09 (September 2017)

Gospel Culture

Gospel Culture
David Cooke
David Cooke David is the pastor at Banbury Evangelical Free Church
31 August, 2017 2 min read

In western society we live in a time of unprecedented cultural change. It is a time when Christian morality is increasingly condemned as well as rejected. Christians often find it difficult to make voices heard in the public square. Any book which, like this one, causes readers to think deeply about how we should engage with our modern culture is surely useful.

In the opening chapter, Dr Boot argues that ‘all culture is the expression of a people’s worship’ (p.4). He asserts that ‘the dreary condition of our culture today is in large measure due to the apostasy of the church and Christian family from their respective callings … We have progressively retreated into a pietistic bubble’. By contrast, he suggests, ‘It is clear that implicit in the Christian gospel is a particular vision of culture —indeed, the gospel is a culture,because it is centred on the worship of the living God’ (p.6).

In the second chapter, Boot helpfully analyses the corruption of modern western culture — a sorry tale! He concludes: ‘We must continue to serve the cause of Christ to the best of our ability, praying for those in authority, seeking the good of our fellow men, prophetically witnessing against idolatry in its varied forms, and pursuing righteousness, truth, beauty and justice in every sphere of life’ (p.22). Who could disagree with that?

However, the following two chapters are more controversial. In chapter 3, Boot seeks to expose the Satanic forces behind modern culture, arguing that this is ‘the basic religious motive that lies at the root of the newly dominant Western culture’ (p.24). He makes some interesting points, but surely overstates his case when he argues, ‘The goal of modern civil government … is increasingly about the creation of a cosmic man who is divine’ (p.40).

Chapter 4 (by far the longest chapter) is even more controversial, as he attacks the ‘two kingdoms’ (2k) doctrine popular among certain American Reformed writers. At root, this teaches the independence of the church from state control. As such, it is well within the mainstream of Reformed thinking.

At points, Boot seems to be attacking a straw man, arguing, for example, that ‘the central motive of the theological argument for 2k theology seems to be releasing the common or civil kingdom from any obligation to obedience to God’s special revelation’ (p.60). I am not sure that this is a fair representation.

Moreover, it becomes clear that Boot is, if not a reconstructionist himself, somewhat sympathetic to reconstructionist arguments. This view espouses a theocratic government imposing Christianity on an unwilling population.

In fairness, the author never pushes his argument quite that far. Rather, his position is, ‘The good news is that God in Jesus Christ has dealt, and is dealing decisively, with the problem of sin and gradually installing his righteousness in the earth. The gospel is that everything is wrong in this world; God is setting right’ (p.96).

In summary, this is a thought-provoking book. Its central thesis that Christians should engage with the culture in which they live is compelling. Some of its arguments supporting that thesis are less so.

David Cooke

Banbury

David Cooke
David is the pastor at Banbury Evangelical Free Church
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