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Van Til’s “The Calvinistic Concept of Culture”

by randy on January 19th, 2010

It is certainly folly for God’s people to think that they can live in two separate worlds, one for their religious life and devotional exercises, and the other usurping all other time, energy, money — an area in which the priests of Secularism are calling the numbers. One can not keep on evangelizing the world without interfering with the world’s culture. It devolves upon God’s people, therefore, to contend for such a “condition of society which will give the maximum of opportunity for us to lead wholly Christian lives [italics added] and the maximum of opportunity for others to become Christians”.  To divide life into areas of sacred and secular, letting our devotions take care of the former while becoming secular reformers during the week, is to fail to understand the true end of man.


To conclude, religion and culture are inseparable.  Every culture is animated by religion.  A religion that is restricted to the prayer-cell is, in light of the above definition, a monstrosity and historically has proved unfruitful.  True religion covers the whole range of man’s existence. The basic covenantal relationship in which man stands to God comes to expression both in his cultus and his culture. Hence culture is never something adventitious, the color added as in the case of oranges and oleomargarine, to satisfy the eye. Kroner’s suggestion that the story of the fall belongs in a category with that of Prometheus, who stole the divine fire and thus began man’s cultural achievements, for which he was punished, is wrong.  This would make man’s cultural striving a doubtful addition to the divine intention.  This is surely an egregious misinterpretation of the biblical narrative, which presents man as both creature and of co-worker with God to fulfill his creative will from the beginning. The first sin of man consisted of an act of disloyalty in accepting Satan’s interpretation concerning the cosmos and man’s place in it, instead of living by the word of God’s revelation. Kroner is right in holding that man never regains paradise by his own efforts, but he is most certainly wrong in holding that culture as such is to be blamed for man’s tragic fiasco.  In the final analysis Kroner cannot reach an integration of culture and faith because he sees the antithesis between God and Satan as a tension immanent in “creation” from the outset.  This is not only theologically reprehensible, since reconciliation is changed from an ethical transaction centering in the vicarious atonement of Christ on Calvary to an ontological (that which pertains to being) one, thereby shifting the central message of the Gospel to the “incarnation.” but on this basis, no Christian culture is possible, since then all of man’s works are under the judgment of God on the basis of their creatureliness. However in Christ man is restored to God as cultural creature to serve his Maker in the world and as ruler over the world for God’s sake.

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  1. Culture changes as does society. I have lived in different cultures and seen society change over the years do they effect my christian walk? – Yes. Do they change my walk with God? – No.
    Remember, we are not of this world, we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies. The world does not know Him, nor does it know us. As I read the Word and as it accomplishes that for which it is purposed the culture of this world fades as the reality of God’s becomes more real. I trust you are more comfortable with the heavenly society than that of the world?

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