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November 19, 2018

Salon with James Davison Hunter

By Scott Crosby

The social analysis and theory of culture contained within James Davison Hunter’s book To Change The World comprises much of the academic foundation upon which Christian Union New York’s mission is built. Being so heavily informed by this work, CU New York was excited to host a breakfast discussion on To Change The World at the Union League Club on Friday, October 26, 2018. Over twenty of CU New York’s young professionals were in attendance.

Romans 12:2 - “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

HunterArticleDiscussion began with a question raised by this verse: What are the patterns of the world that we’re not supposed to be conformed to? It is evident that we have been living in a secular, liberal, post-Christian world for a few decades, however we don’t only live in a post-Christian world, but a world that is now moving into a post-enlightenment and post-liberal era. We continue to have enlightenment institutions but the core values on which they were established have been eroded. This is the direction that the pattern of the world is leading.

A clear output of this pattern of the world raised in To Change The World is the way in which everything public has become political. The suggestion is that Christians too, on all fronts, have forgotten that the Kingdom of God is not of this world and, as a result, have themselves become politically nihilistic. In doing so, and in the name of resisting the spirit of the age, much of the church has, in fact, embraced the spirit of the age.

The solution presented in To Change The World is what the author refers to as faithful presence within. Instead of railing against the world, instead of hiding and retreating from the world, and instead of simply assimilating to the dominant culture, Hunter’s argument is that rather we need to be faithfully present within the world. This is a strategy of incarnation, rooted in the ethics of love. This burden of faithful presence is for the individual, especially for Christian leaders in their respective spheres, but even more so for Christian institutions.

Being a “faithful presence within” is a way to be public without being political; it is a position from which Christians can enact beauty, poetry, and innovation in a world that has run out of ideas. Click to Tweet It is a way to reintroduce hope to a world stuck in the stalemate of the politics of fear. It involves stepping back from the pattern of the world, and pointing to the Kingdom of God.

Hunter never wrote the last chapter of To Change The World. The first two of the three sections each contain seven chapters, but the last section has only six. The seventh chapter, about what faithful presence looks like in each industry, has to be written by us. More specifically, it has to be written by overlapping Christian leaders and institutions working in common cause in their respective spheres (a central thesis of the first part of the book). We look to academics such as Hunter to discern the patterns of the world, and to church leaders to provide spiritual guidance, wisdom and nourishment, but the burden of faithful presence within rests mainly on those in the marketplace. That’s why the work of Christian Union Cities is so essential. The burden of reintroducing imagination and beauty to the world is ours.

About Salons
Salons provide an intimate gathering for around 20 Christian leaders at a time to develop strong ties, and interact on a more narrowly defined topic that strengthens either the intellectual or supernatural dimensions of your Christian faith. Expert speakers will go in-depth, but the setting affords participants opportunities for question and answer, and interaction with the speaker, as well as one another.

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