Fight the Culture or Make the Culture?

One can’t help but be overwhelmed by the plethora of arguments and special areas of focus when it comes to apologetics. As Chris pointed out in an earlier post, it helps to categorize the different schools of apologetics so that one may best understand what approach works best for them or their target audience. Every apologist will eventually find their niche and work from their strengths, but there is one particular area of apologetics that is often neglected which all apologists should know and work from because it pervades every aspect of their life: cultural apologetics.

Culture surrounds and pervades every aspect of our being. It is one of those things that we cannot escape if we are functioning humans. In fact, I’ll argue in the future that one of the primary reasons humanity was created by God was to create and participate in culture. Such a pervasive aspect of our being should demand attention from theologians, philosophers, and apologists. A skeptic may dismiss the importance of a rigorous theology or philosophy, but none should deny that culture shapes and influences.

However, for being so pervasive to our being cultural apologetics does not fit easily into any of the the traditional categories of apologetics – classical, evidential, and presuppositional – because it is not so much focused on particular arguments or evidences but on the state of the culture as it stands or could stand. Primarily it is concerned with examining culture and answering the questions that are implicit within the cultural goods that are being created. The cultural apologist rightly assumes that how we perceive the world is shaped by the culture in which we immerse ourselves and that culture is inescapable. Our worldview will be altered by what entertains, informs, or provokes.

Accordingly, cultural apologetics has a tendency to be focused on worldview analysis because the logical outcomes of beliefs are often expressed within culture. But this isn’t enough. Analysis, by itself, is ultimately destructive. It does not refine or reshape. Seeing what constitutes a particular belief in no way leads to positive cultural influence. The cultural apologist is thus tasked with something more: he must analyze and offer a positive cultural good as well.

Our exploration of cultural apologetics will thus take a rather long route to the end. We’ll first explore the formation of Western culture throughout antiquity and the middle ages and its slow decline over the last 500 years. We will then move into a proper theology and philosophy of culture and an extended defense of the true, the good, and the beautiful as the standards for cultural creation. Finally, we’ll examine a series of proposals for how we can fundamentally alter the culture and create positive cultural goods.

The goal of all of this is not to offer anything new or novel. In fact, I intend to do the exact opposite by attempting to ground everything that we examine in light of the historic beliefs and traditions of the church. The cultural apologist is not attempting to reform in the culture in the sense of progressing into “better” things but, as G.K. Chesterton noted, returning the culture to the original form that was intended for it at creation. Ultimately, we are not at war with the culture. We exist within the culture and contribute to it daily. Rather, we are seeking to win the culture by creating the culture.

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