Created & Creating: A Biblical Theology of Culture, by William Edgar. Downers Grove IL: IVP Academic, 2017. 262 pp. $24.00.
What does culture mean to a Christian and the church? William Edgar, the John Boyer Chair of Evangelism and Culture and Professor of Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, suggests an answer in his book, Created & Creating: A Biblical Theology of Culture. He argues that the cultural mandate, which can be found in redemptive episodes of Scripture and climaxed in the Great Commission, is the “central calling for humanity” (233).
Created & Creating consists of an introduction, an epilogue, and three parts. In the introduction, Edgar begins his argument by explaining that culture has become a very important issue, and thus Christians are also beginning to recognize culture significantly. He then unfolds cultural parameters, culture in the Bible, and the cultural mandate throughout the following three chapters. In the epilogue, he concludes the cultural mandate to be a divine calling.
Before examining how the Bible directly speaks about culture, Edgar first analyzes culture terminologically and historically. He then concludes that cultural studies explain culture as “civilization,” “social dynamics,” and meaningful “anthropological entities” (24). Subsequently, he shows the efforts of Christian scholars to grasp biblical perspectives on culture because there is no mention of the term culture in the Bible.
Edgar then deals with biblical texts that warn against worldiness. Since the Bible affirms that everything belongs to God, he argues that such passages are not against creation but against sin. He also argues that God’s intention for His people is to cure the disease of the world because Scripture does not treat the concept of “the world” entirely negatively and because Christ’s salvation covers all things as He rules everything.
Consequently, Edgar argues that evangelism and “pursuit of the cultural mandate” have the same principles in view of a “mission-oriented call” (161). He insists that the “Great Commission” is a restatement and completed form of the “cultural mandate” (161). He also suggests that the original cultural mandate in Genesis is continuously reiterated in and after the Noahic covenant, and one of the most important of these is Psalm 8, which is quoted in the New Testament to present Jesus Christ as the ruler over all. As Jesus’s incarnation signifies His transforming into a cultural being, His Great Commission is a “republication of the original cultural mandate” (215). Finally, he concludes that a Christian will engage in culture-making even in the life to come, which is the “renewed life” after the resurrection, as the new Jerusalem implies transformed cultural patterns.
Edgar excellently explains the comprehensive meaning of the term “culture.” Especially, he clearly articulates the Christian missional mandate by linking it with the result of modern cultural studies. This is a great contribution to Christian cultural studies.
However, Edgar’s handlings of the biblical texts is not substantial enough in some places to support his arguments; thus some of his conclusions are too brief to make a logical progression. For example, his quotation from Revelation 11:15, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever,” is not fully developed (230). He regards the verse as the “extraordinary statement” that pronounces “transformation,” and he states that the verse supports his arguments for the cultural mandate. The verse, however, does not contain the second appearance of “the kingdom” in its original Greek text; thus it can be translated as “the kingdom of the world has come into the possession of our Lord (or has become of our Lord).” This weakens one of his central arguments.
Throughout Created & Creating, Edgar excellently presents what the academic meanings of culture are and what the legitimacy of the cultural mandate is. Even if his biblical exegeses need more development in several places, his arguments and explanation about culture and the cultural mandate are worthy of consideration. Thus, it is recommendable to those who want to grasp a comprehensive concept of culture and one of the major Christian responses to the culture.
Jun Ho Jeon
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary