastic!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

My Best Books of 2008

It's the time of year to compile lists. Here's my list of best books for 2008 - in reverse order of reading:

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Gordon Spykman articles

I've recently added some papers by Gordon Spykman to allofliferedeemed:

  • 1982. 'Beyond words to action' in Confessing Christ and Doing Politics ed. James Skillen (CPJ: Washington)
  • 1984. How is scripture normative in Christian ethics? In The Interpretation of Scripture Today: RES Theological Conference, Chicago 1984. Grand Rapids, MI.: Reformed Ecumenical Synod, 1984 (pp. 39-57).
  • 1992. Theology queen or servant? Orientation: international circular of the PU for CHE; nos. 63-66. 13-23.
  • A Confessional Hermeneutic Alternative to the Historical-Critical Method. The Reformed Ecumenical Synod Theological Bulletin (December), Vol. 1, No. 3, pp. 1-13.
My thanks to Geoff Wilson for scanning 4, Jim Skillen for permission for 1 and Bennie van der Walt for making materials available.

Richard Middleton on worldview and transformation

"Worldview thinking is not primarily about ideas, it is about discipleship ... how you think in this world has to do about how you live ..."

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Resources for a Christian approach to economics


Andy Hartropp. 1997. "Christianity and Economics: an Annotated Bibliography", Association of Christian Economists December

Bruce C Wearne Cultivating Care within a Vulnerable Economy: an annotated bibliography of the English writings of Bob Goudzwaard 1967-2008
A full bibliography of Christian economist Bob Goudzwaard's English writings - contains links to most of his works.

Books and articles

Henk Aay & Ab Van Langevelde, 2005.
A Dooyeweerd-Based Approach To Regional Economic Development,"
Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie,
Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG
, vol. 96(2), pages 184-198, 04

Cramp, A B. "In what sphere is economics sovereign?" In: Social science in Christian Perspective. Paul A Marshall and Robert E Vandervennen, eds. Lanham: University Press of America, 1988, pp. 199-217.

Cramp, A B. Notes towards a Christian critique of secular economic theory. Toronto: Institute for Christian Studies, 1975. Toronto: Wedge; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979.

Kenneth Elzinga. 1981. "A Christian View of Economic Order",
Reformed Journal
, Vol. 31, pp. 13-16.

Gay, Craig M. 1991. With Liberty and Justice for Whom? The recent evangelical debate over capitalism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Bob Goudzwaard and Harry de Lange 1994. Beyond poverty and affluence. Toward an economy of care. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Bob Goudzwaard. Capitalism and Progress: A Diagnosis of Western Society.

Bob Goudzwaard.1984. Idols of our Time. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Graham, W Fred, George N Monsma, Carl J Sinke, Alan Storkey, John P Tiemstra. 1986. Reforming Economics: A Christian Perspective on Economic Theory and Practice. Grand Rapids: Calvin College Center for Christian Scholarship.

Graham, W Fred. 1971. The constructive revolutionary: John Calvin and his socio-economic impact. Richmond: John Knox Press.

Adolfo García de la Sienra. 2008. 'The economic sphere'

Donald A. Hay. 1989. Economics Today: a Christian Critique. Apollos, Leicester.

E. L. Hebden Taylor 1978. Economics, Money, and Banking. Craig Press.

Hoksbergen,  Roland 1992. "A Reformed Approach to Economics: The Kuyperian Tradition" Bulletin of the Association of Christian Economists 20 (Fall): 7-27.

Kuyper, Abraham 1991. The Problem of Poverty. Grand Rapids: Baker.

Langevelde, Ab van, 1997. "Bilingualism and economic development in west European minority language regions: a Dooyeweerdian approach," Research Report
97C39, University of Groningen, Research Institute SOM (Systems, Organisations and Management).

Paul Marshall. 1985. "A Christian view of economics." Crux 21, pp. 1:3-7.

Monsma, George N. 1988. "A Christian critique of neo-classical welfare economics." In: Social science in Christian perspective. Paul A Marshall and Robert E Vandervennen, eds. Lanham: University Press of America, pp. 287-302.

George N. Monsma. 'Christian faith and economic theorising'. In John B. Hulst ed. Christian Worldview and Scholarship. Eltham, Victoria: Amani Educational services.

Alan Storkey 1986. Transforming Economics: a Christian Way to Employment. London: SPCK.

Alan Storkey 1993. Foundational Epistemologies in Consumption Theory. VU University Press: Amsterdam.

D F M Strauss. 1997. Capitalism and Economic Theory in social philosophic perspective. In: Journal for Christian Scholarship, 1st & 2nd Quarter, pp.85-106.

John P. Tiemstra. 1993. "Christianity and Economics: A Review of the Recent Literature." Christian Scholar’s Review 22 (1993) 3:227-247.

John P. Tiemstra 1998. "Why do economists disagree?". Signposts of God's Liberating Kingdom: perspectives for the 21st century. Potchefstroom: Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education. Insitute for Reformational Studies.

B. J. van der Walt. 1991. "Norms, means and ends; a reformational approach to economics". Anatomy of Reformation: Flashes and Fragments of a Reformational Worldview. Ch 21.

B. J. van der Walt. 1999. The tyranny of the neo-capitalist free market economy. Religion and Society: Christian involvement in the public square. Wetenskaplike bydraes van die PU vir CHO. Reeks F3, Versamelwerke ; no. 50. Potchefstroom: PU vir CHO. Ch4.

B. J. van der Walt. 2003. Towards a normative economy. Understanding and Rebuilding Africa: From Desperation Today to Expectation for Tomorrow. Potchefstroom: Institute for Contemporary Christianity in Africa. Ch 18.

B. J. van der Walt. 2004. ‘The Bible on poverty and wealth our task as Christians’. Woord en Daad/ Word and Action 44 (388): 9-12.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Jaap Klapwijk pages

I have now launched the Jaap Klapwijk pages on All of life redeemed.

Jaap studied under Vollenhoven and was professor of systematic philosophy at the VU-University, Amsterdam. He is the author of the recently published Purpose in the Living World? Cambridge University Press.

On-line are the following articles:

1991. Antithesis and Common Grace, in: J. Klapwijk , S. Griffioen and G. Groenewoud (eds.), Bringing into Captivity every Thought (Lanham: University Press of America, 1991), pp.169-190.

1991. Epilogue: The Idea of Transformational Philosophy, in: J. Klapwijk et al. (eds.), Bringing into Captivity every Thought (Lanham: University Press of America, 1991), pp.241-266.

1980. The Struggle for a Christian Philosophy/Dooyeweerd's Christian Philosophy: in: The Reformed Journal 30, 2/3 (1980), pp. 12-15; 20-24.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Derek Melleby interviewed

Derek Melleby, one of the authors of The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness, is interviewed here by Kara Powell. 

Introducing Reality Bites

Reality Bites is the national training ministry of the West Yorkshire School of Christian Studies (WYSOCS, founded in 1986).

Reality Bites has conducted about 38 different training events since we began in 2006. This includes work for Urban Saints, Leeds Faith in Schools, Youthwork the Conference, the Bradford Diocesan Day, the Luton Churches Education Trust, Chelmsford and District Evangelical Fellowship Schools and Youth Ministries, Keswick ministries and other Christian organizations.

We provide training and resources for youth workers, schools workers and all those involved in mission and education. Our passion is to help youthworkers and schoolsworkers to become confident disciples who can engage with young people in a mature way that isn’t cheesy, embarrassing or irrelevant. We believe that this boils down to three key skills.

  • Telling stories that inspire faith and reinchant the world
  • Telling stories that challenge idolatry
  • Asking subversive questions that challenge hidden secular worldviews

Our ministry grew out of a recognition that it is increasingly difficult to reach unchurched young people with traditional methods. They switch off when you start talking about the Bible. We love the Bible, but we believe that we must explore fresh and imaginative ways of introducing the Christian faith.

Telling powerful, dramatic stories is a great way to begin. For example in 1867 Fijian cannibals murdered, cooked and ate an English missionary. A contemporary cannibal stated that ”we ate everything but his boots”. The descendents of these cannibals have now asked the descendents of the Rev Thomas Baker to forgive them. This act of repentance and others like it have led to an amazing revival in Fiji. Communities have experienced transformation and the creation itself is being renewed and healed. Tremendous quantities of fish are returning to once barren waters. Fruit and vegetables are growing in abundance and unprecedented size. There are numerous eyewitness accounts of these ‘nature miracles’.

This story can be told very effectively by using a powerpoint presentation which is highly visual and captivating. You show photographs of the cannibals, Fijian beaches, battle axes and boots. In ten minutes you have told them the story. Then you ask them to tell you their stories and before you know it you have created an atmosphere of curiosity and fascination. All kinds of issues emerge. How did cannibals cook their victims? Were the missionaries intolerant when they told the cannibals to love their enemies rather than eat them? What exactly is repentance? What was the belief-system of the indigenous Fijians? And is God angry when we sin by having our neighbours for lunch?

Our ministry is beginning to have an impact in the United Kingdom. In 2007 we trained 500 Urban Saints leaders in this new way of reaching young people and the response has been very positive. A youth worker in Devon has used some of the material and told us that it has ‘turned the group around’. Another leading youth worker told us –

    I’m writing to let you know how helpful I’m finding the Reality Bites material in youth ministry. I recently did a talk on money, sex and power to a group aged 15 plus. Exasperated over what to base the teaching on, I looked at some of the stories of the characters that Rocky has put together. The young people were fascinated. It made me aware of the benefits of the lost art of story telling, and I for one will continue to use this excellent resource, and promote it amongst those I work with. Indeed, whenever I’m looking for a way of tackling a subject to teach on, one of the first places I turn to is Reality Bites.

Reality Bites, in collaboration with Urban Saints, has now finished a Worldview/ Story course for youth workers that can be used with unchurched young people. Some of the stories are about inspiring, culture-transforming Christians. Others concern mad, eccentric people who have wasted their lives because of their idolatries and obsessions. Further to this there are entertaining stories that you can find in films, television programmes, newspapers and adverts. The course doesn’t only provide stories. It includes role plays, video clips, meditations, prayers, Bible studies and suggestions for heated debate!

Who are we?

ARTHUR JONES BSc, MEd, PhD, CBiol, MIBiol is WYSOCS’ Senior Tutor and works with Mark Roques in the Reality Bites programme. He is the Chair of the Association of Christian Teachers ( and Course Leader for the Stapleford Centre postgraduate distance-learning course Faith in Schools ( A teaching career spanning more than 30 years included ten years in India and Nepal, and the headship of a pioneering Christian school in Bristol. He is the author of Science in Faith: A Christian Perspective on Teaching Science and No Home & Alone: A School Programme on Homelessness.

MARK ROQUES BA, MPhil, PGCE is a WYSOCS’ tutor, a great story-teller (see, and speaks at conferences in the UK and overseas. He taught philosophy and RE for many years, and is the author of Curriculum Unmasked: Towards a Christian Understanding of Education; The Good, The Bad and The Misled: True Stories Reflecting Different World Views for Use in Secondary Religious Education and Fields of God: Football and the Kingdom of God.

Contact us at mark dot roques at ntlworld dot com

WYSOCS, Outwood House, Outwood Lane, Leeds LS18 4HR Registered Charity: 271987

Our brand new website Reality Bites will be up and running in January 2009.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Odds and sods

John Drane and Olive Fleming Drane are now blogging as "church mice".

Michael Wittmer is blogging for a brief time on the Zondervan's Koinonia blog to promote his recent book Don't Stop Believing.

Paul Copan has a great piece on the first Christmas: myth and reality at Parchment and Pen.

Jake Belder reviews Bible Study Magazine from Logos

Lillie Jenkins at reviews Reality Bites' Mark Roques' excellent new 20 module worldview course for youth ministers.
The course is available here.

Arthur Jones explains why he is a creationists and why creationiam isn't a science stopper here.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Michael Wittmer on Brian McLaren

Michael Wittmer has posted his ETS paper on Brian McLaren here. He sees McLaren as saying similar things as the liberals of the 1920s. Wittmer's critique is not a knee-jerk response, it is well argued and considerate.

Wittmer's blog, Don't stop believing, is well worth adding to google reader.

Monday, 24 November 2008

The outrageous idea of academic faithfulness - a review

The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness
Donald Opiz and Derek Melleby
Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, 2007
ISBN 978-1-58743-210-1
144pp, pbk

This is another great little book. A law should be passed to make it compulsory reading for all Christians starting university.

The sad thing is the title; that academic faithfulness is viewed as being outrageous shows how much we as Christians have become secularised. However, this book will enable students to see the necessity of bringing the lordship of Christ to their studies and give them some tools to do so. It will help Christians start to think Christianly about their studies.

It is an engaging read and only takes a few hours to read; it will however, takes more than a few years or even decades to engage with tools and turn back the tide of secularisation in Christian thinking.

The book comprises eight short chapters each of which concludes with a set of questions which make it ideal for small group study and a list of recommended reading.

Ortiz and Melleby develop the idea of a worldview and outline the Christian worldview through the story of creation, fall, redemption and consummation. I particularly liked the notion of 4 i-eyed learning: integration, idolatry, investment, imagination and how they linked these to the four part Christian story.

This is no 'mere' theological or philosophical tomb, though it does contain theology and philosophy, both authors have much experience working with students and this comes out in the book. It is practical and laced with biblical and contemporary examples as well as useful advice and wisdom. A nice touch is the brief interviews with students who have come to see the need for academic faithfulness.

If you are wondering what a Christian approach to study might look like - get this book. If you are a pastor - get several of these books and give them to students in your congregation. It will help equip them to be robust and faithful Christians in their studies.

There is a companion website that accompanies the book here.

Available from
Book depository
Eden books
Amazon uk

Sunday, 23 November 2008

The real Jesus

Opening from the Real Jesus DVD:

The program the measure of all things?

Images are related to idols. We are commanded not to make idols in the decalogue. One reason for this is that humans are already God's image. One contemporary idol is technology, or rather technicism. The God-given gift of technology has become distorted and consequently idolised. Technology is seen to be the saviour of all our ills. Given enough time and money technical advances will solve all the problems that confront us.

The nature of idolatry is that we are shaped into the idols image: we become like what we worship (Ps 115:8). Humans are becoming like computers and computers like humans. A graphic illustration of this is provided by the Daily Mirror headline some years ago:


This was no Sunday Sport style article. But actually reflected the thoughts of a computer hacker's mother. What we worship we become like.

The research sociologist Sherry Turkle has shown how young children's thinking has been affected by computers. Computers shape their whole development: their personal identity, their personalities and even their sexuality. It is now the computer program that is the measure of all things.

Computers and artificial intelligence (AI) are reshaping psychology and how humanity is perceived. One such example is the work of Marvin Minsky. He argues that human minds are complicated machines. Is the mind merely a complex computer program? Or is this a case of reshaping ourselves in the image of our gods?

Strong artificial intelligence (SAI) goes even further: it suggests that we can create computers that will be able in turn to replicate the human mind.

The biblical picture of humans as imagers of God shows the fallacy of the strong AI programme. Computers will not become like humans.

The prevalent research paradigm in the brain sciences is that the brain is a biological computer. Yet nothing can be further from the truth. Here again idolatry distorts reality. For a computer to work it needs to be programmed to process information: "garbage in; garbage out". Creation does not confront us with labelled, ordered, categorised information; we have to interpret it before we can understand it. As Sir John Polkinghorne, rightly, notes: "Information and its processing are not the same as thought". We create our own labels; those labels are determined by our worldview. Computers do not interpret they do not have a worldview. But ultimately they are not image bearers of God. It is unthinkable that we can create co-bearers of God's image. It is because of this that the strong AI programme will fail.

The SAI advocates have a materialist worldview. For them all things are made up of matter: there is no mind/ matter duality; mind is matter. This is a basic presupposition in their work. They would echo Carl Sagan's oft quoted "the cosmos is all that is or ever will be". Attributing pre-existence to matter in this way is bestowing upon it the status of divinity. SAI is thus a pagan philosophy.


It is seeing humanity in its totality as the image of God that provides important correctives to a Greek/ Gnostic "trinitarian" or dualistic views of humanity and exposes the fallacy of the SAI programme. It is the redemptive message of humans as the image of God, that we are not comparmentalised persons, that needs to be proclaimed in the pews, the streets, homes , offices and academic ivory-towers.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

What does it mean to be human?

What does it mean to be human? This question has perplexed philosophers, theologians and all those on the "Clapham omnibus" for centuries. It is a deceptively complex question. There are as many answers – probably more – than there are worldviews.

For Protagoras we are ‘the measure of all things’; for Socrates we are the centre, the pivot of all that is worth thinking about; for Plato we are immortal souls locked in the prisons of the body and the world; for the Gnostic we are strangers living in a flawed world; for Darwin we are civilised animals driven by survival instincts, trousered apes; for Marx, we are an alienated working self-creation; for Nietzsche, a ‘rope fastened between animal and superman – a rope over an abyss’; for Freud we are sex-obsessed bipeds, victims of heredity; for Dawkins we are gene survival machines; for strong artificial intelligence we are trousered computers; for Satre and existentialism, we just exist, we have no meaning, we have to decide what to make of ourselves; for new agers, we are part and parcel of the divine cosmos, potentially divine. For most people we are a product of matter plus time plus chance.

We can break down the composition of our body into:
65% Oxygen 18% Carbon 10% Hydrogen 3% Nitrogen 1.5% Calcium 1% Phosphorous 0.35% Potassium 0.25% Sulphur 0.15% Sodium 0.15% Chlorine 0.05% Magnesium 0.0004% Iron 0.00004% Iodine
and also a few trace elements. These cost less than £2. But our most valuable asset is our skin at almost £2. Though perhaps we could get more for our working organs as transplant materials.

As Christians, how do we respond to the question?

The first thing to note that all the above are reductionistic and inevitably pagan. They reduce humanity to one (or two) aspect(s) of reality. This aspect of reality they then deem self-existent; thus attributing to it the status of divinity: paganism divinises aspects of creation (cf Clouser 1991).

One common (mis)understanding is that ‘we are a spirit, with a soul in a body’. One proof text that does seemingly being support such a view is 1 Thess 5:23

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our lord Jesus Christ.
Watcham Nee is a well-known advocate of this position. For him the body is world consciousness; the soul is self-consciousness – here we have thinking, willing and feeling (hence the negative term soulish); and the spirit is God consciousness – this includes conscience, intuition and communion.

However, one text such as 1 Thess 5:23, does not make a doctrine. What about Mark 12:30?
… you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
Does this mean we should adopt a quadrite view? But notice here that soul and mind are both included as if they were different – not what the Watchman-Nee-view advocates.

This view owes more to Jung and Plato than the scriptures. It may be a useful model but it is not biblical. The scriptures never split us up – we are a unity, not a set of different compartments. Nee is not the first to platonise Christianity. Justin Martyer did much to synthesise biblical Christianity with Greek thought; he described Plato as a Christian before Christ. At root is an untenable matter/ spirit dualism. Spirit is placed over matter; spirit over body. Scripture continually affirms the goodness of creation. Nothing in creation is intrinsically evil; it was created good although it was distorted and tainted by the fall. Dualism is a pagan Greek heresy and is incompatible with a thorough-going biblical Christianity. Seeing humanity as the image of God is the antidote. Scripture does not cut humanity into parts: it deals with whole persons.

This view is that it plays down the body and mind. At the resurrection we are not disembodied spirits! Jesus’ resurrection was a resurrection with a physical body.

Another common view among Christians is a dualistic view – we are body and soul. There are two parts of us. Again this view serves to split up humanity. We are not schizophrenic!

As Berkouwer puts it: ‘we can never gain a clear understanding of the mystery of man, if in one way or another, we abstract mere components of the whole man’. (1962, p 194). We are many faceted.

Many terms are used in the scriptures to describe humanity. However, as Berkouwer (1962: 31) notes there is not a biblical "anthropology" as such, only biblical teaching regarding humanity. The Bible is not a textbook or encyclopaedia, it is a confessional book (cf Olthius 1987). It is in this light that we must read the scriptures.

Humanity is a whole person; we are not the sum of our parts: we are a unity. The absence of any unifying theme or concept is markedly absent.

Old Testament terms
The emphasis in the OT is of humanity as a creature, the creation of God, and their dependence upon him.

Heart (lebab; LXX Kardia) This term appears over 800 times. It designates the religious centre of humanity (Little Kittell 1985: 415). In the NT it is seen as the seat of "physical vitality".

Nephesh (soul) Occurs around 80 times. It is used as a synonym for life. It is never used to distinguish one part of a human from another (Berkouwer 1962: ch 6). We do not have a soul, we are a soul. Animals are also referred to as having the "breath of life" in them (Gen 1:30), the very thing that made humans become a "living being/ soul" (Gen 2:7).

Body parts A range of body parts are used to describe humanity: kidneys, bowels, liver, blood, belly, womb, loins. Each term it seems denotes an activity of the whole person.

New Testament terms

Body, soul, spirit, mind, strength, flesh, body are all used in the NT to denote aspects of humanity.

Flesh (sarx) reflects the whole physical existence particularly focussing on human weakness (Rom 6:19). It does not denote an inherently evil part of humanity; Jesus became flesh! It becomes sinful only with orientation (Little Kittel 1985: 1005).

S(s)pirit, focuses on the whole person energised by God and living in communion with him; hence to be spiritual means to be led of the spirit.

Ridderbos makes a useful comment:

Flesh (body) and Spirit do not stand over against one another here as two "parts" in the human existence or in the existence of Christ (1977: 66)

Body (soma) refers to our creaturliness, the place where we live and breathe. It is our bodies that will be resurrected. There is no hint of Platonic or Gnostic ideas of the body being a prison of the soul (cf Cullmann 1958).

Soul (psyche) is the whole person focussing primarily on feelings and emotions, liveliness (hence death is its absence) and appetites.

From the foregoing we can conclude with Berkouwer that each of the varied terms refer to the whole person viewed from a particular perspective. They do not denote separate parts, but each refers to the whole person from a specific viewpoint in relation to God.

Body – this is humanity in visible embodiment, as seen from the ‘outside in’.

Soul – this is humanity as a living, breathing being. It points to the inner person.

Spirit – this is the guiding and motivating power of existence, as seen from the inside out.

Flesh – this is humanity as weak, fragile and mortal.

Heart – humanity in the deepest core of existence, the religious concentration point of our selfhood.


C G Berkouwer 1962. Man: The Image of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans)
Oscar Cullman 1958. Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead? (London: Epworth press)
Roy Clouser 1991 The Myth of Religious Neutrality (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press)
James H. Olthuis 1987. A Hermeneutics of Ultimacy: Peril or Promise? (Lanham: University Press of America)
Herman Ridderbos 1977. Paul: An Outline of His Theology (London: SPCK)

See also the bibliography here.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Resources for a biblical anthropology

C G Berkouwer 1962. Man: The Image of God. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Philip Blosser. 1993. ‘Reconnoitering Dooyeweerd’s theory of man’ Philosophia Reformata 58 (2) 192-209 (a revised version of ‘Soul and body in the philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd’ Tydskrif vir Christelike Wetenskap 27 (1) (1991) 57-82)

A H De Graaff. 1979. Toward a new anthropological model. In Hearing and Doing: Philosophical Essays Dedicated to H. Evan Runner. Ed. John Kraay. Toronto: Wedge.

A H De Graaf and J H Olthuis (eds) 1978. Toward a Biblical View of Man: Some Readings (Toronto: ICS)

H. Dooyeweerd. The Theory of Man: Thirty two Propositions on Anthropology

H Dooyeweerd. 1960 'What is Man?' In In The Twilight of Western Thought. Craig Press.

H Fernhout 1978, 1979 Man, Faith and Religion in Bavinck, Kuyper and Dooyeweerd parts I, II and II Tydskrif vir Christelike Wetenskap

Stuart Fowler 2005. On Being Human. Melbourne : Amani.

Chris Gousmett 'Shall the Body Strive and Not be Crowned? Unitary and instrumentalist anthropological models as keys to interpreting the structure of Patristic eschatology'. PhD Thesis.

Tory Hoff 1978. Nephesh and fulfilment it receives as psuche. In De Graaf and Olthuis (eds) 1978.

James Olthuis. 1993. Be(com)ing: Humankind as Gift and Call. In Philosophia Reformata 58 (2).

W J Ouweneel. 1993. ‘Supratemporality in the Transcendental Anthropology of Herman Dooyeweerd’ Philosophia Reformata 58: 210-220.

Willem Ouweneel. 2008. Heart and Soul a Christian View of Psychology. Grand Rapids: Paidea Press.

Seerveld, Calvin. 2000. A Christian Tin-Can Theory of the Human Creature. In In the Fields of the Lord. Ed. Craig Bartholomew. Carlisle: Piquant Press, and Toronto: Tuppence Press.

Marinus Dirk Stafleu “Being Human in the Cosmos.” Philosophia Reformata 56.

D F M Strauss 2004. Anthropology at the Intersection of Medicine, Psychology and Culture Tydskrif vir Christelike Wetenskap

John C Vander Stelt 2005. ‘“Faulty Psychology” and theology’. In J. H. Kok (ed) Ways of Knowing: In Concert. Dordt: Dordt College Press, ch 3.

B. J. van der Walt. 1988. On Being Human and Being a Christian in Africa: Communalism, Socialism, and Communism in a Struggle for an African Anthropology. Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education,

B. J. van der Walt. 1990. Being Human: A Gift and a Duty on the Way to a Christian View of Man for Africa. Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education

B. J. van der Walt. 1994. Man and God: A Reformational Philosophy of Religion. Potchefstroomse Universiteit vir Christelike Hoer Onderwys

B. J. van der Walt. 1997. Being Human in a Christian Perspective. Potchefstroomse Universiteit vir Christelike Hoer Onderwys

B. J. van der Walt. 1975. ‘Radical biblical anthropology: remedy for the crisis of contemporary contemporary society’. Koers 40 (4-6): 380-401.

B. J. van der Walt 2002. The Liberating Message: A Christian Worldview for Africa Potchefstroom: ICCA.

William Young. ‘The nature of man in the Amsterdam philosophy’ Westminster Theological Journal 22: 1-12.

Hendrik Hart. 1963-64. Anthropology: some questions and remarks Christian Vanguard

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Gordon Spykman on AoLR

I've recently added the Gordon Spykman (1926-1993) pages to all ofliferedeemed. Including an excellent book by him: Spectacles: Biblical Perspectives on Christian Scholarship (IRS, Potchefstroom, 1985). This was originally a series of lectures delivered at the Potchefstroom University in South Africa. Bennie van der Walt describes the book thus:

This book contains the papers delivered by Dr. G. Spykman during his stay in Potchefstroom as a guest lecturer at the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education in August-September 1983. It was first published in 1985. I am delighted with this long-awaited reprint, because I regard it to be a small jewel. In a few chapters Spykman discusses the essentials of a reformational worldview and a Christian approach to scholarship. It is furthermore written lucidly in a semi-popular scholarly style, making it accessible to a wide readership. May Spectacles help many Christians to polish their lenses to see their God-given calling with greater clarity. May our Lord richly bless this small book. with its great message!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Does God exist? Lennox vs Shermer

Here is a debate between Michael Shermer and John Lennox: Does God exist? Below are the opening addresses:

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

A bibliography of bibliographies

Over the last six months I have been compiling bibliographies for a "Christian approach to ..." . Here's a bibliography of those bibliographies:

A Christian approach to ...

... mathematics
... technology
... geography
... psychology
... language and linguistics
... worldview books

Update here are some more:

... biology
... sport
... politics
... economics
... art and aesthetics
... biblical view of what it means to be human
... sphere sovereignty
... education
... law

Monday, 3 November 2008

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Books on a Christian worldview

2008. Craig G. Bartholomew and Mike W. Goheen. 2008. Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.
There are a number of excellent resources to accompany this book - due for release in the UK on 18th December - here.

J. Mark Bertrand. 2007. (Re)Thinking Worldviews: Learning to Think, Live, and Speak in This World. Wheaton: Crossway Books.

Steven Garber.2007. The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior. Downers Grove: IVP. 2nd edn.

Julian Hardyman. 2006. Glory Days: Living the Whole of your Life for Jesus. Leicester: IVP.

Arthur F. Holmes. 1983. Contours of a World View. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

David Naugle. 2002. Worldview: The History of a Concept. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Paul A. Marshall, et al eds. 1989. Stained Glass: Worldview and Social Science. Lanham MD: University Press of America.

Paul Marshall and Lela Gilbert. 1998. Heaven is not my Home: Living in the Now of God's Creation. Nashville: Word.

Nancy Pearcey. 2004. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity.
Wheaton: Crossway Books.

John Peck and Charles Strohmer. 2001. Uncommon Sense: God's Wisdom for our Complex and Changing World. London: SPCK.

James W. Sire. 1976. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog. Downers Grove: IVP. 4th revised edn 2004.

James W. Sire. 2004. Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept. Downers Grove: IVP.

Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview. Downers Grove: IVP.

B. J. van der Walt. 1991. Anatomy of Reformation: Flashes and Fragments of a Reformational Worldview. Potchefstroom: Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education.

B. J. van der Walt. 1994. The Liberating Message: A Christian Worldview for Africa. (Potchefstroom: Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education, Institute for Reformational Studies).

B. J. van der Walt. 2001. Transformed by the Renewing of Your Mind: Shaping a Biblical Worldview and a Christian Perspective on Scholarship. Potchefstroom: Institute for Contemporary Christianity in Africa.

B. J. van der Walt. 2008. The Eye is the Lamp of the Body:Worldviews and their Impact. Potchefstroom: Institute for Contemporary Christianity in Africa.

Michael E. Wittmer.2004. Heaven Is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Al Wolters. 1985. Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Second edition 1988. Revised and expanded 2005 (with Mike Goheen)

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Models of God and creation

Here is a diagram I have used in the past to illustrate the ways in which god(s)/ God has been perceived to relate to creation:

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Music for a Sunday

Keith Jarrett (p), Gary Peacock (b), Jack De Johnette (d) 'When I fall in love'

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Bible in a minute

[HT Ben witherington]

Resources for a Christian approach to language and linguistics

Pam Adams 1999. Phonics, whole language, and biblical hermeneutics. Pro Rege 28: 1-8.

Kornelius J. Boot. 1987. Language: A few observations from a biblical perspective. Pro Rege 15:11-15.

Kornelius J. Boot. 1974. The grammar confusion and some guidelines. Pro Rege 3 (Dec) : 28-34.

Barbara Carvill 1991. 'Foreign Language Education: A Christian Calling.' Christian Educators Journal, 30(3): 28-29.

Roy Clouser 1983. Religious language a new look at an old problem In Rationality in the Calvinian Tradition, Ed. Hart, Van derHoeven, & Wolterstorff. (Lanham: University Press of America, 1983), pp. 385ff.

Roy A Clouser 1988. Divine accomodation: an alternative theory of religious language Tijdskrif vir Christelike Wetenscap (Bloemfontein: Vereniging vir Christelike Hoer Onderwys, August, 1988), 94 -127.

Hugh Cook. 1978. Why Johnny can't write; the illiteracy crisis Pro Rege6(March) : 21-28

L. D. Derksen. 1985. Language and the transformation of philosophy. Philosophia Reformata 50: 134-149.

Joris van Eijnatten. 1995. The language of all the earth or directional pluralism Philosophia Reformata 60(1): 55-62.

Syd Hielema. 2006. Every Tribe, language, people and nation Pro Rege 24 (June): 1-9.

Noordegraaf, J. 'Pieter A. Verburg and the History of Linguistics. A bio-bibliographical account.'

Prof A W G Raath 1983. H G Stoker's cosmo-created philosophy of language TvCW

Calvin Seerveld. 2001. Babel, Pentecost, Glossolalia and Philoxenia: No Language is Foreign to God. Journal of Christianity and Foreign Languages 2 (2001). 5-30.

William A. Smalley. 1985 Learning about language. Pro Rege 14 (Sept): 2-8. (September 1985)

David Smith:

with Barbara Cavill The Gift of the Stranger: Faith, Hospitality and Foreign Language Learning

2000. 'Gates Unlocked and Gardens of Delight: Comenius on Piety, Persons and Language Learning,' Christian Scholar's Review 30:2 (2000): 207-232.

2000. 'Faith and Method in Foreign Language Pedagogy,' Journal of Christianity and Foreign Languages 1 (2000): 7-25.

1998. For profit, pleasure, and power? Cultural diversity and the mixed motives of foreign language education. Pro Rege 26 (June): 1-13.

1997. 'In Search of the Whole Person: Critical Reflections on Community Language Learning.' Journal of Research on Christian Education 6:2 (1997): 159-181.

1997. 'Communication and Integrity: Moral Development and Modern Languages.' Language Learning Journal 15 (1997): 31-35

1996. 'What Hope After Babel? Diversity and Community in Gen 11:1-9, Exod 1:1-14, Zeph 3:1-13 and Acts 2:1-13.' Horizons in Biblical Theology 18:2 (1996):169-191.

1996. 'Rediscovering a Heritage: Lull, Bacon and the Aims of Language Teaching.' Spectrum 28:1 (1996): 9-28.

1993. 'Can Modern Language Teaching Be Christian?' Spectrum 25:1 (1993): 25-38.

D F M Strauss Thought and Language: on the line of demarcation between animal and human abilities, in: South African Journal of Philosophy, Vol.13, Nr.4 (pp.175-182).

Pieter A. Verburg 1998. Language and its Functions. A historico-critical study of views concerning the functions of language from the prehumanistic philology of Orleans to the rationalistic philology of Bopp Salmon. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins

P J Visagie 2001. Philosophy as a language game TvCW

Albert Weideman

Forthcoming. Beyond Expression: A Systematic Study of the Foundations of Linguistics Paideia Press/ Reformational Publishing Project.

1977. Three journeys: one tradition. Standpunte 130 [Vol. 30 (4): 55-62].

1977b. Philosophical elements in Four Quartets. Koers 42 (6): 525-532.

1979a. Some basic semiotic categories. Anakainosis 1 (4): 2-7.

1979b. Theses on P.A. Verburg's linguistic theory. Anakainosis 2 (1): 8-9.

1985. The role of the psychology of language in applied linguistics. Acta Academica Series B 20 (101-107).

1991. Faith and objectivity in linguistic science. Language matters (UK) 1: 10-11.

1999. Five generations of applied linguistics: some framework issues. Acta Academica 31 (1): 77-98.

2001. The old and the new: reconsidering eclecticism in language teaching. Per linguam 17 (1): 1-13.

2003a. Towards accountability: a point of orientation for post-modern applied linguistics in the third millennium. Literator. 24(1): 1-20.

2003d. Assessing and developing academic literacy. Per linguam 19 (1 & 2): 55-65.

2006a. Transparency and accountability in applied linguistics. Southern African linguistics and applied language studies 24(1): 71-86.

2006b. Assessing academic literacy in a task-based approach. Language matters 37(1): 81-101.

2006c. A systematically significant episode in applied linguistics. In L.O.K Lategan & J.H. Smit (guest editors) (2006) Time and context relevant philosophy. Special edition 1 of the Journal for Christian scholarship 42 (November; pp. 231-244).

2006d. Academic Literacy: Prepare to Learn

2007a. Overlapping and divergent agendas: Writing and applied linguistics research. Forthcoming in C. van der Walt (ed.) Living through languages: An African tribute to Rene Dirven. Stellenbosch: African Sun Media. Pp. 147-163. ISBN: 1-919980-31-8.

2007b. The redefinition of applied linguistics: modernist and postmodernist views. Southern African linguistics and applied language studies 25(4):589-605.

2007c. A responsible agenda for applied linguistics: confessions of a philosopher LSSA/SAALA/SAALT keynote address July. Per linguam 23(2): 29-53.

2008a. The idea of lingual economy. Paper to be read at the ICCLING 2008 conference, Stellenbosch, January. Submitted to Koers. [pdf of PowerPoint presentation]

2008b. Constitutive and regulative conditions for the assessment of academic literacy. Paper to be read at a colloquium on "Testing the academic literacy of additional language students" at the AILA 2008 conference in Essen, Germany, 26 August.[pdf of PowerPoint presentation]

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Hardyman: Glory Days - a review

Glory Days: Living the Whole of Your Life for Jesus
Julian Hardyman
IVP: Leicester
ISBN 978-184474-153-3; 160 pp; pbk; £6.99

This is a great little book. Julian Hardyman, the senior pastor at Eden Baptist, Cambridge, UK, has produced an accessible, engaging and entertaining book. He writes to show that there is no thumb breadth of life in which Christ is not interested. He introduces many kuyperian ideas – though strangely Abraham Kuyper doesn’t get a mention.

It’s an easy read; it only took me a few hours to finish it. This is its great advantage. It will be ideal introductory book for Christian students from sixth form onwards. It will be perfect for those who would find The Transforming Vision and Creation Regained a little daunting. The book comes from a similar perspective from these two though more kuyperian/ schaefferian than reformational. Though the phrase 'world-view' is used only five times (in ch 12), it is a book about a distinctively Christian world-view. Al Wolters, Walsh and Middleton, Cornelius Plantinga, Richard Mouw and Michael Wittemer are cited copiously and their ideas are freely drawn upon.

Hardyman writes to expose the shallow dualism and the narrow closed pietism incipient in much of modern evangelicalism and does so, not in a negative way, but by presenting a positive biblical alternative. He wants each day to be a glory day, a day where we can do all things, and that includes football, chess, watching films, going to the office, sweeping the floor or doing a crossword, to the glory of God. The ideas it contains are not new to neo-calvinists, but they will be new to the typical British - or even North American - evangelical student starting college. If you know of any such students make them read this book: in doing so you will help save their studies and their time at university.

The book is split into two parts: ‘Days of glory in the Bible’ and ‘Our glory days’. The first part traces the biblical groundmotive (though he doesn’t use that term) of creation, fall and redemption. Stress is rightly placed on the cultural mandate, which he describes as the First Great Commission, and being the image bearers of God. He calls our call to keep and tend the garden, the Human Cultural Project. Drawing upon Tom Wright he places the emphasis on the renewed earth, where ‘the glory of God comes down to us’ rather than us being whisked off , or beamed up, to a non-physical heaven.

The second part examines the two great commandments (Gn 1:26ff and Mt 28:18ff), work, being citizens and our callings. Here is no narrow life-denying perspective. This is no insipid liebfraumilch gospel; this is a full-bodied, full-bloodied, life-affirming gospel, a Shiraz gospel that is concerned with every area and aspect of life – the Mondays through Saturdays as well as the Sundays.

As someone who was converted at university and then became enmeshed in a dualistic framework, where prayer, bible study and evangelism took priority over lectures, this book would have been perfect to wake me up to the wide ranging implications of the gospel of the kingdom. This book is an important wake up call for us all to take the discipleship of Christ seriously, so we can enjoy God’s good gifts and ‘do all for the glory of God’ (1 Cor 10: 31)

Available from:
Book depository

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Friday, 17 October 2008

Thursday, 16 October 2008

What does it mean to be spiritual?

Spiritual has to do with the ultimate direction of our whole lives, including the biological, psychological, economic and political.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Cultural anorexics or gluttons

My talk at the church service is, for the next few days, available here; click on the evening service.

Here's a copy of the slides - I've now managed to find a way to display all the images
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.

Smith on Carson's Christ and culture

James K A Smith's review on D A Carson's Christ and Culture Revisited  is online at Christianity Today.

This desire to root Christian thinking about culture in the grand narrative of Scripture is laudable. Unfortunately, I think it's also where the book falters because Carson's summary of the biblical story is, frankly, incomplete. For instance, while he emphasizes the doctrine of creation and that "God made everything," he nowhere discusses what has commonly been described as the "cultural mandate" (Gen 1:27-29) — humanity's creational call to cultivate the possibilities latent within creation through ongoing cultural work. This task of human making is precisely how we image God in the world (as "sub-creators" in Tolkien's words). Instead, Carson tends to treat culture as a given and fails to offer a theology of culture that shows how the work of human making is rooted in creation itself. For Carson, culture always seems to be a noun (something "out there") rather than a verb (something we do).

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

All of life redeemed update

I have recently added the following:

These were the second generation reformational thinkers after Dooyeweerd, Vollenhoven and Janse.

There are no new articles online from them, but there is a brief bio and bibliography and a link to one or two of their articles online, including links to bibliographies complied in the late seventies by L. Derksen amd A. M. Petersen.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Gluttons or anorexics?

Here are the slides from tonight's talk - unfortunately, as most of the images were png they don't show up.

Hollywood worldviews: gluttons or anorexics

I'm speaking at 'church' tonight. It's the first in a series inspired by Brian Godowa's Hollywood worldviews. This is the gist of what I'm going to say.

Hollywood worldviews: gluttons or anorexics?

How do we view culture? How should we respond to culture? Are we glutton or anorexics?
Why do we watch films? I won’t embarrass you by getting you to respond; but there are two equal but opposite mistakes that Christian make about culture.

The mistake of the glutton and the mistake of the anorexic.
Take films, how would a cultural glutton and a cultural anorexic respond?

Glutton – it’s just a movie, I wanna be entertained.

Anorexic – movies corrupt our society, they are worldly and a waste of time, why should we bother watching people pretending to be other people?

So, how should we respond as Christians to culture and films?

But before we address that important question we need to take a step back and ask, what is culture?

An Amish boy and his father travelled in their buggy to a mall for the first time. They were amazed by almost everything they saw, but especially by two silver doors that moved apart and back together.

The boy asked "What is this, Father?" This was the first time the dad had seen a lift responded "Jedediah, Son, I have never seen anything like this in my life, I don’t know what it is."

While the boy and his father were watching, an old lady in a wheel chair rolled up to the doors and pressed a button. The doors opened and the lady rolled between them into a small room.

The doors closed and the boy and his father heard a strange noise and watched a small set of lights with numbers on light up in sequence stop and then come back down again.

The door opened up again and a beautiful 26-year-old woman stepped out.

The father said to his son, "Go get your mother."
If we don’t understand culture we can make mistakes!

For many culture conjures up ballet, opera theatre and radio 3! Something the posh and rich do!
But then we talk about the culture of the work place or yoof cultkah.

There are many different levels of and aspects to culture.

A good illustration is a potato.

A potato is something ‘natural’, it can be developed and moulded into various different forms:
Baked, mashed, crisps, chips, boiled, roasted, dauphinois (shows I’m cultured!)

That process of change is culture.

The baked potato can be enjoyed in a meal with friends, in a café with others … that’s culture.
It’s taking the raw material and moulding and shaping it into something else.

Then what about:
  • A potato clock – science
  • A potato market – business and economics
  • Potato stamps – art
  • Potato flute – music

All this is culture

The word culture comes from the idea of a garden, cultivation.

Originally humans were placed in a garden and what were we asked to do?
To tend and keep it – to be gardeners and artists. To be culture makers.

So how do we respond to culture?

There are a number of ways in which we can respond to the culture around us:

Condemn it – like the anorexics. Here the ‘not of the world is emphasised’
Consume it –like the gluttons here sometimes we are ‘in the world’ is emphasised!
Copy it – this is what Christians are good at! We flatter culture by imitating it – but it's usually the culture of twenty years ago.
Critique it – examine where it’s coming from, look at the worldview behind it, think about what idea of salvation lies behind it.
There is however, another way: create and transform culture.

Andy Crouch, in his excellent Culture Making, talks about gestures and postures – as postures these approaches are wrong, as gestures sometimes they may be appropriate.

Culture is inescapable – culture is no option.
What we do and how we do it that is culture – we are immersed in it.
It’s what we were called to do carve and create culture, to keep and tend the garden.

The Bible starts in a garden but it finishes in a city. That means development and a process of enculturation; that is our calling as Christians, as the image bearers of God, to make and shape culture.

Our posture is not to copy, consume, condemn, but to carve culture, to shape and create it.

Why are so many cultural anorexics – condemning culture?
There are several reasons:

The world is not my home – I’m just a passing through; they can’t wait to escape and get to heaven.

However, the earth is our home – we were place here to steward and develop it – and at the end of all things we won’t be going to heaven – heaven is coming down to earth! A renewed heavens and a renewed earth.

In the world but not of it – usually means that they want to escape from the world, it’s a denial of God’s good creation. What they don’t realise is that this position is a worldly one – it coms straight from Greek philosophy and Gnosticism.

Dualism is the mistaken idea that some things are more spiritual than others – some aspect of creation is higher or more important than another. And yet God created all things good.

Dualism arises from the failure to discern structure and direction
Everything in creation has a structure, it is the way it was created and intended by God. That structure is rooted in creation and is good. However, everything in creation is claimed and counterclaimed – as C S Lewis put it.

"There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan."

God’s creation is good – then came the fall and disrupted the good creation, its pulled in opposite directions. Jesus comes to redeem and restore it.

The way we do culture is a matter of direction – do we use it obediently to God and his norms, or do we use it for our own ends or the ends of others?

Often we look and see fallen culture and rightly condemn it, but the dualist doesn’t see the creational aspects of this culture, it is culture being done disobediently. Culture doesn’t have to be sinful; it has a creational structure that is good and it can be done obediently, obedient to the laws and norm that God has placed in creation for culture.

The need for a biblical understanding of spirituality.
Being spiritual doesn’t mean praying, reading our Bibles, evangelising or walking two inches off the ground with a halo around our heads! Being spiritual mean being led by the spirit – and that can include watching films, critiquing films, producing films, writing about films and enjoying films. Our false ides of spirituality often arise out of a false idea of what it means to be human – which comes back to worldviews!

The relationship between religion, worldviews and culture
One important relationship we need to examine is the relationship between culture, worldview and religion. Think of it as an onion, with many layers – the outer layers are the different facets of culture

All cultural artefacts come from a particular worldview – but culture can also shape the worldview. Behind this worldview are religious convictions and commitments.

Worldviews consist of four things:

stories – an overarching theme by which we are guided;
praxis – a way of being in the world;
symbols and
key questions – the answers to which rest upon religious commitments.

We all have a worldview, it is inescapable. These worldviews permeate all that we do. Worldviews are the spectacles through which we view the world and the way in which we interpret the world. Like a map they are the way in which we navigate through the world.

I want us to look at two cultural icons: Farmer Bell and Windy Miller two characters from Camberwick Green, a children’s programme from the alte sixties and early seventies.

Watch this clip and think about Farmer Bell and Windy Miller they would answer these worldview questions.
Episode 5

Farmer Bell – is a typical modernist.
Bell might not be able to articulate all this, but it does lie behind his approach to life.

The story upon which Western culture and civilisation rests is that of progress. We are continually evolving, progressing, into something better.

The idols of our culture are the false trinity of scientism, technicism and economicism; these idols are reflected in the symbols of agribusiness instead of agriculture, the latest farm machinery, large shopping galleries, science research centres and parks, and leisure complexes.

Praxis is investment in science so that we can develop and then buy the technology, such as forklift trucks, to solve all present and future problems. We consume the latest technological gadgets to give meaning to our lives: "I shop therefore I am", has become the creed of our age.

Who are we? We are the products of energy/ matter, 15 billion years and chance. Trying to overcome nature to make our own way in the world.

Why are we here? There is no ultimate meaning to our existence. It is due to a number of fortuitous chance events, such as the distance of the Earth from the sun and the value of the gravitational constant. These values need not be as there are, it is a pleasant coincidence, they have the values that enable life as we know it to exist. Farmer Bell may not be an atheist or agnostic, but the way he does things suggest that. He may well have a Christian faith, but it would be a dualistic one – he may well attend church, but it has nothing to do with the rest of his life.

Where are we? We are in the universe, on the edge of a galaxy called the Milky Way., on a planet called earth. The earth is a source of raw material which we are to exploit. We are also at the point of the culmination of the evolutionary process.

What is wrong? Essentially nothing that we can't solve given enough time money and scientific know how. One problem is that the earth's raw materials are being slowly depleted.

What is the solution? Investing enough time, money and expertise in scientific investigation so that we can develop the technology to solve all problems. Raw materials will be replaced by specially developed artificial ones.

Windy Miller
We are a part of nature, the problem is we don’t live in harmony with it, small is beautiful, The solution is to become more in tune with nature – avoid technology where possible. Use natural resources, don’t exploit the environment; get back to nature.

As Andy Crouch says, The only way to change culture is to make more culture. We are to be culture makers not culture gluttons or anorexics.

Pray for the writers, the film makers, the website designers, the artists, the flower arrangers, the gardeners, the poets, the musicians, the photographers. Support them. They too are missionaries, taking seriously the mission of God to work and keep the garden so it can become God’s city.

We are all called to be creative – to be makers of culture. Let’s do it in whatever way God calls us to.

Books for further reading

How do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time – how do we create culture – one bit at a time.