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9 Responses to “Two-Legged Tables”

  1. Glenn McMahan says:

    These are very helpful thoughts, Mike, including your entire series on “making culture.” It seems to me that making a culture that reflects the nature of God is a task that human nature often opposes. In Romans 1:18-32, Paul gives us a pretty good (although incomplete) portrait of natural human values and desires. What’s portrayed by Paul is a disdain in the human heart for a culture that reflects God. Perhaps this is one of the “messy” factors that we need to consider, too. We are swimming upstream, trying to build a culture that is not appealing to the unbroken human heart. What’s amazing to me is how through history believers have transformed cultures in amazing ways even against the tide of opposition. Such accomplishment is miraculous, I think, and an encouraging call to persevere and work together. Thanks for your part in that.

  2. Tim Patterson says:

    I wonder how concerned Paul and the apostles were with changing the culture in which they lived.

  3. BJeffrey says:

    More grist for the thinking mill, Mike. I’m also learning that I make more of an impact on the culture I live in when I get really good at doing one thing. When I infuse that one thing with all I am and all I have, then I have a bigger impact.

    One more thought. I just heard recently that the best classes are taught my teachers in love with their subjects. Sure they love their students, too, but that almost seems a by-product. That really helped me understand both my student and teaching experiences.

    When I was a teacher I think I always felt I needed to love the students first, but when I think on the classes and teachers I most enjoyed learning from, it was those that truly loved their material. They barely knew me and yet I still felt inspired by their teaching.

    Maybe it’s a stretch to connect it back to the four-legged table, but when I think about where I can apply your ideas, I find the “love-the-subject” guideline a helpful signpost.

  4. Mike Metzger says:

    Bruce:

    I think you’re on to something with your emphasis on love. I’d recommend Matthew Stewart’s new book, “The Management Myth: Why The Experts Keep Getting It Wrong.” Stewart says modern management is not based on an accurate assessment of human nature. It’s disconnected from reality and dismisses the contributions of philosophy and history. All that to say, a wonderful read, as he’s a gifted writer.

    Regarding your wonder, my good friend Tim – consider that Paul saw redemption as the restoration of all things (Colossians 1). Things transcend people and souls, important as they are. When we see people as social and cultural and physical beings – as well as spiritual beings – then redemption takes on the three and four dimensions (or however many there are) of reality.

  5. Mike Metzger says:

    Behind the scenes of this blog, It’s come to my attention that this might read as a veiled critique of Andy Crouch’s book “Culture Making.” Not so. The real source of my concern is the loose language about culture making and the wobbly ways so many try to work it out. Andy’s a good, good man – a thoughtful believer. My concern is more along the lines of a rich idea being thinned out it as it’s spread around. That’s a problem we all face – it’s not Andy’s problem.

  6. Tim Patterson says:

    Good to hear from you, Mike.

    “Regarding your wonder, my good friend Tim – consider that Paul saw redemption as the restoration of all things (Colossians 1). Things transcend people and souls, important as they are. When we see people as social and cultural and physical beings – as well as spiritual beings – then redemption takes on the three and four dimensions (or however many there are) of reality.”

    I guess I see culture as the environment in which we exist in this world and the development of that is more based upon the principles of this world, rather than upon Christ. Are we to seek to change these things or rather be a part of God’s work to call men out of this darkness and into the kingdom of light?

  7. Mike Metzger says:

    Tim:

    You confuse darkness with the world. As my colleague John Seel pointed in an earlier column response, 2/3rds of the references to “the world” in scripture are positive. Being called out of the darkness is being separated from the assumptions and systems that are antithetical to the kingdom. It does not demand withdrawal from the entire world and cultures. Calling people out of darkness does not mean ignoring our world’s cultures and pulling people away from as much involvement in them as possible. We are made as enculturated beings, that is God’s design. It is literally impossible to be completely aware of all the cultural influences that shape our behavior (we only know in part). It would be like staying on top of a large beach ball while floating in the ocean. Theoretically possible, humanly impossible. Therefore, if we are serious about salvation – and see it as involving the whole person and whole societies (“all things,” as Paul wrote) – then we are serious about making cultures where people, even though largely unaware of their influences, flourish. That’s what it means to love our neighbors, shalom.

    So… shalom to you, my friend. I hope this helps a little…

  8. Peter Frieswick says:

    Mike,

    I’ve been reading and enjoying your blog since last year. In many of your posts, including this one, you talk about a bottom-up versus top-down approach to culture making. You appear to be advocating for the bottom-down approach, which intrigues me. For the majority of my life, I have been told that the “trickle down” effect capitalism was supposed to have was not working. Instead of looking to government to feed people, I was told that the church was supposed to handle such things. Is this church initiated idea of social welfare actually a bottom-up approach, or do you think that by creating an institution, it too is top-down?

    This morning I read an opinion article from Comment online, where the author appears to be supporting a bottom-up system, because he sees it as a something that builds relationships, where as top-down systems just make rules. (You can find his article here: http://www.cardus.ca/comment/article/1303/). While I don’t know that I agree with this author, he did stir up a question I have been wrestling with in regards to bottom-up/top-down: Do you think that instead of just being “apprentices”, that when we engage in culture making on a local level, we are actually contributing to the state and national level as well? I can’t help but think that if we do not train and encourage people to be moral when they are just young kids in an after school program, we can’t expect them to become moral leaders when they grow up. Perhaps this is what you are implying in your post; that we need top-down institutions to guide us rightly, but we also need moral people in these top-down institutions, who learned to behave the way they do, because they were taught it on the local level. Thus, it seems to me that both bottom-up and top-down institutions are extremely important, and we need to encourage both in order to sustain our culture.

  9. Mike Metzger says:

    Peter:

    You raise many excellent questions and I certainly admire the work of Cardus (I even write for them on occasion). To address your inquiry, might I refer you to my seven-week series that began in July of 2009? It’s right here at this site and is titled: “Why Institutions Matter.” The question is not top-down versus bottom-up, but rather central versus peripheral institutions. If you have an opportunity to peruse the series, tell me what you think. I’d welcome your comments.

    Mike

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