Culture, Missions and Reformation

Your view of culture and missions is, I think, closely tied to your view of the Reformation’s proper goal. Going with the magisterial (i.e. Protestant) Reformation, you will aim to reform and build the existing culture; going with the radical Reformation, you will aim to supplant the existing culture, which is the same process as supplanting the existing church. Let the Anabaptists create their perfect societies, while the rest of us find and purify the natural truth already embedded – one may say embodied – in the traditions of every society. As we follow this way, we will learn to approach contact cultures with respect.

Fortunately, even classical Anabaptists are not modernists seeking to replace language with the inarticulate grunts of a race unable to serve anything but matter. The Psalmist speaks of these idols:

They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.

Nevertheless, the anti-tradition push of those strongly influenced by Anabaptist values but not themselves Anabaptists – this is a great number, including most self-identified evangelicals – leads quite often to a total inability to take any constructive stance on culture, producing instead a subculture that thinks itself the form of Christian faith. Practically, the thrust of this process is the same as that of modernism, destroying centuries of culture because any but the kitschy, superficial trappings of each culture are simply to be replaced by something that looks more Christian.

But then, have Protestant missions actually respected indigenous human cultures and brought them under the word of God, any more than have Romanist and Anabaptist missions?


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