Culture Making by Andy Crouch

Culture Making was a book I wanted to read but was afraid to read.  I suppose I've been a little worn down in recent years by evangelicals' obsession with all things culture.  Andy Crouch stands well above the fray, though.

What was perhaps most surprising about Culture Making to me was the scope of Crouch's vision.  Crouch takes on the whole thing in his book: what is culture? What would it mean for Christians to influence culture? What does the Bible have to say about culture? How we can make culture that will have a lasting and gospel-centered impact?

Each of these Crouch handles masterfully.  Crouch's definition of culture -- the broadest possible definition ("culture is what we make of the world")-- sets up his thesis: God has called Christians to create meaningful culture.  And with this in hand he sets about the task of reflecting on the redemptive history.  Crouch isn't pretending to rewrite the redemptive story here, but his telling of it is compelling and inspiring.

Finally, Crouch gets to the nuts and bolts of his operation: what are the obstacles in culture making and how should one go about the enterprise.  His reflections are God-centered and practical throughout.

Perhaps what delighted me most about the book was Crouch's ability to explain and then pass by what has subconsciously rankled me about evangelical 'culture talk' for years: talking about and analyzing culture does not equate to making culture.  In fact, Crouch holds off on Reinhold Niebuhr's worn out "Christ and Culture" typologies until nearly two-thirds of the book has passed. (Niebuhr released his massively influential Christ and Culture in 1951 where he defined five types of engagement with culture: Christ against culture (rejection), Christ of culture (assimilation), Christ above culture (synthesis), Christ and culture in paradox (dualism), and finally, Christ the transformer of culture (conversion). No one, of course, wants to be anything other than “Christ the transformer of culture” and hence every stripe of cultural engagement is self-branded as a transformational engagement.) Everybody wants to transform the culture... Crouch actually begins talking about how and why we might do that.

There's nothing negative to say about Culture Making.  In addition to being very helpful, it's readable and littered with wonderful turns of phrases and word pictures.  The only minor critique I might have is really no critique at all... but rather a caution... Crouch is a very certain type of evangelical: a Northeasterner with a background that ranges from the evangelical into the mainline.  For many, I'm sure, there will be times where his own cultural language or theology is at a disconnect with their own.  Be assured, though, that Crouch is a good guide who will serve you well, even if you don't agree with every point along the way.