Matthew Milliner and I were both in attendance at the Kuyper Center's Calvinism and Culture conference last month, and at his blog, Matt reflects on Gordon Graham's lecture on the impossibility of engaging culture in abstracto—though some of us persist in trying—and how we Protestants may need an "alternative, tested visual tradition" if we "ever hope to truly 'engage.'"
Graham's lecture pointed out that (as Matt says) "the means by which one engages inevitably shapes engagement"—which should sound familiar to anyone who's been paying attention to both the pages of Comment or just current neuropsychology. And furthermore, Matt says, "actually influencing culture requires a thicker contribution than Calvinism has typically afforded." Readers of Jamie Smith's Desiring the Kingdom will hear this well.
Next semester I'm teaching a class on Christian anthropologies of culture, and I've been struggling with this very question. We'll read Smith, Crouch, and Hunter, but how do we, the classroom learners, actually embody—and therefore understand—what those theories mean outside the pages of the book?
Thankfully, at that same Kuyper Conference I had a conversation with Comment author Matthew Kaemingk that helped me think about this in a fresh way. He has his students in a similar course reflect upon the city of Pasadena (where they are located) in the context of these various ideas about culture. So the students don't just think about what a full-bodied Reformed approach to culture might mean, in the abstract—they actually think about how these theories apply to the way people live to Pasadena. And, one might imagine, they learn a bit about how their ways of relating to the city shape what they think about that culture. (Kaemingk is curating a series Comment will be running online this June/July looking at what neocalvinist thought has to say to various disciplines—stay tuned.)