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There is no place for separatism or self-righteousness either, we are encouraged in any noble service to culture. An argument could then be made that if we are justified by grace and not works, why should we then not sin all more? The purposes of law is to be a curb for sin, a mirror or plumbline for sin and also as a guide or tutor to lead us to Christ. The last purpose, as a guide is more optimistic than other two, in that it affirms universality of sin, but maintains that culture can be converted in line with God's temporal law. Where those things in culture that have been perverted can be reformed and redeemed to some extent.
While this sounds good, such earthbound hopes tend to undermine belief of eternal life and ultimate destination of mankind in an afterlife. Transformation of culture may be seen as whole reason for existence of church. The social gospel may quickly replace salvation gospel instead of being held in tension, as they should be. Although as Christians we are under grace it might be tempting to rely on law for social reform, exchanging word for sword.
Also, in rejecting certain aspects of culture, we are not rejecting culture in total, as even our act of rejecting culture is a part of culture. As Christians we do reject certain aspects of mainstream culture, but not culture in totality. If we were to reject culture in totality, why would God not have taken us into heaven moment we were saved? The fact is that discipleship occurs not by taking choices and culture away from us, but placing us directly in it to be counter-cultural.
This does not mean that we are opposed to culture but it does mean that we are against any form of cultural idolatry, those aspects of culture that do not point to Christ as Lord of all. When New Testament talks of world it speaks of those aspects of culture that are self-glorifying and self-serving, claiming autonomy apart from God.
Thus real question is not whether we should accept or reject culture in it's totality but what is correct principle for discrimination. We cannot be self-righteous monastics and neither can we be in rebellion from state institutions and divinely appointed offices and leaders. Ultimately we can argue for reform if temporal law seeks to override Godly principles as in a dictatorial government, such as Zimbabwe or Iraq.
When law of God written on our hearts is held in tension with temporal law laid down in land, we find that we do have a paradox, we who are not held under law, actually commit ourselves to do those things which uphold law. As Christ is in us we do naturally what is required of us, not because of a rulebook, but out of a desire to love God and our neighbour.
In our desire to uphold justice and law in our nations, social action by church body is usually resisted as a contamination of Church and State, word with sword. The temporal law laid down by state should be upheld by church as moral force in society. Where state makes decisions that are contrary to God, moral law should still be upheld regardless of state consequences. In this way body of Christ is both under law and above it, though whether under or above law it's Lordship is still God. Where church cannot have direct action, it can through it's members have indirect influence. This influence can be exercised through chosen vocations of it's members. Christ lives in us to express Himself through us to glory of God. In this way separation of sacred and secular is closed while Christ and culture, church and state are held in healthy tension. (continued in Christ and Culture 3)
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Check out www.god-life.com for new articles and news from Aleck Cartwright. Aleck is a Zimbabwean missionary who has travelled all over the world, sharing God's love and heart for the world.