“Seduced by Cool”
“He who marries today’s fashion is tomorrow’s widow.” – Charles Spurgeon
“If what’s fashionable in our society interests you, then true Christianity won’t. It’s that simple.” (Tchividjian, p 19) He goes on to prove this by quoting Jesus. “If you want to live, you must die. If you want to find your life, you must lose it.” Jesus talked of self-sacrifice and bearing crosses and suffering death and the dangers of riches. He said to lay down our lives for those who hate or hurt us, to serve instead of being served.
God’s economy is upside down from culture. It flies in the face of what culture has said to be necessary to be successful. The Bible explains success “in terms of giving, not taking; self-sacrifice, not self-indulgence; going to the back, not getting to the front; faithfulness, not fashion.” Tchividjian, p20) Just about everything that culture teaches is opposite of what Jesus teaches. Blessed are the pure in heart? What could be more old fashioned or judgmental that purity? Those who pursue moral cleanness are either labeled as self-righteous or considered to be naively out of touch with the world – unpopular, unfashionable, exactly what this book is about.
The act of Christians trying to fit into culture is what Tchividjian sees as the most troubling trend. “Having concluded that the best way to reach the world is to become more like it, many professing Christians strive to think, believe and act like the world. The implication, of course, is that Jesus would do those things too. In a word, we want to world around us to conclude that Christians can be winners too.” (Tchividjian, p21)
C.S. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, wrote of a discussion taking place in Heaven. “Fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.” Christians are to be against the world for the world and realize that the power of the Christian faith is the power of the cross. “Christians are to make a difference in the world by being different from it, not by being the same.” (Tchividjian, p 22) He continues, “… God’s people have always served the world around them best when they’ve been countercultural, shaped by God’s unfashionable ways to such a degree that they’re distinctively different from the world.”
Christians have always struggled about fitting in. In 1 Samuel, it talks of the ancient Israelites rejecting God as their king in favor of a human king. 1 Samuel 8:5, “… such as all the other nations have done.” Christians are not supposed to fit in. “Our oddness, in fact, is essential to our faithfulness. To put it another way, our faithfulness to Christ requires foreignness to the world’s trendy diversions.”
To go back to C.S. Lewis, but this time The Screwtape Letters, a senior demon (Screwtape) advises a demon in training to keep Chrisitans “in the state of mind I call ‘Christianity And” then illustrates this as “Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and Faith Healing.” Tchividjian adds another, “Christianity and Coolness.” Screwtape goes on to say that if people must be Christians, keep them diverted. “Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing.”
The world, as several scholars point out, has three basic meanings in the Bible: 1-the created order; 2-the human community; 3-the sinful ways of humanity or cultural godlessness. This third aspect is what Paul identifies when he tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world..”
When talking of the world, it is necessary to distinguish between structure and direction. It’s the difference of what there is and how we use what there is.” (Tchividjian, p26) The structure refers to people, places and things. The direction refers to the ethical use or misuse of God’s created goods. Everything in the created order (person, place and thing) has been twisted out of shape by our sin. Everything God has given us has been tainted by our sin. Love, sex, Earth. Therefore while God loves the structure of the world (creation), he hates its sinful direction (the Fall) though He’s now in the process of redirecting it back toward himself (Redemption). A worldly person is someone who lives and makes daily decisions as if God doesn’t exist, even if he/she professes faith in Christ.
“When Christians choose not to be different, the seasoning, warming coloring beauty of Christ gets lost – and the oh-so-fashionable world turns gray and drab, cold and ugly.” (Tchividjian, p28)
How can we Christians be culturally aware but not culturally entangled?