Christianity and Culture

Christianity and Culture

Christianity and Culture

Christianity and Culture

Excerpt

The great temptation for Christians, when they speak of "Christian culture," is to let their criticism of "secular culture" become a condemnation. One cannot, of course, analyze Christian culture without critically comparing it with secular culture. The temptation to condemn the latter is natural and understandable. Sometimes the spokesmen for the secular act as if their culture were a terminal good. Sometimes they act as if their culture owed no debt to Christian sources and Christian inspirations. And sometimes, in the competition for adherents, secular culture seems to be winning the day.

But condemnation of secular culture is, for the Christian, impermissible -- on intellectual, historical, psychological and, above all, theological grounds. Grace does build on nature, and while Christian culture is, in one sense, an aggregate, a cumulative development of many energies and impulses (some of them far removed from the direct influence of grace), what makes the resulting culture "Christian" is that these energies and impulses have been and are lodged in grace-filled Christians. We can speak, then, I believe, of Christian culture as being "grace-charged." And, just as grace cannot, in Christianity that is specifically and by definition incarnational, and in a context which is by nature secular, dispense with the natural and the secular, so a grace-charged Christian culture cannot, if it is to be genuine and real, exist apart from an organic relationship with the natural and the secular.

The first value of the present collection of essays and addresses on Christian culture is precisely this negative thing: none of the contributors, so far as I can see, is guilty of what one of them, John Cogley, criticizes -- a kind of "pseudo withdrawal" from the world and a sniping at the world from some sectarian fox-hole."

If one of the marks of a mature Christian is that he is able to discern and assimilate what is good and true in the secular culture -- as Aquinas, in his day, was able to discern and assimilate what was true . . .

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