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Talk and tools for engaging culture

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Mutual Treasure: Seeking Better Ways for Christians and Culture to Converse
Harold Heie & Michael A. King, eds.

Cascadia, 2009
205 pages


How can Christians most helpfully and Christianly engage the cultural contexts in which they live? This question has been a lively one for as long as Christians have been around to ask it.

Answers have ranged from unqualified rejection of culture to attempts take over culture and “Christianize” it. Neither represents an appropriate response, according to the essays that comprise Mutual Treasure, edited by Harold Heie and Michael King.

The book’s contributions recommend an approach to cultural engagement that is redemptive, dialogic, epistemologically humble, and animated by genuine love for our non-Christian neighbours. All stress the importance of taking the time to get to know those with whom we disagree, attempting to understand what factors might have shaped their coming to hold the views they do, and being open to learn from them even if we retain important differences of perspective.

Diverse authors, varied questions

Diverse authors – filmmakers, environmental advocates, doctors, politicians, scholars, educators, pastors, and others – find themselves in dialogue with different elements of culture. “How does my film open the door to asking questions of truth?” “How can what I believe about the gospel provide insight into resolving this land dispute?” “How can I provide forums to engage my secular colleagues in the academy?” “How does what I believe about Jesus inform my conversations with and advocacy for victims of violent crime in the justice system?” The contributors’ contexts and the questions they provoke are many and varied.

All, however, share the conviction that bearing witness to the “offense” of the gospel in a non-Christian culture does not give us permission to be offensive people. We must avoid the dead-end of relativism. But we must also retain our belief in the truth of the gospel without being disagreeable conversation partners. None of us have pure and undiluted access to the truth. All of us “see through a glass darkly.” All can discover “treasures,” however large or small, by taking the time to understand the perspectives of others.

For those looking for concrete examples of how best to think and act Christianly in a mostly non- or post-Christian environment, Mutual Treasure is an excellent place to begin. While the essays mostly set aside the question of what to do when confrontation of culture seems to be the only appropriate response, Heie and King are to be commended for assembling these highly readable, practical, and hopeful contributions. Disagreements may arise over a specific point or essay, however each contributor not only describes but models the ideal of “redemptive engagement.”

Ryan Dueck is associate pastor at Neighbourhood Church, Nanaimo, B.C.

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