My Leaven Anxiety

In his fabulous post below on the culture and gospel debate, Greg suggests that I have an anxiety that the Gospel will remain too much as the Pearl of Great Price and not enough as the Leaven of Culture. In response, I would say “Yes, I do.” Yet, my anxiety comes from the very issue that Greg is addressing–a lack of balance. As Greg argues,

The artificial separation of the cultural mandate from the great commission, erected out of fear that the gospel will not be allowed to be leaven, makes it difficult for the gospel to be a pearl of great price.

I couldn’t agree more. There CANNOT be a separation between the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission. The thought behind my initial post was that our attempts at fulfilling the Cultural Mandate are not being balanced by the Great Commission but superseded by it. To use Greg’s words (from Ballor from Bavinck), our allowing the  Gospel to be leaven is not being balanced with allowing it to be the pearl of great price. It appears that the assumption of many is that we cannot fulfill the Cultural Mandate until culture is converted, meaning that I must fulfill the Great Commission first and make disciples of people before I can work to fulfill the Cultural Mandate and transform culture. Or, the assumption is that the Great Commission is more valuable than the Cultural Mandate [being a missionary is more valuable than championing good highways]. These are both false dichotomies. I am called to fulfill both the Mandate and the Commission simultaneously, not one first and then the other.

Greg states of my post:

However, I think he errs when he separates the cultural mandate from the great commission as though they were not connected.

I understand how my earlier post may have given that impression, but that was not my intention. I do not want to separate the two. I agree with Greg that someone who is being made a disciple of Jesus Christ will be more culturally transformed, so that our task of the Cultural Mandate is certainly more accomplished when that particular part of cultural is also discipled through the Great Commission. Perhaps saying that a musician would not play “better” was not the best word choice. My point was simply that becoming a Christian does not suddenly make a baseball player have a higher batting average or run faster, but they will be “better” in terms of their glorifying God and understanding their calling as an athlete. This being “better” may make them more of a team player, affecting the team more even if they as an individual cannot suddenly run a 4 second 40 meter sprint. And yet, at the same time my engagement with transforming culture does not require that they are discipled but that I am a disciple. Certainly my hope and prayer is their conversion, certainly they will be “better” at culture if they are disciples of Jesus Christ, but I am called to fulfill the Cultural Mandate to the Glory of God while I fulfill the Great Commission to the Glory of God, not before or after.

Again, these thoughts all came about while considering the issue of homosexuality. As theological arguments have recently fallen flat in a secular culture that does not believe in a Theos, many have argued that we must work to convert homosexuals to Christ first before we can talk about the cultural issue of sex. An extreme segment has suggested that since we cannot convert homosexuals to Christ first we should give up and never talk to them about cultural issues of sex. My goal in posting Culturally Common Grace was to argue that I can and should be engaging the marriage debate from a Cultural Mandate perspective AND a Great Commission perspective, because as I argued, both flow together from the Gospel.

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