Thursday, June 21, 2007

Packer on Engaging and Learning from Culture

From a 1979 essay, "The Gospel--Its Content and Communication: A Theological Perspective":
If it is true (as I for one believe) that every culture and sub-culture without exception in this fallen world, whether primitive or tribal or Hindu or Christian, or a form of constantly shifting 'pop' youth culture which affluent nations develop these days, is a product not just of human sin but also of God's common grace (which means, biblically speaking, of the work of the life- and light-giving Word of John's prologue), then respect for other cultures as such, and a desire to see them not abolished but reanimated by Gospel grace in their own terms, must undergird all particular criticisms of ways in which, missing the good life, they embrace the not-so-good life instead. This practice of respect will set us all free for critical dialogue with all forms of human culture Christian and non-Christian alike, while safe-guarding us against both the appearance and the reality of cultural imperialism while we engage it.

. . . The koinonia which is the church's proper life is two-way traffic, taking as well as giving, and it requires us both to share what resources of Christian insight we have and to take gratefully any further insights that others offer us. Only so can we avoid canonizing the clumsiness, blind spots and poverties of our own tradition, and thereby actually misrepresenting the content of the Gospel which we seek to make known.
Republished in Serving the People of God: Collected Shorter Writings of J. I. Packer, vol. 2, pp. 221, 222.