A couple of months ago I “attended” an online apologetics conference. The theme of the conference was apologetics in literature and the arts. It was quite fun. Not only was it a conference on a much needed topic, but I “attended” by getting up in the morning and sitting at the kitchen table; pretty cool from my perspective.

I went in to it a little tentative since “literature and the arts” is a fairly broad topic (straight from the desk of Captain Obvious). I was familiar with one of the speakers but outside of that I didn’t quite know what to expect. Ultimately I’m glad I did it. The topics and speakers were all quite good.

As I said, the topics are much needed today. They are needed both in today’s churches and for today’s Christian. As I take notes on the church and culture today, I see two predominant schools of thought.

One school teaches “immersion”. That is, we need to immerse ourselves in the culture. The thought is that if we want to reach this generation we need to be able to identify with them. And while I agree with this in part, this position tends to an extreme. From “Beer and Bible Study” groups, foul language from the pulpit and a few other things I shouldn’t say here. This seems to be a little too much identification. Yet, this is much of what you see in the emergent church movement today. One of the many problems with this philosophy is that there is a natural (and sometimes intentional) blurring of Christianity and culture – so much so that you can’t tell the difference between the two. When you have an unbeliever and a believer using the same foul language, I’m not sure how that helps to advance the gospel. I will address an aspect of this later.

The other school teaches “avoidance”. That is, we need to avoid the culture as much as possible. No movies, no TV, only Christian radio (if at all), only Christian books (but predominately just the Bible), etc. Anyone who does partake in any of those “non-Christian” activities is being worldly and sinful. However, the only real way to live this consistently is to move in to the desert, dig your own well, plant your own food and be totally self-sufficient. Then you have an issue because one of our commands as Christians is to make disciples and if you completely remove yourself from people and the culture, you can’t do that.

There are problems with both sides of this extreme. Even a cursory reading of John 17 will show that we are to be a part of the world while remaining a part from the world.

  • “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world” (John 17:11)
  • “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:15) 

The solution then is not “immersion” and not “avoidance” but rather a split right down the middle. As believers we are to be different from those who are of this world and thus should not be “immersed” in the culture to the point that there is no behavioral difference. But also as believers, we are to have an impact and influence in the culture so as to win people to Christ and thus should not take additional steps to “avoid” the culture.

When it comes to literature and the arts, there are far too many Christians taking the avoidance approach. Not from the standpoint of not going to movies or reading books but from the standpoint of not doing anything to influence these mediums. Of course, I’m not saying that all Christians should sit down to write a book or make a movie/TV show; what I am saying is that we can all look for ways to influence these areas. However, we do need more Christians to write books, make movies and such; so if you have any skills in these areas I would highly encourage you to find a way to get involved. If you have any writing ability, checkout www.christianwritingcontest.com/contest2010. This year’s contest is over but you can read the stories of the winners. If you have any interest in movies then check out www.christian-movie.com.

If we will engage the culture from a Christian worldview; if we will engage the culture for Christ, we will have an impact on the culture that will last an eternity.

Just a little something to think about.