A few weeks ago, Lexham Press announced an exciting partnership with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Over the next few months, Lexham Press will be publishing three new books in collaboration with SEBTS. The first of these books is written by Dr. Bruce Riley Ashford, provost and dean of the faculty at SEBTS.
In Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians, Dr. Ashford shows how God wants our whole lives to be shaped by Jesus’ lordship. We must remove the barrier between “sacred” and “secular,” and allow the gospel to inform everything we do.
Cultural engagement for the modern Christian
We had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Ashford and discuss his new book and some of his thoughts on cultural engagement in a modern context.
How have your experiences shaped your view toward cultural engagement?
During my college years, I began to experience a nagging desire to understand how my Christianity related to the various courses I was taking, such as literature, philosophy, psychology, and biology. These courses were not “religious” in any obvious way, but I sensed that if Christ created the world and is Lord over it, then somehow he must be related to their subject matter. In effect, I was asking, “What relationship is there between Christianity and culture?”
Why is cultural engagement important to Christians today?
It seems to me that many Christians reduce “cultural engagement” to politics and reduce political involvement to certain forms of activism. Alongside of this sort of reductionism, Christians often put unrealistic hopes in the political process. In fact, this is a view I had held. But this view is a reductionist and unhelpful understanding of cultural engagement.
While politics is a very significant sphere of culture, it is only one sphere alongside others, such as art, science, education, and homemaking. As Christians, we should seek to shape all of our activities—artistic, scientific, educational, or political—in light of Christ’s lordship. We do this primarily as a matter of witness and obedience, but secondarily in the hopes that we can positively influence our society and its cultural institutions. Political activism is a short-term strategy, and is something that we need to do appropriately, but culture-making and cultural engagement represent a long-term strategy that will provide a more fully orbed and robust witness.
This long-term strategy will involve asking several questions any time we find ourselves making culture or interacting in a particular realm of culture. First, we should ask “What is God’s creational design for this realm of culture?” Second, “How has it been corrupted and misdirected by sin and idolatry?” Third, “In what ways can I help bring redirection to this realm by shaping my activities in light of Christ’s lordship rather than in submission to idols?”
What inspired you to write Every Square Inch?
I wanted to write a short, easily digestible book that provides a framework for understanding, making, and engaging culture. In the book, I start by building a brief theology of culture and providing a few case studies of exemplary Christians throughout history, such as Augustine of Hippo, Abraham Kuyper, Dorothy Sayers, and Francis Schaeffer.
Then, I spend the rest of the book trying to show how all of life matters to God: how each of us can serve faithfully as a representative of Christ, even as we interact in the arts (music, literature, cinema, architecture, interior décor, culinary arts); the natural sciences (biology, physics, chemistry); the social sciences (psychology, sociology); the public square (journalism, politics, economics, law); the academy (schools, universities, seminaries); sports and competition; and homemaking. Every dimension of our lives relates in some way to Christ and can in some manner be directed toward him.
As I wrote in the introduction to the book:
I write as an American, to other Americans, in our increasingly post-Christian democratic republic. I aim to equip Christians to think holistically about how the gospel informs everything we do in the world. It is my sincere hope that the barrier we have erected in our hearts between “sacred” and “secular” will be removed, so that we will awaken—perhaps for the first time—to the reality that Jesus is Lord over all of creation—not only the things we consider sacred, but also the things we consider secular.
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Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians is available on Pre-Pub for over 50% off—pre-order yours today!