“For A Holy Priesthood”: A Petrine Model For Evangelical Cultural Engagement -- By: Nathan Wheeler

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 59:3 (Sep 2016)
Article: “For A Holy Priesthood”: A Petrine Model For Evangelical Cultural Engagement
Author: Nathan Wheeler


“For A Holy Priesthood”: A Petrine Model
For Evangelical Cultural Engagement

Nathan Wheeler*

* Nathan Wheeler is preaching minister at Eastside Church of Christ, 2012 Huntzinger, Farmington, NM 87401. He may be contacted at nwheeler5@liberty.edu.

Abstract: Several recent works in evangelical theology of culture appeal either to 1 Peter or to the category of priesthood in setting forth their respective visions. Though the author of 1 Peter includes priesthood in a theology of Christlike cultural engagement, no one to date has explored a Petrine theology of culture focused upon the elements and function of the church’s priesthood in Christ. Therefore, this essay highlights warrants for such a study in recent theology-of-culture literature. Then, the letter of 1 Peter receives a close reading for the elements comprising a priesthood model for theology of culture. This essay finds that such a model calls the church to embrace a Christlike, redemptive ethic of responsibility for the godliness of the world.

Key Words: Theology of culture, Petrine theology, redemption, cultural engagement, priesthood, church as sign

Regarding H. Richard Niebuhr’s monumental Christ and Culture, theologian Miroslav Volf writes, “What interests me more is the observation that the one text which speaks more pointedly and comprehensively to the problem of ‘Christ and culture’ than any other in the NT is conspicuously absent from Niebuhr’s account. I am referring to 1 Peter, the epistle whose main theme is Christian life in a non-Christian environment.”1 Volf is not alone in drawing upon 1 Peter as a key resource for theology of evangelical cultural engagement. On the other hand, still others draw upon the biblical trope of priesthood in developing insights for cultural engagement but do not consider 1 Peter’s use of that theme.2 Taking these cues from the recent literature, this article asks what vision for the church’s engagement with culture results from a consideration of 1 Peter’s use of priesthood imagery. First, this investigation will be grounded in a brief review of key works explicitly involving either priesthood or Petrine theology of cultural engagement in their discussions. We will then discuss salient passages in 1 Peter relevant to a Petrine structure for priesthood as a model of cultural engagement. We will see that the Petrine theological vision for engaging culture consists in the church’s participation in Christ’s priesthood by patiently enduring the burden of taking redemptive responsibility for the godliness of the world. In the interest of balancing thoroughness and concision...

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