Sunday, October 4, 2009

talk of "the Christian West"

My friend and quasi-professor "KM" (I will link to him when he starts his blog!) sent me this quote from D.A. Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited, p. 195-6, emphasis added:
From a Christian point of view, it is unhelpful to speak of "the Christian West" or of "our Christian nation" or the like. In America, this is not only because of the legal force of the First Amendment (however that is interpreted) but also because nowadays the numeric shift in numbers of Christians, from West to East and from North to South, is so dramatic that such expressions sound increasingly parochial and out of date. Still more important, talk of "the Christian West" actually stifles the advance of the gospel in parts of the world where countervailing religions and ideologies want people to believe in the stereotype of the Christian West so that Christian claims can be dismissed as merely western. Above all, Christians who wish to be faithful to the Bible will remind themselves of their heavenly citizenship. Not to understand this is to identify too closely with the kingdoms and orders of this world, with disastrous results both materially and spiritually. As Peter Swift has put it, "If a Muslim becomes a Christian, the civilizational cost is self-evident; he becomes estranged from his roots, and those he leaves behind are dismayed at the civilizational defection their loved one has undergone. The cost of becoming a disciple of Jesus is to leave behind the civilizations of this world and find one's identity within the Kingdom of God. What a tragedy if that cost is cheapened by being perceived as a move westward rather than heavenward!" Of course, the complementary truth is that we do live here and now in some particular country [and culture], and as Paul can declare himself to be a Roman, so I may declare myself to be Ugandan, or Canadian, or Australian, or French, or Japanese. Certainly there ought to be no confusion for Christians as to where their primary identity lies, even while they remember that the Christian Scriptures themselves enjoin us to submit to the authority of the state except where doing so involves believers in disobedience to the God in whom all authority is finally grounded.
One of the reasons why we should be very careful using the word, "Christian."  We want to be identified with King Jesus, not the "Christian West."

1 comment:

Timothy said...

The vast majority of the world does not define the term "Christian" as the typical evangelical does. Because of this it is, unfortunately, often an exercise in futility to attempt to detach the word "Christian" from "West." While someone might say, "Oh, yeah, I get it...." the other definition still comes to mind every time they hear the word. Same goes for us. No matter how many time you tell me that exotic dancers could be African tribal dancers, that is not the first thought that comes into my head when hearing the word!

Good missiology asks what words within the local context are best suited to what we mean and then we use those words. Of course, this does not preclude defining our terms - explaining is always necessary with new concepts.