Christian Faithful Presence in the Culture

For the past month, I’ve been exploring a proper Christian engagement with popular cultural art. If Art is to be “Missional,” then artists must take seriously that the kingdom their work can act like yeast that is mixed into the culture (Matthew 13:33). In my last post, I quoted Al Wolters saying that the gospel is a leavening influence in human life wherever it is lived, which “makes possible renewal of each creational area from within, not without.”

James Davison Hunter, in his influential book, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, calls this “Faithful Presence.”

Christians are called to be “fully present and committed in their spheres of social influence, whatever they may be: their families, neighborhoods, voluntary activities, and places of work…to create conditions in the structures of social life we inhabit that are conducive to the flourishing of all.” (p. 247)

This “flourishing” is the Shalom that I spoke of earlier, the way things are meant to be – “the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight” (as Plantinga says in his book).

Hunter says,
“Faithful presence in our spheres of influence does not imply passive conformity to the established structures. Rather, within the dialectic between affirmation and antithesis, faithful presence means a constructive resistance that seeks new patterns of social organizations that challenge, undermine, and otherwise diminish oppression, injustice, enmity, and corruption and, in turn, encourage harmony, faithfulness and abundance, wholeness, beauty, joy, security, and well-being.” (pp. 247-8.)
What Hunter is advocating is for Christians, through their vocations, to act in subversive ways in order to bring God’s kingdom to bear upon the fallen world, “for he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-13).

NEXT: “Faithful Presence” as Subversive Art  within the Empire of Oppression

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