5. Christ Transforming Culture – In this model Christ’s church is the active conscience of the culture. The church sees herself not only as being a guardian of personal virtue and a guide for the individual spiritual journey, but the church is there as a critic of the culture. She does so through education, activism, protest and prayer. So in the United States and England socially minded Christians helped eradicate slavery, campaigned for civil rights, fight the crime of abortion, stand up for the persecuted minorities, advocate peace and justice programs and promote morality, the family and equality.
6. Christ Against Culture – The cycle soon comes around again to a new form of what it was in the beginning. As the secular culture becomes more atheistic and as Christian activism becomes more vocal, it is not long before the subversive calling of the Christian church becomes intolerable to the surrounding culture. When this happens the clash between Christ and culture becomes acute. The church once more becomes a persecuted minority and Christians are perceived as being the enemy of the surrounding culture.
Of course these categories are not watertight, and in various cultures they exist side by side as one evolves into another. Furthermore, in every age there have been examples of these models in different places around the world.
Nevertheless, they provide and interesting understanding of the development of Christ and culture, and raise questions about just where our own “post Christian” culture in the USA is now.
There are still vestiges of “Christ is Culture” among the “Cultural Catholics”–people who still regard themselves as Catholic because of their ancestor’s nationality and ethnicity. “Christ Transforming Culture” is still an active model in the American church amongst activists–both liberal activists promoting equal rights issues and conservatives fighting for family and morality issues.
However, these models will continue to fade as the sixth reality comes about. The Catholic Church especially will be seen as subversive in a negative way and the original model of Christ in a Clash with Culture will start to become prevalent. As this happens the members of Christ’s church will need to decide how to deal with these changes.
We will need to be alert and shrewd to know where to draw the line, how to preserve our rights and how to continue to live the gospel without compromise., and we will need to resort to much prayer and discernment to ensure that we remain faithful to Christ in an age where we are headed for a clash with the prevailing culture.