Monday, August 09, 2010

Influence in Culture and Power of the Holy Spirit

I only have a quick post that serves more as a question because I find myself inadequate to provide any kind of response.

The Only Way?
Collin Hansen's post on The Gospel Coalition blog sparked some thoughts in my mind because in it he begins to wrestle with the tension faced in the countercultural reality of being a Christian and the all to serve the common good as a Christian. The article cites a sociologist by the name of Michael Lindsay. Below is the exact quote
Evangelicals cannot be part of the center of the institution if they are outside it. Outsiders never change institutions in significant ways; they only secure nominal assent from the power players within the organization. So if evangelicals want to fundamentally influence American higher education, they have to be players on the inside. They have to be scholars, administrators, presidents, and board members at the major institutions in the country. It is only when they are in those roles that they will actually be able to wield significant influence. (emphasis added)
Hansen's article explains how this fits in with counterculture and the common good. Yet Lindsay's perspective seems to flow with the popular notion these days that Christians must be heavily involved in the surrounding culture. He goes so far as to say it's the only way we can wield influence.

Yes, Lindsay is focusing specifically on American culture, but does history prove this? Have Christians been able to "wield significant influence" only by being on the inside the institutions? What does the story of Acts tell us? What about the first 300 years of Christianity? What about Christianity in China over the last 50 years? What makes America the only culture in the history of the world where the only way to wield this significant influence is by being on the inside? By no means am I advocating for the opposite and saying we should all retreat to the mountains. I am grateful for the "scholars, administrators, presidents, and board members at the major institutions in the country." But if this is not the way forward for some, will it mean the demise of Christianity in culture?

What's the Holy Spirit's Role in Culture?
As I finished the article this was one of the first questions that came to mind. I decided to run a quick search on The Gospel Coalition website to see how often the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the blog posts. In the most recent posts He is only mentioned twice, one as part of recommended resources for D.A. Carson's latest book, the other in the title of a book review. I kept going to previous posts and saw mention of a bible reference and another in reference to the Trinity. Yet for the many posts on culture, none of them consider the Spirit's power or work. When the Son goes to the Father, it is the Spirit, the Helper, who will be known by God's people and give them the power to do greater works than Jesus himself (John 14:12-17). So I am sincerely posing the question for the gospel-saturated, culture-conscious believer - "What's the Spirit's role?" In Culture Making Andy Crouch hints that
The same Spirit who brought the creation into existence has measurable, visible cultural effects, no matter how difficult it may be to tell exactly "where it comes from or where it is going."
How do we point out these "measurable, visible cultural effects" and credit the Spirit's power and work through believers in America instead of strictly their ability to be on the "inside?" Furthermore, does this give warrant at all to the idea that necessarily we do not need to be on the inside at all in order to wield influence, because in God's economy influence is not the result of position, but of His power? I just want to make sure that as we continue to talk about the gospel and culture and what it all means that we do not neglect the fact that God's Spirit is at work in the world now in real ways that may not be subject to our data, statistics, and countless studies. I do not think this takes away from our responsibility; on the contrary, knowing God's Spirit dwells in us, gives us power, and is it work should cause greater dependence not on our abilities or status, but on prayer and more prayer.

So I gave my thoughts anyway, but I am still left with the many questions. Am I wrong to go in this direction? Am I missing something? I want to leave it in the hands of those more capable than myself to continue the discussion and come up with some clear(er) answers.

By His Grace.

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