A conversation with Christopher Watkin - S11.E16 | WORLD
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A conversation with Christopher Watkin - S11.E16


WORLD Radio - A conversation with Christopher Watkin - S11.E16

A biblical framework for understanding modern life and culture

Photo credit: Amazon.com

Warren Smith: Well, Chris Watkin, welcome to the program and congratulations on the book. It is absolutely magnificent. And I normally don't say that to an author, you know, try to try to maintain this facade of journalistic objectivity and integrity. But I can't resist telling you just how taken I was by your book. And, but and I've got to say to that I probably wouldn't have picked it up had it not had an introduction from Tim Keller. And since I interviewed Tim, you know, recently in and I've aired that interview on this podcast, I'd like to maybe start there. Before we dive into the book, how did you come into contact with Tim and how did he become a champion for your book?

Christopher Watkin: Well, and thank you so much for your kind words, that's really, really generous of you as a way to begin, look at it. This is a story I haven't really told in public before. But it's a story I'm delighted to be able to tell. Tim Keller, I don't know, four or five years ago, just emailed me out of the blue. He'd read a book that I'd written called Thinking Through Creation. And he, he just wrote to say how much he enjoyed it. And if there were ways that he could help me, in my writing, it was one of those emails where my first reaction was, Oh, come on, who's who's pretending to be Tim Keller here? Funny, very funny. But, but no, it was, it was him. And it just struck me, at that point. What a kind hearted, generous man he was. Yeah, nobody knew who I was at that point. And he he was taking his precious time to write an email to someone who nobody had ever heard of, just simply to encourage me, he didn't want anything from me. He was just saying, really enjoyed it. How can I help? And there were another one or two points along the journey of writing this book, where had it not been for an email from Tim Keller, under God's providence, I'm not sure that the book would have got written. There were a couple of times when it was really tricky finding a publisher, finding a format for the book that a publisher would accept. And Allison, my wife, and I were thinking, Well, you know, probably this is just gonna have to be one of those projects that, that stays on the computer. And it was one of those points in particular, that I got an email from Tim Keller just again, saying, Hello, how you doing? Can I can I help with anything? That was really significant in pushing forward with the project. And so I think, in a very material sense, it is in no small part, thanks to him, that the books come out.

WS: Well, I can sure believe that, because at first glance, the book is daunting, it's over 600 pages long. I will say that, that it's, you know, really readable, even though it is 600 pages long. And you know, it's a heavy lift theologically, philosophically, I might even say ontologically. So that's really an interesting story. And, and I think, consistent with what I learned about Tim during my conversation with him as well. Well, let's pivot to the book. And let me just ask a kind of a 30,000 foot question to begin with, which is, why this book and why now?

CW: I think the question as to, "Why this book?" goes back, oh, I don't know about 20 years, I suppose. I'm starting to feel old as I think back to me as an undergraduate in a Arts Faculty of secular big secular university. As a relatively new Christian, I guess, at that stage, and living in two, disconnected, worlds. You know, the world of theory, where, week after week in our studies, we've been given Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, Derrida, Foucault, Kristeva, other writers to try and get our heads around and produce essays about, and the world of my church, and of my Christian Union, where we've been taught to read the Bible carefully and apply it to all of our lives and take it seriously. And there being no place in my life at that time where those two worlds could come together, not to, you know, to sort of amalgamate, not to sort of have half one and a half or the other, but to, to have a conversation, you know, for the Bible to sit around the table with these theories and unfold its own vision of what society is and what human beings are. And that was the original sort of spur for this project. But how would you bring the Bible to that table and let the Bible speak in its own language and And in its own terms, in a way that engages with these theoretical approaches that we were doing in the arts degree.

WS: And your academic, even though you mentioned Nietzsche and Marx, Freud, the others you mentioned were mostly French philosophers that that is truly your academic discipline. Is that not accurate? You've studied the French philosophers.

CW: Absolutely, yeah. My own undergraduate degree was, it was called Modern and Medieval Languages, French and German. So there was a lot of literature in there, and a lot of philosophy, as well, from a European tradition. So French and German, and my main publishing sort of center of gravity is in French, recent French philosophy.

WS: Yeah. And, of course, that background really is a gateway into what, as a layman, I would call post modernism, right. I mean, you know, Foucault, in particular, and Derrida, who had a tremendous him, I have my academic background is in English literature. And of course, you could not, you know, study at the graduate level in English literature in this country without encountering, especially Derrida and the deconstructionists and the, you know, so on and so forth. So your world of French philosophers, and you're under, growing understanding of theology, the growing maturing of your faith? What were you seeing, were you seeing a disconnect? were you seeing a conversation that each was having, that they should be having together?

CW: I guess I was seeing a number of different things. There's a, you know, to be sure, there is a fundamental difference in the way that these theoretical secular theoretical approaches encounter the world and the way the Bible does. So it's not as if they're saying exactly the same things. But they're making very similar moves if you want to use that language, which is that the secular theories, you know, take something like Marxism, for example. There, it's making certain things in the world viable, visible and valuable, essentially, that's what it's doing.

So viable in the sense of it becomes believable, something becomes possible if you immerse yourself in this theory. So for, you know, Marxism, that might be something like the revolution of the proletariat. The more you read of Marx, the more you think about that, that could actually happen, I can see the circumstances in which that will be possible. So it makes it viable as a something in the world.

It makes certain things visible. So for example, you know, you plan on reading Marx, you think, well, the proletariat really are being oppressed by the landowning class. And you might not have noticed that before. So it makes that something in the foreground of your consciousness rather than in the background.

And it makes certain things valuable, teaches you what to condemn in the world, and what to celebrate. And if you take those three moves, that the Bible is doing similar things now, of course, the Bible is doing a lot more than that. You know, the Bible is making us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is God breathed. It's useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting training of anxiousness - all of that, absolutely. But also, the Bible is making certain things in the world viable.

So for example, for most modern secular people, is the concept of trusting the God of the Bible, when he makes promises is just nonsensical. But it's, there's just no category for that. But the more you read the Bible, the more you encounter a God who shows himself to be trustworthy. The more examples you've got of people, trusting him as he makes promises, the more that becomes something that's viable in your world, you can see what it might look like to do that. And similarly, reading the Bible makes certain things visible. So for example, if you look up at a beautiful sunset, and then read the psalm, you know, The heavens declare the glory of God, you're seeing something in that sunset that you might never have thought of before. You might never have looked at a beautiful aspect of nature and thought, that's the glory of God right there. God is glorious. But the Bible makes that visible. And in a similar way, the Bible makes certain things valuable. So before I was a Christian, I would have looked at you with great puzzlement if you'd have said, serving other people is something you should seek to do that is something that is valuable in life. But you know, having become a Christian and seeing how, again and again and again, especially on the pages of the New Testament, your Jesus came to serve and he wants his followers not to think who's the greatest among them, but to be a servant of others, that becomes something valuable. So on that level of these, these moves that these approaches are making, the Bible is acting in the same way that these theoretical approaches are. And that's the level I think, on which we can get this conversation going.

WS: Yeah, and it seems to me that you're approach in your book is that is at least even though you're very gentle in these comments, but it seems like in some ways you are also critiquing modern evangelicalism's preoccupation with what and why, and not paying enough attention to the what if question, the so what question. And it seems to me that what you're trying to do is to apply these disciplines that you, that you developed in studying, you know, modernist and postmodern thinkers and say, Well, what if we brought that approach to Scripture? And that we went beyond apologetics? And we went beyond even some worldview studies to the 'so what' and 'what if' questions the plausibility of the biblical narrative? Do I have you right, in that?

CW: I think there's there's a lot in what you say, that's really helpful. I think the one thing that I'd want to tweak in the way that you just put it was the idea of bringing something to Scripture. And the I guess the implication, that the way that that might be heard by some people is that this is approach an approach that is alien to Scripture itself, something imposed upon scripture. I certainly I hope that that's not the case. And I don't think it's the case, I think Scripture is doing this already, I think it's making these moves already.

You know, so just a tiny little example, you know, The heavens declare the glory of God, it is making that visible in a way that it wasn't before. And a lot of the theoretical moves that I make in the book, I try to draw directly from Scriptural passages. So there's a key one that I keep returning to is one Corinthians one, you know, where Paul is talking about the the Greek desire for wisdom and the Jewish longing for miraculous signs of power. And what he does in that passage, I think is just mind-bogglingly brilliant pattern for Christian cultural critique, because he's doing two things. He's showing that there's a very clear antithesis between the word of the cross and these cultural values.

So for example, Jews, you want wisdom, the cross is foolishness. So he's saying, you cannot continue in the way you're going at the moment, and expect to find Jesus at the end of your journey. He's not just a slightly better version of what you think you aren't, there's an antithesis, between your values and the cross. But then a couple of verses later, he goes on to say that the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom. And so it's like, there's a scale of wisdom. And your wisdom that you're looking for Greeks is on a certain point of that scale, and God's wisdom is higher up the scale than yours is. In other words, if you really, really want wisdom, if you're serious, the Greeks about your search for wisdom, you need to be serious enough to look for it in the place that you'd at least in confining it, which is the foolishness of a condemned criminal, hanging up and dying on a cross. Because if you do look there, you're going to find the fullness of wisdom, a deeper wisdom than you ever expected. And so that's that's a pattern that's not imposed on scripture, that is right there in what Paul is doing. And that's a way that I take in the book to read a lot of these cultural values. So, you know, what is what is Foucault? What would Foucault want? For example, what will people identity, they'll want, you know, Jews want miraculous signs, Greeks seek wisdom, and Foucault wants dot, dot dot, and then to take those values through that one Corinthians one pattern to produce what I hope is a is a radically biblical critique of those ideas.

WS: Well, and in the process of doing that, or maybe the outcome of that is that in a way, it seems to me that you're that really the central question of the book, or one of the central questions of the book, is the notion of reality. What is reality? And at the risk of oversimplifying? I think what you're saying is that is that Scripture gives us the best understanding of reality, writ large, reality in all of its beauty and mystery and truth and complexity. Do I have you right in that?

CW: Yeah, I really think that's a brilliant way of talking about it. And I love the very last third of your summary there complexity, because I think that's where again, and again, what I found, the Bible has layers of complexity that the modern world misses. So so often, the modern world takes part of a biblical truth and cuts it away from the complex ecosystem of other biblical truths and makes it the whole truth. And it's, it's got a beguiling simplicity about it, but it's also quite superficial. And what the Bible does is, is it often holds together truths that modernity tries to make us choose between. And so I think it is the complexity, the richness of the biblical picture that really came out for me as I was doing the research for this book. It is an incredibly sophisticated, nuanced account of the world.

Just, just one really, really quick example. You tend to get a a schism in modernity between optimism and pessimism, you know, you've got your cultural cynics for whom all politicians are crooks. And there's no point in trying to change the world because it's all you know, the system is, is to ingrain and we're never going to change anything. So we just sit back and fold our arms and complain, you know, it's a caricature of jobs. But there's, there's a sense in which that is a that is an attitude that's out there. And then you've got the sort of wild eyed utopian people who think that if only we get the right people in power, or if only we get the education system, right, then we can completely transform the world, and we'll get something approximating paradise on earth. And, you know, these people have at each other all the time on Twitter and elsewhere, it's a real bunfight between them. But the, the Bible gives you a picture of human beings in reality. That is, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say, more sober than the most radical cynic, because for the Bible that the problem isn't out there in the world, sort of outside us anyway, the problem is in our own hearts, including the hearts of those who are cynical. And that's a more radical problem to try and deal with that than anything that's going on with the world out there.

The Bible is also an and at the same time, and in a way, that's not intention with that sober judgment, incredibly, radically utopian, in a sense, you know, it, the end of the Bible, ends up with every act that was ever done in secret, every evil act being exposed and accounted for and dealt with. You're, no utopian at the moment, from a secular position can claim anything as ludicrous as that, every single thing from history. Every injustice done in secret will be will be made right, will be accounted for - nobody's saying that - and a God who will wipe every tear from his people's eyes for whom there'll be no more moaning, crying or pain. Yeah, that's off the scale utopian, that's laughably utopian for the secular mind. And yet, the Bible has both of these in a way that they're not pulling against each other. It's not that, you know, on one, one moment, you have to be sober, and then forget that and be utopian. No, they fit together perfectly in a biblical... And it's that sort of complexity that I kept encountering again, and again, as I was doing the research for the book.

WS: Yeah. And, you know, just spend another minute on that work utopia. I mean, I think that word was coined originally by Sir Thomas More, and that word really means 'good land' - u topia - good land. And it also means it's kind of a double entendre, right? It means 'no land' - it is a, when we talk about something as utopian we, yes, it's a it's a good place. But it's also not possible. And what you seem to be saying is no, we've done the utopians one better. Not only is it a good place, but it is a real place, it is the ultimate outcome of the biblical vision.

CW: I love that word. Yes, you're absolutely right. And therefore, perhaps just riffing off what you said, we need to, we need to finesse that language a little bit, because it is also really clear in Revelation, isn't it? The place where that renewed creation is, is is not taking everybody off the earth and putting them in some ethereal heaven, but it's the New Jerusalem comes down to earth. And so perhaps Christians need to speak of something, I don't know, like a 'mezzotopia' a place in the middle of this world, you know, where everything is put right. I guess you still need the 'U' in there, wouldn't you - 'U-mezzotopia', or something to get across the idea of this is not some somewhere else place, this this will be here. And I think it's right to say in a sort of New Testament frame that in the outbreakings of the kingdom that you have already in this world, the tiny glimmers of this you know whatever you want to call it 'U-mezzotopia', are already visible. And so it's it's not pie in the sky when you die. It's not, you know, the, as Marx would say, opium for the masses. It's not believe in some Fairyland and then you'll be able to deal with your persecution in this age. It's already here in tiny glimmers and it is coming here. It's not that it's some in some Neverland - it will be here.

WS: And my friend Andrew Peterson is fond of saying that the Bible doesn't teach us that God will make all new things he teaches that we will make all things new. And it sounds to me that that's kind of what you're getting at as well.

CW: Absolutely, I think that there is some passages in the New Testament out there that that give the impression that everything will be made, again, you know, destroyed by fire, and so forth. And other passages that give the sense that things will will be renewed. And I think what we've got to do as sensitive New Testament readers is account for both of those trajectories. I suspect that they speak of a reality that we don't have the categories for, that what God will do with this creation is beyond our understanding. And so these pieces of the jigsaw are helping us to get a handle on what it will be like.

WS: One of the tools that you use in your book, Chris, is this idea that you call 'diagonalization', where you you say that often as humans, even the great philosophers will tend to create a dichotomy, and what you say is that that is a false dichotomy. And we see it in all areas of life and philosophy. But Scripture cuts across those false dichotomies. And you represent that in your book with this notion of diagonalization, I think is the way you, is the word you use. And in some ways, that's not a new idea that others have kind of toyed around with similar notions in the past - John frame, for example, Augustine even had a concept that's not dissimilar. Can you explain what you mean by diagonalization? And how it sort of fits in, is consistent with, you know, Frame, Augustine, Kuyper maybe even in Herman Bavinck and others?

CW: Yeah, thank you. Oh, I one thing you said in that that introduction there was was that the modern world tends to think in dichotomies. Now, I guess that's a helpful place to start. I don't think dichotomies are unique to modernity. But I think the modern world does have a particular pathology of splitting reality into an opposing those those aspects to each other. And one example in the modern world would be be nature and freedom is sort of determined law of nature and then somehow you've got human freedom hovering above that and how do we congee with those two, you know, you've got Mind and Matter, and you can go on and on and on. And diagonalization is fundamentally a way of saying, don't stop there. That's not a biblical dichotomy. If you accept the terms of that dichotomy, then you're never going to end up with a full orbed biblical picture because you're going to be shoehorning the Bible into an alien set of concepts.

I think one of the clearest examples of this is in the image of God motif in Genesis one. So there are two, at least two facets to this beautiful idea of the image of God. And one is that it really exalts humans and gives human beings dignity, you know, of everything in the whole created universe, Milky Way, rolling oceans, beautiful landscapes, beautiful piece of music, only human beings are made in the image of God. That is an incredibly dignifying status to have.

But there's also in the image of God, a humbling of human beings, because, you know, we're not God, we are the image of God, we're not the top dog in reality - that place is reserved for God alone, and we are derivative in a sense we are in His image. But there's no sense in the image of God motif in which those two things are in tension with each other. It's not that you have like half dignity and half humbling. It's, it's a beautiful harmony of human worth, and, you know, human reliance upon a loving God who made it. But if you look to the modern world, and you try and categorize it's different anthropologists, you'll very often find that they major on one of those aspects of neglect the other so there is some people today, who are very strong and saying things like you know, we are fundamentally and exclusively animals. We are only animals, there's no difference, no qualitative difference between human beings and any other animal. And to think otherwise, is to fool ourselves. And other people are saying, you know, we're merely machines, and this this is a constant theme in modernity.

So Thomas Hobbes at the beginning of his book that really was foundational for modern political theory called Leviathan, he just comes out with it straight. And he says, you know, we're cogs and springs and strings and wheels. That's what human beings are. So there's never those anthropologists that say, we were no different to animals, no difference in machines. And then there were other anthropologists in the modern world that sort of almost put us on the level of gods and give to us the attributes that traditionally only Gods have had.

So defining reality, defining our own identity defining for ourselves, what's what's good and evil. And that the modern world sort of gives you these two identities. Yeah, you're just a machine. Oh, and by the way, you need to define your own self, your own being and your own values, and your own reality. So go figure with those two anthropologists, and no wonder that trying to straddle those two incompatible ideas of what a human being is, is incredibly stressful and anxiety inducing, you know, you're an animal who defines the meaning of reality that it's really hard to live, to live across that breach. And so what, what it would mean to diagonalize, that division, will be to say, well, that's not a choice that we shouldn't be forced to make. It's not 'you're an animal' and 'you're a God.' Because those two anthropologies are dismembered parts of a more beautiful, harmonious whole, that's there in the image of God. You know, the idea that you're only a machine is, is a twisted, distorted version of the humbling in the image of God, you know, human beings are created on the same day, as the animals that there's a weird part of the creature side of the Creator creature distinction, all that is true. And then the the idea that you're just machines and animals, twists and amplifies that and dislocates it from the rest of the mind. And the idea that you're a god is, is a misreading and a distortion of the idea of the dignity of being an image of God of being given a specific task by God to do so being ordered to creation.

And so to diagonalize, that is not to say, we're going to have six of one and half a dozen or the other, you know, we have animals and we have gods that split the difference and have some nice cozy position in the middle. It's to say, let's recover the wonderful, harmonious biblical whole that these two polar opposites of the dichotomy are dismembered parts of to begin with, let's get back to the original position in the Bible. And just one final sentence on this. Sometimes people call things like diagonalizing, a third way. And I think that language can be really unhelpful, because it makes it sound as though the dichotomy comes first. And then the biblical position tries to do something with it afterwards. But it might be more helpful to call it a first way in the sense that what you're trying to do is to get back behind the dichotomy to the reality that it's a poor, distorted misreading or to begin with.

WS: Yeah. You know, Chris, as I've read, in, you know, in a very limited way, in philosophy and theology in the last 10 to 20 years, I have sensed that there has been a disquiet among Christian thinkers about a lack of a biblical anthropology, a lack of a biblical ontology, you know, a groundedness in the givenness of things, which is rooted in an understanding of creation. And other writers, I think, have sense that as well. And it's jumped into the breach, I think, for example of Charles Taylor's book, A Secular Age, for example, which is kind of the lion in the path, but, you know, James K Smith's work that is, in some ways trying to interpret Charles Taylor to, you know, evangelical thinkers today. So that stuff is out there. What, what did you want your book to do, that those books didn't do? Or what sort of conversation do you want to be having with, you know, Charles Taylor, Jamie Smith, and even maybe stepping farther back to people like Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck, and even Francis Schaeffer. It seems to me that you guys are all have many of the same concerns. What's different about your book?

CW: It's a very rich question, and I'm going to definitely sidestep direct comparisons. Let me talk about what I think what what has captured my imagination and what I really want to do. Communicating this, but which I think will be a roundabout way of saying how it distinguishes itself. And from some of these other approaches, I, I can't get enough of the approach that Augustine takes in The City of God, I think it is just unfathomably, really, as a mode of cultural critique, and largely because it is it is very thoroughly biblical in its approach. And so what he does in the second half of The City of God is He tells the whole story that the Bible tells from creation to new creation, he starts off, you know, before the creation of the world, and he finishes up with with with the final judgment in the new creation. And he uses that Bible overview framework, with all its complexity and all the work that what Richard Bauckham calls,'The side chapels along the way,' you know, all the richness and multi layered nature of that story. And he uses that as a frame through which to critique late Roman culture, all of it, you know, its its games, its religion, its civil life, its superstition, its army, and on and on and on. And that is the pattern that I think has proved so fruitful for me, in my own thinking, to begin with this idea that reality for Christians is fundamentally started. In its very simplest sense creation, fall redemption, consummation, although within each of those, that there's such richness and depth and nuance that, you know, you, you need to spend so long in unpacking each of those, and to commend this idea of having as our instinct, when we do cultural critique, to, to encounter something in terms of this story, and how does this fit with the creation, fall redemption, consummation story? And how can he be engaged with in terms of, of those elements. And I think what that does is, first of all, it gives you an approach that's distinctively Christian. Because certainly within the secular world, that there aren't stories in this way, in the sense that history doesn't have qualitative ruptures in it things for the secular mind, things just change slowly, over time. So you get you get difference. But it isn't the sort of qualitative rupture. And therefore, it isn't the same sort of story. It isn't a story as well, in the sense that it's not got a definite end point.

And Herman Dooyeweerd's really good on this in, I think it's The Roots of Western Culture, where he's, he shows lots of different views of the world, outside the Bible, are all in terms of two elements. So Matter and Form for the ancient Greeks, our nature and grace, I think he has for the medieval period. And then for the modern period, he's got nature and freedom. And they're always in tension with each other. But the Bible has something not just different terms to put in those two spots, not a different dichotomy, but actually a whole different structure, creation, fall redemption for him. And I think it's, it's when Christians begin to explore and embrace and work out the implications of that storied nature of reality, that I think we get to something that is very fundamentally, very viscerally distinctive, as a biblical approach to the world. And it is incredibly culturally incisive, as well. And I think that that's what Augustine does so jaw-droppingly brilliantly in The City of God. And that's the, you know, the blazing sun to which I've been tried to hold a candle in, in the work that I've been doing.

WS: Yeah, well, Chris, we can't unpack fully a 600 page book. But since you talked about story, and since you talked about sort of the four chapters of that story creation, fall redemption and your word consummation, I have often used the word restoring restoration in my own language, but I do think I like the word conservation, maybe even a little bit better. The, we are living in, in some ways, the final chapter of that story, right? I mean, creation was accomplished by God. The Fall, a rebellion against God was, I guess, you could say, accomplished by us. The Redemption was accomplished by Jesus. And now we are living in the age where are correct me if I'm not if I'm saying this in precisely, we're living in a time of restoration, how now shall we live then, in that age, if I could kind of bring the story to a close and ask you to sort of give us some guidance for how we should live, given the context that we've created for the last 30 or 35 minutes?

CW: Yeah, it's It's a 'Now and not yet'. Ah, isn't it the what the Bible calls the last days where we're in the world, but not of it, as Jesus says in his high priestly prayer, and so it's, it's a really complex age for Christians to live in. And I think the biblical paradigm of exile is, is brilliant in trying to sum up what it means to live in the present age, you know, this is, as the writer to the Hebrews says, we don't have an abiding city here, this is not our final home. And so you're never going to feel completely settled in this world in the last days. But nevertheless, we're enjoined, as Jeremiah says, In his letter to the exiles to work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon, no less. Evil, exploitative, objectionable city of Babylon, you know, so. So there's a sense in which while being exiles were to invest ourselves in, in the well being of the culture around us to seek to, to influence it, where possible, and to serve those in it.

And I guess what's at stake, as we work that out in, in the minutiae in the details, is how to hold that exhilic tension, without compromising each of its terms. And I guess, it's really easy, just to throw all your eggs in the basket of 'this is not our home, we've got no interest here, let's sort of all gather inside the church and bolt the doors and shut ourselves off from the culture,' - that's, that's quite a simple thing to do. Because there's only one thing that you need to hold in mind as you do it. But there's also the opposite danger, which is to say, right, you know, here we are, in this culture, let's throw ourselves fully into it, let's serve it and then, you know, over time, you begin to lose the gospel as you're desperate to become, quote, unquote, irrelevant to the culture and you lose this idea of always being slightly out of joint or being in exile.

And that, the really hard thing to do is to hold to the white hot commitment, both that this is not where Christians belong, fundamentally, that there's always going to be something awkward, strange and frustrating about living in the present age. And, you know, to take passages like Jeremiah's letter to the exile seriously, and to throw ourselves into the serving the world around us. And there's, there's no one sentence answer to that. That's why it's a hard position to live in. We're always going to be cost correcting, I think, you know, are we? are we identifying too much with or taking on too many of the assumptions of the modern world around us? Are we cutting ourselves off in in a sort of a knee jerk way, not seeking to understand or to take seriously, the world around us? And wherever we we find ourselves within that tension, there's always a work of self questioning and self critique to do I think, you know, Christians always need to be asking ourselves, are we drinking the cultural Kool Aid too much? Are we becoming, you know, unthinking late moderns in our own outlook in a way that's betraying some biblical truth? Or, you know, on the other side, are we in an in an unbiblical way, you know, seeking to simply deny or denigrate the culture at every opportunity, without, you know, doing what Paul does in one Corinthians one, for example? And, you know, it's, it's an easy question to pose in a way - it's incredibly hard one to answer. And it needs the whole wisdom of the church, it needs this to be worked out, in community with with different people, you know, helping each other to find a way through.

WS: Yeah. So the first question of the Westminster catechism, what is the chief end of man, the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, to live our lives quorum Deo before the face of God, there are simple words, but they're hard to do. And yet, just because they're hard, that doesn't mean we cannot do them, that we get a pass on them, right?

CW: Absolutely And you need the whole body of Christ in Paul's image to to get a handle on them. Because my experience as someone in academia is going to be radically different not only from the experience of, you know, I guess, my my uncertain, you know, who's who's trying to make sense of this at school, never mind someone from a different culture today, you know, Sub Saharan African Christian, for example. And so there's not one answer to it in different cultural contexts, it's going to take the same unchanging gospel principles, but that outworking is gonna be really different.

WS: Yeah, well, Chris, we've I could probably do this all day long. Again, I just found your book to be magnificent. A great companion to some of the writers that we've already discussed. Kuyper, who I'm a big fan of, and Francis Schaeffer, of course, and Charles Taylor, who I'm a new fan of. And so a great companion to all of that. And I'm sure I can spend the rest of my life understanding just just those authors say and your book. But you know, in closing is there is again, I hate to ask you to reduce a very complex and interesting 600 page book into just a soundbite or two. But is there a key idea that you would like our listeners to take away from today from, from this conversation and also from your book?

CW: Wow. I guess, if I had one idea, it might be something like this: The best cultural critique is not done. When we take a step away from the text of the Bible from the nitty gritty details of the Bible, and try and throw around lots of theological and sociological and philosophical concepts. Let's, let's wager that the best cultural critique is done when we press into the Bible. And when we get our, our noses, you know, black with ink, in particular biblical passages, when we pick it apart, verse by verse, And when we look at biblical themes. And I would love people to be electrified by the idea that the more I press into the text of the Bible, the better cultural critic I'm going to be.

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