Piper And Culture

NewYear activities were enjoyable as (if not more domesticated than) usual. But I'm back from a brief hiatus, which justifies a somewhat lengthy post.

Recently several publications have reprinted an article by John Piper entitled "Taking the Swagger Out of Christian Cultural Influence." I find Piper's use of metaphors tortured and lame. But his main point is what bothers me the most. Here is my letter to various editors:

Piper's article does not present sound exegesis or a biblical conclusion. He correctly points out the fact that if something is American, that does not make it Christian, and that Christians must not be selfish or arrogant. However, the article concludes “We (Christians) don't own culture, and we don't rule it.”

This erroneous conclusion is the inevitable outcome of Piper's belief that “Christ died for sinners so that all things might one day belong to his people” (emphasis mine). Piper assumes that all things will belong to God's people only after the consummation. Certainly God's people before the consummation have but a foretaste of their full inheritance in Christ. However, since presently all things belong to Christ, all things belong to those who are in Him right now. This is the clear teaching of Scripture: “all things belong to you” (1 Cor 3:21-23). This is a present reality for everyone in Christ!

Piper's denial of this present reality leads him to advocate a view of Christian cultural influence that amounts to little more than attempts at moral persuasion. However, it is God Himself who commands us to rule, and who created us for that very purpose (Gen 1:28, 2:15). So we are not in the service of American culture (as Piper would have it), but in the service of Jesus Christ.

There is no "winning" or "losing" for Christians in their cultural task. As aliens and strangers in this age, we groan under the temporary subjection to corruption. And we have a heavenly citizenship for which we gladly suffer as we obey our Lord's call to cultivate and keep His creation in all its depth and diversity: from parenting to politics, from art to aerospace, from scholarship to surfing. We must not reduce Christian cultural influence to moral witness.

God has given us culture and the sacred task of ruling it. Culture does belong to us, and we exercise dominion in Jesus' name. Affirming this biblical teaching does not produce “swagger,” and denying it will certainly not encourage biblical piety.

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