Living With Style (Rules Six & Seven): Be Modest
Living With Style (Rule Eight): Don’t Be a Qualifier

A Better Posture: A Review of Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, by Andy Crouch


Although Andy Crouch's Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling goes on a bit too long, he provides a helpful way of looking at culture that goes beyond the paradigm of "culture wars" and provokes Christians to pursue a new and more positive roll in cultural formation. His question is what we as Christians are supposed to do in the world, and where do we begin. In three sections he looks at culture, gospel, and calling --- concluding that our role is both more modest and significant than we might think, that God transforms cultures while we humbly and communally put our gifts to work in glorifying God and serving others. The sense I had at the end of the book was more humility and awe than call to action.

There were a couple of chapters that were very helpful. In "Cultivation and Creation" he argues that the only way to change culture is to make more of it, asserting that our role is not simply to condemn, critique, copy, or consume culture, though we rightly and by necessity do all of these at one time or the other, but we are to create new cultural goods and cultivate the good that is here. The emphasis is not on tearing down but on building up what good is here. It's a helpful corrective to our tendency to spend all our time taking potshots at the bad while mimicking the culture with our own "safe" subculture (aka "contemporary Christian music"). In another related chapter, "Gestures and Postures," he posits the idea that while our response to culture should consist of appropriate gestures, sometimes condemning (as in misogynist rap music), sometimes critiquing (as with a movie that has both good and bad elements), sometimes copying (importing into church organization a helpful business principle, for example), and sometimes consuming (an inevitable part of living in the world), our default position, that is, our posture, should be one of cultivation and creation, making new things and preserving the good already here.

I found particularly unhelpful his entire Gospel section, which consists of a kind of whirlwind cultural survey of both the Old and New Testaments. My problem was not that it had any inaccuracy but, rather, that it did not seem to relate well to the rest of what he says in the book. I would rather have seen a better integration of Scripture and his sections of culture and calling, as what he had to say in those sections was certainly biblically based. In fact, I think Crouch could have made his case with expanded versions of the chapters I mention above --- making for a much shorter, cogent argument. Despite the fact that Tim Keller recommends this book (admittedly, a credible voice), I cannot recommend it for most laymen. I do commend its purpose and aim and suggest that the author continue to hammer away at this theme in more focused writing.