Posted by: judy | January 25, 2009

“Vanity of vanities” Culture Making by Andy Crouch

King Solomon begins in Ecclesiastes 1:2-3:futility

“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher,
What advantage does man have in all his work
Which he does under the sun?

This is the final installment of our review of Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch.

Part 1: Scrambling God’s Word

Part 2: Keep Your Eye on the Ball

To summarize Andy’s philosophy loosely based on Scripture:

Man is created in God’s image and therefore is co-creator with God.

Culture is God’s greatest gift to humankind.

Man’s created cultural artifacts (those which he deems “good” as God’s emissary) will have lasting value into eternity.

Arguably King Solomon’s greatest accomplishment was building the Temple.

In its time a supreme ‘cultural artifact’.

A privilege that King David {Solomon’s Father} was denied.
See King Solomon’s other accomplishments here.

There is a plethora of Scripture which refutes Andy’s suppositions. However, after careful reading of Ecclesiates; King Solomon passionately captures the futility of man’s efforts on the cursed condition of the universe which is completely opposite of Andy’s Crouch’s ‘wisdom’ and philosophy.

Without a doubt Andy Crouch desires a more meaningful and loving world. A world without suffering — a world that honors God.

As with many Emergents they identify the symptoms  produced by the problem correct:

Culture is vulgar, dishonoring to God, steeped with indecent crimes to humanity.

Unborn babies are murdered.

Pornography is peddled to our children via television, movies, and music.

Families are torn apart and a once ‘moral’ culture is under attack by a homosexual culturally-destructive agenda.

Our models for living are narcissitic Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes

Innocent people are starving, used as human shields during wars, sold into slavery.

We would argue that worse than the above atrocities — the root of the problem is that Christ’s church, Christ’s foundation is heaving and crumbling because:

The Christian community is largely Biblically illiterate, apathetic, corrupted by false doctrines and doesn’t recognize heresy being and studied and quoted in their own Sunday School programs and preached from their pulpits.

So a resounding “YES” to Andy — he correctly identifies the symptoms of a gigantic problem — but because he misses the core and essence of the problem; his solution like those of other emergents is unBiblical.

Andy will argue (and agree) that man cannot create ‘good’ separate from God — that God is the author and creator of all that is ‘good’ in culture. However, Andy clearly states if man creates culture, partnered, with God then it is indeed ‘good’ and will have lasting value on the other side of eternity.

There are 2 troubling issues.

1)The dialectic conclusion that because man is created in God’s image THEN he is also co-creator alongside God. Dominion Theology.

2)Culture can somehow {based on ‘good’ and Godly intentions} be redeemed in this life with lasting value into eternity.

King Solomon’s experience and reflection focuses on #2.
Solomon reached a much different conclusion.

In the evening of his life King Solomon evaluates his life. Interestingly, my study notes (John MacArthur) indicates that this was primarily written to warn the young people of his kingdom, without omitting others. He warned them to avoid walking through life on the path of human wisdom; and exhorted them to live by the revealed wisdom of God.(Ecc. 12:9-14)

Solomon had it all. A very personal relationship with God and every earthly treasure available to humanity. We can surmise that Solomon walked closely to God — he alone is the author of 3 books of Scripture ~~comparable only to Moses in the Old Testament.

This is what the great and humbled King Solomon concluded at the close of his life:

1. All earthly goals and ambitions when pursued as ends in themselves produce only emptiness. “Vanity of vanities” (in various forms used 38 times). Paul echoed Solomon’s dissatisfaction in Romans 8:19-21 “. . .  “the creation was subjected to futility.”

2. The effects of the curse (Genesis 3:17-19) led Solomon to view life as “chasing after the wind.”

3. The impossiblity of discovering both the inner workings of God’s creation and the personal providence of God in Solomon’s life. The reality of judgement emerged as the great certainty.

4. Man’s activity is “fleeting.”

5. Man’s activity is futile becasue of the cursed condtion of the universe and debilitating effects it has on man’s earthly experience.

6. Man’s activity is “incomprehensible” or “enigmatic”, giving consideration to life’s unaswered questions.

Solomon focuses on the ‘mysteries’ of God’s purposes and Man’s futility in finding the most successful route because man’s wisdom is limited. King Solomon’s conclusion:

But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. (Ecc. 12:12-14)

John MacArthur’s study notes: “Books written on any other subject than God’s revealed wisdom will only multiply the uselessness of man’s thinking. Solomon’s final word on the issue raised in Ecclesiastes and life itself, focus on one’s relationship to God.” {emphasis added}

“Judgement/retribution is the real equalizer, for God will bring every person’s every act to judgement.” (John MacArthur Study Notes) The Sovereign God of the universe does not need nor “call” humankind to creative culture making. God will judge the ‘culture-makers’ of this world. 

Our call is reviving and reconciling a dying and lost world to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.




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