Reclaiming Christian Culture
We live in a battle between two spirits: the spirit of the world and the Spirit of God. On Pentecost Day, the Holy Spirit poured into the hearts of men and women. It inspired a culture with God in the center. Today, society is influenced by a different spirit, one that seeks to twist and pervert. Our task, as Christians in the 21st century, is to reject the spirit of worldliness, and to reclaim Christian culture.
“When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:1-4).
Pentecost marks the birth of Christian culture. Edward Tyler was a famous anthropologist. He spent his life studying tribes and races, and came up with this definition of culture: “[It is] that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.” Culture involves all the little parts of our life: the ways we think, cook, celebrate, grieve, and even the music we listen to or the games we play. What did the Holy Spirit come to influence? All of it.
The Holy Spirit has been busy over the last two thousand years. It has inspired men and women in every generation. God’s life breathed life into the Church, giving us the Holy Scriptures, the Church Fathers, the sacraments and sacred calendar. It did not stop with religion. The Holy Spirit’s presence was so strong in the Church, that it overflowed into music, art, poetry, education, science, medicine and every aspect of life.
This was Jesus’ promise before ascending into heaven.
“I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. Even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:6).
What would the Holy Spirit do for the Christian people? “He will lead you into all truth” (John 16:13). The Father sent the Spirit to create a community, the Church, which would be to the world “the pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). The early Christians were determined to test and examine every aspect of human culture. They threw out the bad and refined the good. Christianity triggered an explosion of new culture, overflowing with truth, goodness, and beauty.
Americans do not know history. Hollywood and Public Schools have created a warped myth about the history of the Church. They paint a picture of one scandal after another, and ignore everything good and beautiful. There have been abuses in the Church, the way there are abuses in every human society. Yet, the contributions of Christianity to the world outnumber every other institution or race. In the words of historian David Bentley Hart, “Christianity has been the single most creative cultural, ethical, aesthetic, social, political, or spiritual force in the history of the West.” We have a profound heritage in the West. It is time that we tap back into it.
Why does this matter today? Modern culture is inspired by a different spirit.
It could be called the spirit of rebellion, “the man of lawlessness…the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship…proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
Whether or not we live in the time of the Anti-Christ, we certainly live in the time of many anti-Christs, and this manifests in every nook and cranny of culture.
Take education: Classical education is founded on the love of truth, goodness, and beauty. Modern education is founded in the disbelief of truth, goodness, and beauty, and the love of money and success. Is there any question about the different spirits behind these?
Consider the difference between Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans, or the blatantly anti-Christian paintings that sell for millions.
Our children do not watch much television, but my wife recently purchased a collection of “Mister Rogers”. You cannot find this kind of quality anymore. It is so calm. It moves at such a slow pace, so that most children today, fed on flashing images and buzzing noises, would go stir crazy. It is beautiful!
In their day, Simon and Garfunkel were controversial. Today, their music is more soothing and edifying than most contemporary worship music.
In Bob Dylan’s famous words: “The times they are a-changin.”
It is imperative that we recognize the spirit of the times and live a life rooted in the Holy Spirit.
What does Pentecost mean? It means the Holy Spirit rained down to fill human hearts and change lives. We do not need to live the way of the world. We can live the way of life, the way of Holy Church.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
Marie Kondo is a tidying up expert. She is the star of the minimalism movement. Have you heard of her? She became famous with her bestseller: “Magic of Tidying Up.” In addition to her charming smile and practical advice, her methods have a spiritual quality. First, you sit down in stillness and give thanks. Second, you take in your hand each item of your house, one at a time, and ask, “Does this spark life.” If it does, keep it. If it does not, throw it away.
This is precisely what we need to do in our culture. If we are not being deliberate, worldliness builds up in our life like the clutter in our attic. If we want the Holy Spirit, we need to evaluate each and every part of the world. Toss out the ugly and cherish the beautiful. This is the life that the Holy Spirit poured out on the Church when it fell as tongues of fire. This is the life available to us now, if we set our hearts on the Kingdom.