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The Shaping Power of Culture

Especially incoherent culture.

Brandon Vaidyanathan calls on believers to develop a more coherent view of Christian life, and to stop living in captivity to contemporary cultural forms and practices (“Resisting a Culture of Incoherence,” Comment, Spring 2022). 

He explains that most Christians hope to be regarded as “good Christians” by the people in their Christian circles. And most believers are satisfied with that, at least experientially. They might also like to be good Christians beyond the pale of faith, but they’re not very successful in this because they are trapped in the incoherent culture of our secular age.

Incoherent culture is fragmented, pragmatic, and narcissistic. Christians are not equipped to resist the pull of this culture because they have neither the narratives, habits of life, nor the exemplars to equip them for living the more consistent Christian life they would like. 

The author writes, “The real challenge for people of faith in maintaining a coherent identity in the modern world is not that the proliferation of secular realms weakens the plausibility of religious faith. Rather, it’s that we’re socialized in ways that produce distinct internal conversations, models of desire, and habits in these realms that are disconnected from – if not at odds with – our religious identities. These are powerful cultural blind spots. And they cannot be overcome by sheer willpower.”

At present, most churches are not providing the kind of context or equipping to help believers escape the tractor beam of incoherent culture. Which is to say we're not aiming our preaching, teaching, and disciple-making at where people actually live their lives. Thus our witness is compromised, our impact on culture is negligible, and our churches are little more than religious clubs to reinforce too-easily-satisfied egos.

We won't turn our world rightside-up unless we learn to resist, overcome, and transform the incoherent cultural forms that press on and leach into our lifestyles wherever we go.

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