May 13, 2008
You Can Change the World!
A few weeks ago Bob Fryling, IVP’s Publisher, was telling me about Andy Crouch’s talk at the recent Q conference. Crouch dug up statistics on book titles with “change the world” (or similar) in them:
As my colleague Al Hsu pointed out, this will appear in chapter twelve (“Why We Can’t Change the World”) of his forthcoming book with IVP, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. And I think Al was also suggesting that I might recall that he had related these statistics to us several months ago. (I am finding that one of the byproducts of growing older and more forgetful is that my pleasure in new discoveries is ever increasing, though often shadowed by a hint of deja vu.)
I’m not sure, but I suspect a large percentage of these books were published in the good ole’ USA. We are a “can-do” culture, and (as Crouch points out) those who can, do write the books (not those who tried to change the world and didn’t).
Then a few mornings later I was reading in Barth’s Church Dogmatics, IV.3.2, pp 719-20. Barth is talking about how Jesus Christ stands in contrast with human confusion and the general muddle in which we find ourselves. In its action within this world, the church looks back to Christ’s triumph and forward to the perfect manifestation of this triumph. In response to Christ’s “great Yes and No” to this world, the church speaks its own “little Yes and No.” It is not hesitant to act, in this or that way or in a third way. “It will refrain from excusing itself by its own uncertainty, ignorance and impotence; it will avoid all regressions into hesitation; and it will always be responsible and prepared, either engaging, or on the point of engaging, in resolute action within general world-occurrence.” Then he says (and this is where I'm headed),
And as it executes its decisions in world-occurrence, it will undoubtedly change it. “Resolves genuinely taken change the world” (C. F. v. Weizsäcker). They do not do so absolutely conclusively or unequivocally. What the community can say and do in relation to the decision taken in Jesus Christ and in attestation of this decision, will always be relative. It can never consist in more than the erection of a sign. But the point at issue is that there should be this relative alteration of world history by the erection of signs.So Barth believes in the power of Christian signs to effect relative changes in the world. This is modest by American standards. In fact, it is un-American. But it is thoroughly biblical, placing faith in the One who has the true power to change the world. And who takes pleasure in using and empowering our often fragile and ambiguous signs.
Crouch’s figures would suggest that even previous generations of Americans were not quite so confident of their powers to change the world. And by the way, Crouch’s book looks very good.