However - that does not mean that all theological programmes for such engagement are equally valid and Biblical. One approach, to which I take exception, is the idea that the Church is called to engage with culture, by seeking to discern the voice of God in the world. Scholars such as Rowan Williams have called for this for some time - Christians are urged to listen to God's voice in the world - he may be saying surprising things.
The appeal of such an approach is obvious; it creates the excitement of possible change; overthrow of previous norms; building of new inclusive relationships.
Ben Myers takes the theme of listening to God in the world, in his recent paper about the nature of Christian scholarship:
"Scholars have no privileged access to Christ’s voice, but their job is to help the church to discern this voice so that the whole church can respond in obedient faith. The church will at times discover ‘its own nature and mission’ only as it listens carefully to the voice of Christ in contemporary thought or in wider social discourses and practices."
Ben Myers 'A theology of scholarship'
I have not learned many truly new things in my doctoral study, but I have become more deeply convinced about a few foundational theological convictions. One of them is that the only place where the Church hears the voice of God today is the scriptures. I appreciate that there are diverse ways and settings for hearing that voice, and not all Christians will agree that God is saying the same thing to them on every matter. Nevertheless, I am of the view that encouraging people to seek to hear the voice of God in the world's culture is misguided.
If the intent is simply to encourage engagement, mission, love, sensitivity or what Stott called 'double listening' - then there are better ways to phrase it, which do not appear to undermine the clarion call of scripture itself, which places the emphasis upon proclamation to a lost world.
Proclamation to the world is where Karl Barth placed the weight of scripture's message:
The world, then, cannot evolve into agreement with God’s Word on its own initiative nor can the Church achieve this by its work in and on the world. The Church is the Church as it believes and proclaims that prior to all secular developments and prior to all its own work the decisive word has in fact been spoken already regarding both itself and also the world. The world no longer exists in isolation or neutrality vis-à-vis revelation, the Bible, and proclamation. Whether it believes or not, whether it develops in this way or that, whether the Church exerts greater influence or less, whether it consists of millions of confessors and proclaimers or whether only two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name—whatever becomes of the Church and the world the only thing that can matter is the event that follows the decisive word already spoken.
Sermo enim Dei venit mutaturus orbem, quoties venit ('For the word of God comes, insofar as it comes, to change the world.' Luther, De servo arb., 1525, W.A., 18, p. 626, l. 26).
Barth, Church Dogmatics, Volume I The Doctrine of the Word of God, Part 1. 2d, S. 155.
Sadly, if Myer's intention is to encourage evangelicals to engage with contemporary culture (and that is a good intention) - the method of encouraging a listening for the surprising voice of God in that culture, will turn many away from that cultural engagement.