Tim Keller devotes several chapters to cultural engagement in his book Center Church. In it he shows that he may have as much time as Fr. Dwight does for reading and reflection beyond sermon prep. Keller sees problems in both the transformational model and 2k, and in his ever constant search for a “third” way, one that adheres to the — wait for it — center rather than to margins or extremes, he winds up in solidarity with Abraham Kuyper:
Kuyper taught that the church institutional was the gathered church, organized under its officers and ministers. It is called to do “Word and sacrament,” to preach the gospel, baptize, and make disciples. (240)
There you have conceivably the 2k aspect of Kuyper, one that preserves the church’s task of evangelism and discipleship.
But Kuyper also thought of the church as organic, and here comes the camel’s nose:
[This refers] to all Christians living in the world who have been discipled and equipped to bring the gospel to bear on all of life. . . . As Christians in the world, they are still to think and work together, banding together in creative forms being the church organic that the church institutional has discipled them to be. (241)
Notice how the church organic doesn’t result in parachurch agencies that have their own non-ecclesiastical oversight. (Notice too that Redeemer PCA has lots of non-Word-&-sacrament activities in its budget lines, the finances overseen by officers called to minister Word and sacrament.) No, the model here is church officers teaching and equipping believers how to engage the culture. (Maybe a bakery and vintner ministry at least for the Lord’s Supper?) Part of discipleship is applying the gospel to culture. The church organized becomes the same thing as the church organic.
Yet to be factored into this selective appeal to Kuyper — apart from sphere sovereignty which might give parents rather than church officers lots of room for engaging the culture — is whether the Bible actually allows Christians to engage the culture in the name of the gospel. It sounds nice, but if you take Christian liberty seriously, one church organicist’s gospel engagement is another believer’s abuse of Scripture. And there goes all that organic unity in the body of Christ except for spiritual earnestness.
The other problem is the Confession of Faith’s, the one that Keller subscribed, assertion that synods and councils are not to speak to non-ecclesiastical matters (31.4). If a synod or council shouldn’t address non-spiritual matters, why should a session or Reformed pastor?
Rather than making a coherent case for why Christians must — even should — engage the culture, Keller reads like he is looking for a rationale for what Redeemer NYC already does.