Saturday, March 16, 2013

Meet Comment (magazine) Again for the First Time

Over at Comment this week you'll find my rather manifesto-like announcement of our editorial vision for the magazine.  I'm excited about a new focus, a new format, and new energy for the future.  Here's a snippet:

In the past, drawing on our heritage in the Reformational tradition of Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, and Herman Dooyewerd (so many Hermans!), Comment magazine has encouraged evangelicals to embrace a more expansive Gospel, a sense of vocation as wide as creation—what the Protestant Reformers would describe as "the sanctification of ordinary life." You might think of this aspect of our work as post-fundamentalist therapy—helping evangelicals to work through narrow notions of salvation as mere soul-rescue and instead embrace a holistic vision of God's renewal as encompassing "all things" (Colossians 1:15-20). We have celebrated a creation-wide vision of redemption rooted in a holistic theology of creation and culture. (I tried to encapsulate this a few years ago in my Commentessay on "Redemption.") In that sense, Comment magazine has been something of an evangelist for the unique wisdom and treasures of the Reformed (and especially Kuyperian) stream of catholic Christianity. We've been cheerleaders (some might say "pushers!") of our own teachers: Albert Wolters, Calvin Seerveld, Richard Mouw, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and others. 
As we look around today, we're grateful to see others who now share this vision. Chuck Colson's later work, How Now Shall We Live? was a kind of evangelical translation of Kuyper. Andy Crouch's important book, Culture Making, extended and deepened this invitation (and we can see the fruit of this in Christianity Today's "This Is Our City" project). In The Next Christians, Gabe Lyons invites a new generation to abandon the "truncated" gospel of mere soul-rescue and serve God as cultural "restorers." The Center for Faith & Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York equips entrepreneurs and artists to see their cultural labour as kingdom work. The choir has expanded, and we're grateful to count all of these as partners in the task. 
This also frees us up to do something different. We're not here just to celebrate and affirm that it's good for Christians to engage culture. We want to now ask the hard questions—to resource those who are on board with the project and are now looking for wisdom about how to actually do this. Yes, Christians should be engaged in cultural creation and stewardship; yes, God values and affirms our cultural labours; now what does that look like? And what does it look like to do that Christianly? We're all for common grace affirmations; but we're equally concerned about what Abraham Kuyper called "the antithesis." Think of Comment as the magazine where we not only encourage you to see your work as pursuing God's shalom; we also dig deep to consider just what shalom looks like in economics and education, for cities and civil society. 
It is good work that God calls us (in)to—work that is really an invitation for us to participate in Christ's renewal of all things. But the biblical affirmation of culture-making and cultural stewardship is not just a vague admonition to "engage culture." There are plans for creation and part of our task as "restorers" is to discern what it is that God desires for commerce and construction, colleges and food co-ops.Comment magazine is devoted to helping you read the blueprints.

Read more of "Meet Comment Again for the First Time."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Building and Stewarding "Common Grace Ministries"

I'm looking forward to speaking at the annual meeting of the Council of Reformed Charities in Canandaigua, NY on April 28-May 1.

The Council of Reformed Charities is an organization that deserves the attention of a rising generation of Christians who are newly excited about what my friend Rich Mouw calls "common grace ministries"--organizations and agencies that pursue shalom for every aspect of creation, rooted in the conviction that Christ has redeemed "all things."  CORC brings together organizations that are convinced, for example, that God is just as concerned about mental health as spiritual health; that Christ's resurrection gives new life to marriages as well as souls; and that the Lord of the heavenly City also desires the renewal of our inner cities.  As we would say at Cardus, these are organization that tend the "social architecture" of North American society, while also tending to the marginalized and vulnerable.

CORC has been around a long time, but you probably don't know about it because it has been a humble organization, rooted in the Reformed tradition that spawned now-internationally-recognized agencies like Bethany Christian Services, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, Inner City Christian Federation, and many more.  It's no accident that these sorts of organizations grew out of the soil of Reformed theology and institutions: we were "holistic" before holistic was cool.  As evangelicals discover the "wide-angle Gospel" of creation-wide redemption, they would do well to look to those who have been cultivating this vision for a century.

I have a burden to see the Council of Reformed Charities thrive.  In particular, I would love to see the rising generation of young Christians who are passionately committed to justice, renewal, and care for the vulnerable become part of CORC.  While they would bring new passion and energy to CORC, they would also find something there: wisdom, endurance, and what Eugene Peterson calls "a long obedience in the same direction."  If the new energy for pursuing shalom is going to endure, it needs to be rooted in healthy institutions and tended by networks of accountability and encouragement.  I think CORC provides a multi-generational space for just such growth.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Imagining the Kingdom: Some Video Introductions

The folks at Baker Academic have put together a short series of video interviews that introduce the Cultural Liturgies project in general and Imagining the Kingdom in particular.  Here's a sample:

There are links to the whole series at the end of each video.