William Edgar – Created and Creating, A Biblical Theology of Culture

From Volume 1, Issue 4, 2017

EOF: We are here talking about your book, Created and Creating: A Biblical Theology of Culture. There are so many different definitions of culture. Could you give us a working definition of culture rather than people assuming it is talking only about art and music?

Edgar: The bigger definition of culture would be a repertoire of socially transmitted ideas about how to live and make judgements. A more narrow definition would be from the Bible. My book is an argument that says that the creation mandate, which is sometimes called a cultural mandate, has three parts. It is a covenant blessing of God on the human race, it is the command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and it is rule over the creation. This three-part cultural mandate is reiterated throughout the The Great Commission. You can look at it from the more anthropological point of view, which I gave, or you could look at it from the more narrowly biblical view which involves these three aspects. In either case, the argument is that God has called us to engage in culture and to do so as a primary human calling that takes us from now to eternity.

I have to say that as I started reading the book, initially you are merely laying down some of the premises from various and sundry writers, primarily secular. I was getting a little nervous that it was going to be one of those instances where the Bible bends to the culture. I was pleased that as I started getting through the book this is a spot-on book and a great read. Thank you for writing it. With that being said, could you give the overall premise of the book, namely, created and creating?

The overall premise is that God made us as his image bearers and one of the primary purposes of humanity is to engage in what I am calling culture in the largest sense, which as I mentioned includes a primary relationship to God, a secondary relationship to the relationship to the rest of the world by populating it, and a third relationship which is probably in one way the most important, which is to subdue the earth. That includes not just farming and agricultural endeavors, which is does, but it also includes all of the other endeavors that we have in the arts, politics and other institutions, education, and so on. My argument is that this is a primary calling for the human race and that it has its ultimate fulfillment in The Great Commission.

Do you feel that we should strictly look to the Bible for our cultural influences or that each person’s culture is an important element in the relationship with God?

What I believe is that the Bible commands us to be cultural beings, which has a two-edged aspect. One is to challenge the surrounding cultural norms because we are in a fallen world, which has views of what culture is that are really not God-centered. The second is to bring forth something that transforms the world and brings the kingdom of God forward and enables human flourishing in order to help the human race accomplish its purposes. So it’s negative; it opposes trends: “Do not be conformed to this world.” But then it is positive, which is a building relationship which is be transformed and bring God’s commands to bear in the rough and tumble of life. The Bible really gives us that broad, broad  approach to culture-making. I like the title that InterVarsity gave me, Created and Creating, because it says we are first of all creatures of God but second, because of that, we then go and make culture. We then produce culture as a reflection of His primary calling to us as a human race.

So basically, God being the creator, making Him the ultimate in creative. Us, as His creation in His image makes us creative, as well. Is there a line between art and music and some of the things we define as culture, and a relationship to bringing that to God and being creative?

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