Saturday, April 18, 2009

Salt Minds

I thought of titling this post "Shaping (or being shapened by) Culture," but since (1) I am not a postmillennialist, (2) I disdain the cliched overuse of the term "culture" by quasi-intellectual Calvinists, and (3) the word "shapen" or its derivative "shapened" would confuse too many readers, I chose the catchier "Salt Minds."

From the previous paragraph one should easily deduce two things: first, everyone is influencing, being influenced by, or both influencing and being influenced by culture and, secondly, the viable and vibrant Christian will influence culture like salt influences that upon which it is sprinkled.

Into what category of cultural influence do we fit? Perhaps no one fits into the first category of influencing culture without being influenced by culture (even Jesus Christ emerged from a cultural milieu); that leaves two categories into which we can fall, influencers of, or influenced by culture. We are all in the Louvre, culturally speaking, painters or paintings, sculptors or sculpted, hanging or being hung. In every generation the vast majority of individuals are neither painters nor sculptors, but rather paintings and sculptures, fashioned like clay by superior hands and colored by hues and strokes from the cultural artist's palette and brush. Most of us are hung, not hanging, cynically described by Voltaire as "the savage herd." That leaves only a few cultural artists in every century, a Monet or Mozart here, a Marx or Maimonides there.

The brilliant postmillennialist Abraham Kuyper believed that Christianity, specifically Calvinist Christianity, was the chisel and the brush, not only capable of painting and sculpting culture on a grand scale but predestined to transform culture into a masterpiece fit for display in the very Holy of Holies. Kuyper envisions the Calvinistic transformation of culture in four areas: religion, politics, science, and art. Typical of postmillennialists, Kuyper theorizes that the triumph of Christ's cross necessitates the material and global transformation of culture prior to the Second Advent. Kuyper's cosmic optimism has waned among evangelicals and is embraced now only by those Calvinists who, like the Premillennialists they so ardently oppose, suffer from an errant hermeneutic that desires and expects the globalization of Christianity. Western socialism, Islam, China rising, rampant and rapid philosophical and moral deterioration, and the spectre of World War III seem to be mild setbacks to their optimism, not to mention a superior hermeneutic of which they are unaware.

We shall not deny that the kingdom has come, but we shall deny that it must come as the pathologically pessimistic dispensationalists and their unwitting cousins, the blindly optimistic postmillennialists, wrongly think it will come. "Wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" "NO!" is heaven’s perennial answer.

That stern negation still leaves everyone of us as sculptor or sculpted, painter or painted, hanging or hung.

But the better, in fact, the biblical metaphor is salt.

Salt does not transfigure its environment but rather seasons it by infiltration, permeation, preservation, and alteration. A little thing, a grain of salt, but large in its influence. Light, too, effects the same: infiltration, permeation, preservation, and alteration. An unsavory cut of meat and a dark night are respectively unpalatable and unnavigable, but with just a sprinkle of salt or one silver sliver of a hopeful moon, a rough-cut sirloin and a black midnight become savory and shimmering.

The world is what it is, and will be what it will be, but salt and light make it palatable and navigable, tasteful and beautiful, even when the world is tough and dark.

So what are you, painter or painted, sculptor or sculpted, hanging or hung, influencing or influenced?

Would you please pass the salt and, oh, yes, flip the switch before you leave, or at least light a candle?


Shane said...

Really enjoyed that post.

Regarding postmillennialists and dispensationalists: I find it interesting they both look forward to a kingdom on this earth with a political component. The postmillennialist of course looks forward to enjoying a lot more land.

Whereas the amillennialist's already/not yet looks forward to the consumation of the kingdom in a new heaven and a new earth---paradise lost becoming paradise restored.

Jacob G├╝cker said...

I'm going to go think about this post while smoking a cigar, just like the prince of preachers. Although, it's a drug store ordeal wrapped in brown paper and flavoured with a sickly-sweet, artificial strawberry to mask the horrible taste. Even so, I'll have the right look from a distance.

Beau Morgan said...

Like Shane--appreciate this post immensely.

The use of salt as a verb in your clever moniker - "Salt Minds" is most appropriate for the "viable and vibrant" Christian, and a most needed exhortation as well. Too often when salt is merely a noun it just sits up on the spice rack. Heeding the advice of my Naturopath, I've started putting Celtic Sea Salt on nearly everything that I consume including the water I drink. If only to apply the same ever time I leave my front door...

In our last church we lived the postmillennial, "quasi-intellectual" movement in what is sometimes called "New Calvinism." It seems to be growing for now--just google Mark Driscoll.

The mantra our former church adapted was "transforming culture with truth." For reasons you articulate in this post and others, we just couldn't buy in. The bait and switch tactics they were advocating just didn't jive with the scars that I picture on Paul's worn body from the accounts in Acts.

Your analysis is right on the money--an optimistic postmillenial view underlies it all, as evidenced by a comment from a pastor during a biblestudy, "Do you think God is just going to come back and Etch-A-Sketch it all?" ie. He's not; he needs us to help make it all better first. (more to come soon on this idea)

The beauty of salt and light is the beauty simplicity and truth.