Simply put, the basic argument of this book is that the Bible teaches that cultural engagement before the living God is, along with worship, the fundamental calling for the human race. I will defend this view from various angles.
“This book has been years in the making…” well it’s about time Bill! I’ve been waiting for this book since I first learned that Dr. Edgar was a disciple of both Francis Schaeffer and Cornelius Van Til. For those interested, he wrote an article comparing the two giants of the faith that is definitely worth the read, Two Christian Warriors: Cornelius Van Til and Francis A. Schaeffer Compared. Though he ultimately sides with the apologetical method of Van Til over against Schaeffer, he is still infused with a passion for art, music, and poetry as well as a rigorous understanding of the history of philosophy.
I’m so pleased with Created & Creating: A Biblical Theology of Culture! So many Christian thinkers point to William Edgar as “the culture guy” and this book definitely justifies that title. Dr. Edgar is a Christian apologist who’s concern is not mainly with the esoteric or merely conceptual, rather, like Schaeffer, he’s a Reformed Renaissance man, a student of culture.
This book is timely in that it stands in opposition to the two-kingdoms theology that would promote the sacred/secular divide. With the quickly rising fame of the Benedict Option being proposed today by men like Rod Dreher, culture is at the forefront. Dr. Edgar is a good Kuyperian, and as such he affirms that there is not one square inch of this universe over which Christ doesn’t cry “MINE, and I rule it!”.
Created & Creating‘s introduction serves as a historiography of what has come to be known as “culture”. Edgar even lays out the etymology of our notion of culture by tracing the progression of three word clusters: The Old English “Coulter”, the term “Colonus”, and the derivative term “Cultus”. Yeah, this dude knows his stuff, and this is all just from the introduction.
Here’s Dr. Edgar in his own words,
Culture characterizes our calling here on earth. It distinguishes our common humanity, but also our differences. Culture can be positive, leading to human flourishing, or negative, bringing corruption and abuse. Components of culture are numerous and varied, making generalizations difficult. And although value judgments should be made cautiously, they are surely appropriate.
Chapter one is on “Cultural Analysis”. He goes through lots of cultural trends, from Arnoldianism to Marxism and even into postmodernity. Don’t worry if you’re uninitiated with those “isms”, Dr. Edgar is a seminary professor, he will teach you what’s up, and he’ll do it in a very interesting way! He does a great job of mapping out the ideas of the past as well as providing his own profound insights, for instance,
… the growth of cultural studies parallels the rise of secularization. Whether we understand secularity as the decline of religious practice, or as a shift in mentalities from believing in God to accepting the plurality of philosophical options, cultural studies arose within the vacuum created by the loss of a sense of the presence of God in the west.
Chapter two is one of my favorites, Edgar moves from analyzing secular philosophies and cultural theories to quoting Christian heroes like T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, Abraham Kuyper, and Francis Schaeffer.
In Chapter three, Edgar deals with what he calls “contra mundum texts”. Those familiar with Church History will recognize that phrase from the full phrase “Athanasius Contra Mundum” or “Athanasius Against the World”. Dr. Edgar deals with the Bible passages that seem to support the idea that Christians should not be culture affirming, but rather, should separate from the world completely. He does a great job of presenting the texts as if he agrees with them to make the reader wrestle with the texts on their own. Then in chapter four he gives us a hand by walking us through the trouble passages step by step so we can come to the conclusions he’s reached.
Chapters eleven and twelve are about culture in the New Covenant and Culture in the Afterlife. There are lots of speculations about what the afterlife will be like; Dr. Edgar addresses the assumptions but refuses to go beyond the clear teaching of Scripture, he’s not afraid to let the Bible hide what God has purposed not to share yet. As the climax of his argument, Edgar doesn’t disappoint! He takes the painstaking effort to show the reader that his argument is utterly biblical.
My only reservations with Dr. Edgar’s work is that his conclusions on pg. 136 sound like he’s leaving open the possibility of annihilationism. I could be wrong so if you read it let me know.
This book is not concerned, primarily, with current cultural topics. Dr. Edgar, like a good Vantillian, seeks to lay the foundation for cultural analysis from a biblical worldview. This means that the reader will be equipped to take what they’ve learned and step out on a biblical foundation to address the current cultural topics for the glory of God.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Created & Creating: A Biblical Theology of Culture and I commend it to every Christian seeking to honor God with their hearts and minds in this world.
Buy your copy Here to support my book reviews.