As we reflect on who we are as humans, and how that is warped by the Fall, let us think in these terms:

We are supposed to image God and create culture; we are not supposed to image the culture and create God.

The Fall makes us backwards people. Image-bearers are meant to glorify God in all we do ("...whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God..." - 1 Cor 10:31), we were given the mandate to shape the world as God's vice-regents (See Genesis 1:26-28) -- for Christians, "Culture is Not Optional."

But the hard question that must be answered in 21st Century America is this: Is the evangelical church imaging God and creating culture, or are we imaging the culture and shaping God into what we want him to be?

For just one example of this, contemplate what Tom Sine writes:

"How many of us unwittingly have allowed aspirations and values of the imperial global shopping mall define for us what is important and what is of value — what is the 'good life'? Many of us, in spite of our best intentions, allow the economic aspirations of the workplace or the up-scaling impulses of our middle-class lifestyles to take over our lives. As a consequence, we too often trivialize our faith to little more than a devotional add-on to our 'real lives.'" ("Making it Real: How to live as if another world were already here", Sojourners, January 2008)

So, instead of Christians engaged in the culture, seeing our work and our lifestyles as integral parts of our mandate to image God in this world, we allow the consumerism and the economic aspirations of our culture to define us. We listen more to the marketers than to our Lord.

And then, as the ultimate sacrilege, we remake God. He becomes a divine being who's main purpose is to meet our needs or to make us successful. The God of the American upper-middle class evangelical Christian is the God that gives a nice home in the suburbs and an SUV to drive, the God that is more concerned about our "family values" than about poverty or disease or injustice.

There are many, many other examples of how we are not imaging God and creating culture but imaging culture and creating a false God.

What do you see?

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Ivy said...

Great post. It dovetails with IMonk's post "The Church Flawed and Finished (4)" at http://www.internetmonk.com/

Michael Kruse said...

"We are supposed to image God and create culture; we are not supposed to image the culture and create God."

Well said!

BoseKnows said...

"we were given the mandate to shape the world as God's vice-regents (See Genesis 1:26-28)"

I still don't see how these verses infer a command to shape the world in accordance with God's will. Yes, there is a mandate, but it does not come with the caveat of deferrence to God.

In Genesis, God does not say, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it in a way that pleases me. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground with the same kind of care and stewardship that I would."

No, as I interpret it, God gave the earth and its contents as a gift to mankind to do with as we choose - just as he gave us our mortal lives - our bodies - to do with what we choose.

Now obviously we are called by God to treat our bodies in a way that is Holy (1 Cor 6:19). In a similar way, I believe God intends for us to treat the earth with the same kind of respect and gratitude as we do with our lives and our bodies. In other words, God wishes for mankind to choose, both individually and collectively, to treasure the earth and not to debaucherize it.

In the end though, just like our mortal bodies will all be destroyed, so will this mortal earth. Sadly, many people use this as an excuse for exploiting the earth, but they do so with that mentality of "eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Still, although it may be our duty to Christ as Christians to prepare the earth's people for the day of his coming, I do not see how it is our responsibility to prepare the earth itself for that day.

If act collectively as the chosen people and royal priesthood that we are, then the Holy Spirit will work through us, moving us to love God and others and consequently change their hearts to do the same. If we are called to create culture, then that culture is simply one of Christ's self-sacrificial love.

Therefore, I would say that, rather, we should image Christ and allow that culture of love to be evident among us.