By Caleb Bobrycki
It is always very interesting to survey history and notice the ways in which Christians have interacted with the world. If I had to sum up the way in which most Protestant ministries relate to the culture we live in, it would be (not to put it too simply) “All of Christ for all of life”. In my very bluntly, yet intentionally, worded phrase here, I mean that this approach acknowledges the fallenness of the world and attempts, healthily, to expose the darkness and show the truth and light.
I am so glad to see the multitude of media-ministries teaching Christians how to engage effectively with a dysfunctional world-system. A good example of this would be the more than exceptional The Briefing, hosted by Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. On the show, Dr. Mohler interacts with daily, current events occurring on a national and international level, through a Christian worldview. What is so helpful about Dr. Mohler’s ministry is that he gives Christians an opportunity to engage a broken world’s political system with a redeemed framework in a productive way. Utilizing his ministry has helped countless Christians identify the flaws in our nation’s philosophies, and offers the church Biblical tools to piece the world back together in a lasting way. The church could honestly use many more Mohler’s, and it seems to me that Christ is raising them up. And yet, I contend, this is not enough.
Do We Bring Christ, or is He Already There?
Here is my suggestion: there is another side to the coin of redeeming culture. Certainly, one side is exposing Christ where he is not; but the other side is exposing where Christ is. Here is where the list of ministries dwindles. We have a plethora of ministries offering a Christian perspective that will expose a fallen universe, but little-to-none showing where good theology has been hidden in creation. Let’s call this side of the coin un-suppressing the truth. Romans 1:18 says that unbelievers are suppressing the truth, and my suggestion is that those in Christ play the part of scraping away the filth of that dishonor and redeeming it. Before this suppression of truth, the invisible attributes of God were clearly seen (Romans 1:20), and believers should be aiming at making them clear again. And if Christ is the full revelation of God, will not all creation stream back to the excellent fullness of Christ?
Edwards and the Harmony of All Knowledge
Consider, briefly, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), Congregationalist Protestant Theologian and Pastor, who believed that the universe was God’s language. Historian George Marsden helpfully pens, “Typology, a long staple of Christian thought, was central to Edwards’ conception of the universe.” In other words, the created order we see today is made up of ideas that stream back to true knowledge of God.
“God had created lower things to be signs that pointed to higher spiritual realities. The universe, then, was a complex language of God. Nothing in it was accidental. Everything pointed to higher meaning. Scripture, which itself was filled with types, was the key to reading the true meaning of everything else. The types in Scripture (for example, Joshua leading the people of Israel into the promised land) all pointed either to the need for redemption or to some aspect of God’s character and the redemptive love in Christ.” (Marsden, 4:77)
And, though Edwards dealt more specifically with Science and Metaphysics than we are likely to in Conservative circles, an entry by Edwards, titled “Things to be Considered and Written About”, smells quite Christocentric, and exposes our lack of engaging the world around us as redeemed persons:
“This list… eventually grew to nearly one hundred short expositions of puzzling natural phenomena or their philosophical implications. Many are thoroughly practical. Why is air necessary to preserve fire? Why are all mountains pitched westward? Why are no two trees exactly alike? What makes a bubble break? Why is the heat of the sun’s rays greater near the surface of earth than higher up? Why do waves form as they do? Why does lightning not travel in a straight line, and why do repeated flashes follow the same pattern?" (Marsden 4: 67).
Edwards was always asking “Why” everywhere he looked in creation, and with such creative and philosophical vigor, because he saw that all light in this world is borrowed light if Christ is the true light (John 1:4-5). Therefore all knowledge leads to him because he is the fullness of knowledge. So, to state the question again: “Do we bring Christ with us into the world, or is he already there?” The answer is “Yes.” He is there, and he is not. Christ is the True Light, and the remedy for where that borrowed light is suppressed is both exposing the darkness and the light that is already there. Some of this has yet to be more fully discovered and explained, but it remains: when we awake and walk on stage of the drama of life, our job is to un-suppress the truth, and to uncover that Christocentric theology that has been clogged with sin since the fall.
Marsden, George. Jonathan Edwards: A Life. Yale University Press, 2003.