But there is a third stance that can be taken, one that is neither a Christ of culture nor a Christ against culture position. It is a “conversionist” (and, I believe, the biblical) response that sees Christ as the transformer of culture. Yes, human nature is fallen, and culture not only reflects this perversion but often transmits it. Thus the opposition between Christ and culture is real and must be recognized. Yet rather than separation from culture, or accommodation and reliance upon the institutions of culture (such as politics), Christ in this scenario becomes the converter of humanity. This is the role of the church as Christ’s body. This distinct and called community of God’s people therefore lives as God’s instrument and witness to the redemptive work of God—the kingdom. It is from here that we go forth to express the values of the kingdom of God, sometimes by proclamation and at all times by demonstration.

This is precisely what the apostle Peter urged the Christians who were living among non-Christians to do. “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:11–12, NIV). That last phrase, “on the day he visits us,” is not a reference to Christ’s return but to God’s intervention in the world through blessing or judgment. Peter follows this by saying “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution … For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people (1 Peter 2:13–15, ESV). Peter later equates this to a believing wife who wins her unbelieving husband over “without a word” by the way she lives (see 1 Peter 3:1). Matthew underscores this in 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before men people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven (NET).

I know this goes against our nature but that is precisely the point: kingdom living always goes against our nature, which is why we require God’s grace to persevere in the faith. The time may be soon approaching when we are forced to abandon our “conquering spirit” and submit to “human institutions” that, while they may suppress our proclamation of kingdom values (i.e., opposition to sexual immorality), can never stop the demonstration of these values (i.e., living sexually moral lives) within and among the faithful community of God’s people. Furthermore, the bearing of hardship because of conscience toward God is pleasing to the Lord (see 1 Peter 2:19–23).

America, under the sovereign hand of God, may be given over to sexual anarchy, immorality, and debauchery but the faithful church will endure in spite of the culture and may, by its life and witness, be the instrument God uses to bring a generation to repentance. This is the mission of God and therefore the mission of His people; I am concerned that our persistence in a moral battle lost may distract us from our true purpose—and this I personally do not want to do.

© 2008 by S. Michael Craven

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S. Michael Craven is the founder and President of the Center for Christ & Culture. Michael is the author of Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity, published by Navpress and scheduled for release January 2009. Michael's ministry is dedicated to renewal within the Church and works to equip Christians with an intelligent and thoroughly Christian approach to matters of culture in order to demonstrate the relevance of Christianity to all of life. For more information on the Center for Christ & Culture, the teaching ministry of S. Michael Craven, visit: www.battlefortruth.org

Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.