From Bondage to the Desert – 1.7 Christ Against Culture? – 2

1.7.2 ‘Christ Against Culture’ – Value and Limitations

The ‘Christ against culture’ model is a legitimate biblical one that has been used by Christians at different times in history, particularly in moments of great distress or crisis for the Christian community.

Thus, in the fourth century, when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, many saintly believers became aware of the danger that the Church, which until that moment had seen herself as a community of pilgrims and strangers in this world, would start to learn the ways of the world and lose her prophetic role. This in fact did happen to a certain extent, in some places more than in others. That is why many of these holy men and women of God withdrew from society (the world) and isolated themselves, most frequently in the deserts of Egypt and Judea, in order to save their souls.

The same happened at the time of the Reformation, when many Anabaptist communities isolated themselves from society in reaction to what they considered to be the failure of the Reformers to carry the Reformation right through to the end of its logical implications. This approach continues to be maintained in various ways within the Mennonite and Amish communities in different parts of the world.

This model has a number of definite advantages:

  • it allows the community to preserve its Christian identity when under pressure;
  • it allows observers to appreciate the superior quality of life in a community which is living in a radical way in the light of God’s commandments;
  • it protects the members of the community from being moulded by the values of a godless society.

Yet we have to add that this isolationistic approach to culture has certain definite limitations:

  • it prevents the Christian community from being ‘salt and light’ in the midst of a society that desperately needs the message of the gospel;
  • it often promotes an antagonistic and aggressive attitude towards secular society;
  • it makes Christian leaders overly protective of the members of their churches, which does not nurture the formation of personal convictions and does not constitute a suitable basis for spiritual maturity.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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