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Christ and culture

A conversation with Terry Lindvall

Terry Lindvall, author, film producer and professor of film at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., visited Springfield, Mo., to lecture at Evangel University about how Christians relate to the culture they live in. Between sessions he spoke with the Pentecostal Evangel.

Evangel: One of the topics you spoke on at Evangel University was, "Conformed to an image: the beast or the Christ?" Elaborate on that.

Lindvall: We have a choice. Will we be conformed to the world’s image or transformed into Christ’s image? Christ calls us to be conformed to His image, but also to be part of the culture – to be leaven in the midst of it. We are not to be Pharisees, the self-righteous, hypocritical, arrogant ones who say, "Don’t touch; don’t handle; don’t be involved." Nor are we to be the Sadducees, who were the secularists of the day. We have to walk between those types of leaven.

Evangel: Where do you think most people err?

Lindvall: Most of us err on the side of the Pharisees. We are afraid of losing the faith so we protect it, creating more and more rules, particularly cultural rules.

All of us stand in different postures at different times. That’s why the body of Christ is so important — for balance. The Body helps us realize that this is the straight and narrow, but it’s a gospel of love. The mark of Christ is love: loving God and our enemies. Love is the mark of Christ rather than sanctification which is the fruit, not the mark.

The culture embraces secularists because they compromise so easily. The culture writes off Pharisees. But they don’t know what to do with Christians who walk in between because they can’t put us in either category. We are candid, but we have a humility and humor to what we are doing. We recognize that God has told us not to judge the world — He’ll do that — but to be agents of reconciliation and to tell good news. We’re here to say, "There’s some good news. God loves us."

Evangel: How are Christians affecting American culture?

Lindvall: God is raising up a renaissance of young men and women who are devoted Christians. They love God with all their heart. And they have a vision and feel called to the arts. To see God working through them is exciting. They are waiting for God to bring growth. They have more hope in God’s work than in their own talents, and they believe that God is going to bring it to pass. The culture is open to spiritual issues right now, which is good and bad. It brings in [evil] things like the occult, but it also allows for the gospel to be articulated.

Evangel: You have also written about humor in the lives of saints.

Lindvall: Yes. Humor is a gift from God that can be abused like any other gift. It is still one of the strongest ways to evangelize, as it was in the Middle Ages. Many of the priests would get people laughing and then hit them with the gospel and call for repentance. That’s why it was called "merry old England." There was mirth in much preaching. In fact some of them got carried away. You find that great Christian writers used humor and saw it as an effective tool.

My argument is that laughter existed in two forms before the Fall. The first form was our nature as incongruent beings. We are earth and the divine breath. You bring these two things together and you have a joke, an oxymoron, a spiritual animal. Angels don’t laugh at being angels, and dogs don’t laugh about being dogs. But humans have this funny incongruity. The second joke is that God split His nature into man and woman. Here are two images of God, but they are separate and different. One of the greatest sources of comedy is the male/female relationship.

It is important to see that laughter has roots in our nature, because some theologians see laughter as evil. Yes, it has become spoiled and perverted, but so have our hearts. In the Incarnation, God brings laughter to the body. Our bodies keep us humble, especially as we age. God created us in glory. Christians are free to enjoy what God has created, even though we recognize that it is fallen.


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