Drucker’s adage doesn’t just apply to business. It contains a deeper insight:
Cultures contain forces that overpower nearly everything that opposes them. Business plans, sales goals, ministry strategies, political policies—all these bow before culture.
Part of culture’s power is in its unstated assumptions—assumptions that often hold greater power to shape behavior and coerce conformity than the beliefs and values people discuss out loud.
We’re well into the twenty-first century, yet we’re seeing a backwards seventh-century mindset triumph in Afghanistan. Why? Culture. The worldview and assumptions of a deeply-engrained Salafi culture—or anti-culture—devoured the best of secular strategists’ intents.
How can we explain this phenomenon? As theologian Henry Van Til expressed in The Calvinistic Concept of Culture, culture is religion externalized. It’s the outward display of a group’s worldview—good, bad, or ugly.
Van Til’s thesis might be an oversimplification, but not by much. Man is made for worship (Gen. 1:26-27, Isa. 43:7, Rom. 1:20-21). Things like policies and politics are downstream from the stronger culture. And at the headwaters of culture is the cultus. Whatever we we worship, love, or regard as transcendent—that’s what drives the current.
In Afghanistan, we’re witnessing the victory of the false god of Salafi Islam over the false god of secular democracy, nation building, and military strategy. Both worldviews fall short of reaching the one true God of the Bible, yet one worldview and the violent culture it yields is manifestly stronger than the other.
What can be done? There are not many good options. But what we can’t do is export the fruit of Christianity—things like equality under law and ordered liberty—without the root of Christ’s lordship.
Islam cannot support this fruit. Neither the sickly vine of secularism—which is why our own culture, once built on Christian assumptions, is crumbling.
We have two options: Christ or chaos.
Without Christ at the blazing center of our worldview, affections, and, culture, the center doesn’t hold.
Culture eats strategy for breakfast. To see lasting healing in the Middle East, we must reform the culture, which means addressing the cultus. Only when the gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed and embraced throughout the Islamic world will we begin to taste the peace of his kingdom.
Editor’s Note: You can share your faith with Muslim friends and neighbors. Here’s how.