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Christ and Culture

Benjamin Mann, a postulant monk of Rome’s Eastern Rite, offers here some wise and much needed words of rebuke to anyone who would make the Gospel simply a tool of civic reform. As he says, it is not Christians who are counter-cultural, it is rather Christ Himself who stands over and above all human affairs, the sole judge and sole pure ideal.  He also makes some very clear-minded distinctions about the ways in which the church is and isn’t “counter-cultural.” His words apply as much to Protestants as to the Papalists he is primarily addressing. This passage, for instance, is outstanding:

A lot is at stake here. If we present the Faith primarily as a rebellion against a decadent “modern world,” we risk losing touch with a deeper Christian radicalism that does not sit easily with any past or present status quo.

Consequently, we may think and act as though Christianity is only a rebuke to the present state of disorder. Then we can fall into the trap of idealizing the past, and imagining that the Church’s main task is to restore a previous state of affairs.

But our faith is more radical than that. The Gospel is perennially countercultural – not just in modernity, but in all times and places. Even historic “Christendom,” for all its great achievements, transgressed against the Gospel of Jesus Christ in many ways.

No society follows Christ’s example perfectly; all our works are under his judgment as well as his mercy. This means that no one gets a “pass”: Jesus challenges every culture, even historic Christian culture.

This is the deeper “counterculturalism” of our Faith. Its most subversive aspects are not the clear dictates of the Natural Law, but the paradoxes and shocks of the Gospel…

Mann strikes an evangelical note when he says that one of the great paradoxes of the Gospel is that the keys of the kingdom are offered to spiritually bankrupt sinners, and his thoughts accord with Dr Luther’s call to let God be God, and let the Gospel be the Gospel.

By Peter Escalante

Peter Escalante is a founder and editor of The Calvinist International. He holds a MA in Philosophy.