Why You Need To Tilt Your Brain

One of the websites I find helpful is Mike Metzger’s Doggie Head Tilt. Mike is the President and Senior Fellow of The Clapham Institute, “whose mission is to help people and organizations advance faith-centered cultural reform.”

In DNA circles, we often point out that “cult” is upstream from culture and culture is upstream from the social, political, and economic institutions of a nation. To have a flourishing community and nation, cult (that is, “worship of the Living God”) is fundamental. It is God’s nature and character that leads to godly culture which in turn leads to free and prosperous nations. The Clapham Institute, like the Clapham Sect in England, knows the importance of cultural reform.

But cultural reform cannot begin until truth has gained our attention. Thus the metaphor of a dog tilting its head, as in Francis Barraud’s famous painting, “His Master’s Voice.”

Metzger uses the every day image of a dog’s head tilting as it ponders something that has gained its attention. He writes: “Deciphering an organization’s DNA means innovation. Innovation requires right-brain thinking. Your right brain is ticking when the doggie’s head tilts. Get ready to tilt.” His essays stir the imagination; they get people to think.

A recent offering, Clickerstalks about parables as secret codes of the kingdom of God to be used behind the enemy lines of the Enlightenment.

Western churches enjoy a “kind of comfortable cohabitation with the Enlightenment,” wrote Lessie Newbigin. Dallas Willard says one consequence is the Western church “lives in a bubble of historical illusion about the meaning of discipleship.”* It pulls apart head, heart, and hands, accounting for “the practical irrelevance of actual obedience to Christ and for the weakened effect of Christianity in the world today.” The modern church can claim to “know God” without experiencing or obeying him. Modern believers can claim to be “servants of Christ” by simply studying “servanthood” rather than serving others.

I encourage you to enjoy, and be challenged by, Metzger’s essay. You will find other treasures at the Clapham Institute website.

- Darrow Miller

*Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1998

  
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5 Responses to Why You Need To Tilt Your Brain

  1. Jim Byrne says:

    Darrow:

    Your river imagery is a pleasant one and evokes for me reflection on texts like Ezekiel 47. However, I cannot say that I’m very clear on how you are using it. It might be helpful if you could, when you have time, blog on what you mean by “cult” and “culture.” The first term has pejorative or primitive overtones to the American and seldom occurs in everyday conversation. The second term is pretty amorphous. I know what horticulture is and what a yeast culture is. But what kind of culture are you talking about? What do you mean by these terms, given that you and DNA talk a lot about them?

    Be blessed!

    • Jim, as always, thank you for your thoughtful comment. You are correct in saying that we spend a lot of time dealing with the issue of culture. In response to your question, perhaps the most direct thing that we have written that relates to your question may be found in a section from the book LifeWork. I will quote at length from Part 3 of the book on The Cultural Mandate.

      Culture: Worship Externalized
      Why are the Genesis scriptures referred to as the cultural mandate? What is culture anyway? And what does it mean to create culture?
      While Hakani’s story shows that people don’t agree on what culture is, and whether it is even “made,” in reality, culture is easy to define. Theologian Henry Van Til states it very clearly and concisely: “Culture is religion externalized.” (Henry Van Til quoted in David Bruce Hegeman, Plowing In Hope: Toward a Biblical Theology of Culture, Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 1999, 15.)
      The closely related words culture, cultivate, and cult capture this connection. Most of us are familiar with the word cult in its many shades of usage, from a religious group gone awry to the obsessive cult followings of celebrities. However, in these cases people have the object of their worship wrong since at root, cult means “worship or reverential homage rendered to a divine being.” (The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971, s.v. “cult.”) Like culture and cultivate, the word cult is derived from the Latin cultus, the past participle of the verb colere: to tend, till, or cultivate. Dictionaries define cultus—the root for all three words—as care, adoration, worship, and veneration.
      This family of interconnected words reflect the truth that the root of culture is worship. Writing in Plowing in Hope: Toward a Biblical Theology of Culture, David B. Hegeman, states:

      The term [culture] could also be used in a religious context to mean worship. The idea here seems to be that in the same way the farmer actively fusses over his crops, so the worshiper gives rapt attention to the deity he serves. Thus the term is closely related to the Latin cultus meaning adoration or veneration. The English language retains this connection with such terms as cult, cultic, occult, etc. (Hegeman, Plowing In Hope, 13–14)

      At its heart, a culture is a product of a people’s cult, or of their civic religion. It is a reflection of the god they worship.
      This stands in contrast to the modern materialist’s assumption that culture is somehow merely the sum total of a way of living, by specific people groups. George Grant—pastor and educator—has pointed out in his book The Micah Mandate the Augustinian understanding of the nature of culture. Grant writes:

      According to Augustine, culture is not a reflection of a people’s race, ethnicity, folklore, politics, language, or heritage. Rather it is an outworking of a people’s creed. In other words, culture is the temporal manifestation of a people’s faith. If a culture begins to change, it is not because of fads, fashions, or the passing of time, it is because of a shift in worldview—it is because of a change of faith. Thus, race, ethnicity, folklore, politics, language, or heritage is simply an expression of a deeper paradigm rooted in the covenantal and spiritual matrix of a community’s church and the integrity of its witness.
      The reason that he spent so much of his life and ministry critiquing the pagan philosophies of the world and exposing the aberrant theologies of the church was that Augustine understood only too well that those things matter not only in the realm of eternity determining the spiritual destiny of masses of humanity but also in the realm of the here and now determining the temporal destiny of whole civilizations.
      …Augustine recognized that a people’s dominant worldview inevitably shapes the world they have in view. (George Grant, The Micah Mandate: Balancing the Christian Life, Nashville: Cumberland House, 1999, 243.)

      We can easily see this in our modern day world. The Taliban in Afghanistan created a society that reflected their worship. Likewise, the USA’s popular culture is a reflection of the materialistic ideals of a secular belief system.
      The modern concept of anthropology, as derived from materialistic thought, sees culture as neutral. In the materialistic paradigm where there is no God, there is no objective truth; therefore, everything is relative. From this set of assumptions there is no way that one person or culture can critique another. No one culture or aspect of a culture is seen as better than another. As such, all culture is valued for what it is. With this view, how can we distinguish between the death camps of Nazi Germany, the hospitals of Mother Theresa’s Sisters of Charity, or the pop culture of contemporary America?
      Derived from worship, culture is anything but neutral. Culture stands at the convergence of the spiritual and physical realms. In fact it can be said that the spiritual realm influences the physical realm at the level of culture. Just as ideas have consequences, so does our worship.

      - Darrow Miller

  2. Jim Byrne says:

    Thank you, that helps me locate your meaning.
    Incidentally, Henry Van Til, at the beginning of The Calvinistic Concept of Culture, attributes the notion that “culture is religion externalized” to Paul Tillich.

  3. Pingback: Husband and Husbandry: Preserving and Protecting | Darrow Miller and Friends

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