Christianity And The Cultural Problem -- By: R. J. Rushdoony

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 20:2 (May 1958)
Article: Christianity And The Cultural Problem
Author: R. J. Rushdoony


Christianity And The Cultural Problem

R. J. Rushdoony

ONE of the insistent problems facing Christianity is the present persistent inability of Christian faith to produce its characteristic culture. Although often made up of a sizeable minority and sometimes even a majority in many areas today, Christianity is marked by a generally derivative and mainly secular culture. In America, it has for generations been noted that the sons of the Protestant clergy have a preponderantly significant role in national life, and the total contribution of the Christian home to national culture has been as decisive as its analogous inability to make use of the same ability within its ranks.

In dealing with other cultures, Christianity has shown a like weakness. Significantly, the two areas of greatest weakness in the missionary enterprise have been Islam and American Indians. Mohammedanism, although increasingly subject to the potent ferment of nationalism, still remains the most vital non-Christian culture, and in cultural cohesion is second to none. Its missionary activity in Africa today outstrips Christian efforts, and one of its main appeals is this: Mohammed presents a practical and unitive morality which is easily followed, while Jesus offers a standard which none of His followers are able to live up to, with divisive and pharisaical consequences.

At the other extreme, American Indian culture is either on the decline because of the onslaught of American life, or has virtually disappeared, leaving a cultural vacuum. Here, ostensibly, is an opportunity for reconstruction by means of Christian faith, but here again we encounter a significant resistance or indifference to the missionary enterprise.

The relationship of Christian missions to rival faiths and cultures can thus be summarized under; three heads: 1.) In facing its strongest rival, Islam, Christianity has made little

or no headway. In part, this has been due to the prohibition of missionary activity in Moslem countries, but, even where permitted, the Christian mission has been largely unsuccessful as far as practical Christian results are concerned. The major impact on Islam has come from western secularism and from Russian communism, and Christian missions have too often been more successful in mediating secularism than Christianity to Moslems. 2.) Christian missions have been likewise unsuccessful in dealing with broken and declining cultures, as witness its continuing impotence in dealing with American Indian cultures. 3.) In the areas of its success, Christian missions have too often been more successful in fostering secularism with its attendant disintegration of the old culture, and the creation of a new rival, materi...

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