I haven’t read Culture Making, and therefore have no basis for whether or not Gilbert’s conclusions about the book are correct, but I enjoyed how he uses clear thought to demonstrate why we should think clearly about how an author proves a point.
Again, this post is in no way an attempt to validate Gilbert’s conclusions or to vilify the work of the incredibly intelligent Andy Crouch, but more to look at Gilbert’s clever use of parallel analogy in making his case.
The quote is below:
“when he tries to convince us that culture is central to the biblical storyline, and the evidence amounts to facts such as that Adam and Eve made clothes (making something of the world!), Noah made a boat, Acts has alot of cities in it, and the heavenly Jerusalem is encrusted with cut gems rather than raw minerals (again, human craft-work), isn’t that an example of elevating incidentals to an importance they were never meant to have?
I mean, if I really put my mind to it, I think I could make a case—very similar to the one Crouch makes that Scripture is about “culture”—that actually, the Scriptural story is about……plants. It’s plants and more plants, all the way down.
Think about it. The first living things in the world are plants. Adam and Eve are placed in a garden (full, one assumes, of plants) and their sin is fundamentally about the misuse of plants (right?). Not only so, but it is a plant, the fig, to which they turn when they want to try to cover up their sin. The tabernacle was made out of wood, which at least started out as a plant, and plant products were central to the rituals of the sacrificial system. Noah’s ark was made out of plants, as was that other arc, and Jesus himself for the first thirty years of his life (10/11ths!) was a plant-products-craftsman. And then, lo and behold, on what does Jesus die? Yep, a plant—or at least what used to be a plant, a tree. The apostles travel on boats made of plant products. And for that matter, what do the women mistake the risen Christ of being? A gardener! (Plants again.) And then, what is the climax of the New Testament? The river of life, flanked on either side by—you guessed it!—large plants!!
Amazing, isn’t it, how central plants are to the Bible’s story. Obviously God loves plants, and therefore obviously he wants his people to be careful, attentive, passionate plant-growers. That’s our calling.
This is a great reminder that although what we read may sound right on, upon further investigation it can be made to be completely foolish. We ought to heed the words of Paul to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:14-15:
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
Rightly handling the word of truth means trying diligently to say what Scripture says, and understand what it means without twisting it into an opinion loosely informed by Scripture. Careful and precise reading and thinking are important when seeking understanding of the Word of God!