Christ, Culture, and College Students – A Reformed Perspective (Pt. 3)

After a brief “interruption” with a mini-series on preaching out of Acts 2:42-47 we finally turn back to looking at Christ, Culture, and College students. In the last post we looked at what culture is and we talked about the cultural mandate. Today we turn to our second subject: the transformation of culture.

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Transforming Culture

            It is a well know fact that college students nowadays are eager to transform culture. In my opinion (and in the opinion of many others) we are currently seeing an unprecedented movement in college students in terms of activism. Students are seeing that there is much wrong with the world and they are rushing out to help fix these things. In order to help these students be more effective with their time and resources it would be helpful to understand what areas of culture God desires to transform. Richard Mouw by expositing Isaiah 60 helps us perform this task.

In When the Kings Come Marching In Mouw examines four images found in Isaiah 60 in order to understand the transformation of creation that God desires. The four images he discusses are the image of the “ships of Tarshish,” “the kings of the earth,” “the milk of many nations,” and “the light of the city.” (Later on I might end up doing a blog about this book…) By the ships of Tarshish, Mouw understands the Bible as communicating God’s position on cultural artifacts. Mouw explains that cultural artifacts can have God glorfying functions and idolatrous functions. However God desires to purify and transform the idolatrous nature of these cultural artifacts for the sake of his own glory. Mouw understand the image of the “Kings of the Earth” as representing political structures. God will call the political structures, both the idolatrous ones and God glorifying ones, back to himself for judgment, healing and sanctification. Mouw believes that  “milk of many nations” implies that diversity of cultures and peoples is necessary for proper human flourishing. Finally, Mouw sees the “light of the city” as the centrality of Jesus in the new creation. He understands the atonement as the basis for our understanding of cultural transformation. Without Jesus at its center, lasting transformation of culture cannot happen because “Jesus is the power that attracts the procession into the City.”[1]

These images help us understand the cultural transformation that God wants to enact in the future. God desires to take the best and most God glorifying aspects of every culture for himself. God desires to bring justice and set wrongs to right. God desires to create a people for himself that includes peoples of all nations, tribes, and tongues. Finally God wants to make himself central in this new reality. These four things are ends that college students could be working towards. They could work towards creating cultural goods that are bring glory to God. They could work for social justice and to help alleviate suffering in the world caused by systemic injustices. They could work to help the church become more multi-cultural. Finally they could work to make Jesus the center of reality by means of sharing the gospel and evangelism. All of these are cultural transformations that students could begin working towards now.

However if they decide to engage in the project of transforming culture they must first have a proper understanding of how God desires to transform culture…. this “proper understanding” leads us into the topic for next time: Transforming Culture and the Biblical Meta-narrative.


[1] Mouw, When the Kings Come Marching In, 104.

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