Although the title is perhaps crafted for shock value, it springs out of a pastor’s struggle with how to honestly engage his congregation in the struggle surrounding how to approach culture. He coins a brilliant phrase to aid in describing his approach; Co-Illumination. Basically, Co-Illumination claims that truth is illuminated by a reciprocal interplay between God’s revelation through Creation, and God’s revelation through Scripture. Van Sloten explains that when he preaches he holds “two books in (his) hands: the book of Scripture and the book of creation and culture”, and that he tries to “show how both books “co-illuminate” each other”, that the “two voices interacting with each other magnify God’s truth.” This sheds light on how we can resolve the aforementioned tension. It means that Scripture informs our understanding of all cultural things, and inversely that Creation informs our understanding of Scripture. He goes on to affirm with John Calvin, the Reformed theologian, that all truth is God’s truth. Consider the implications of that statement: all truth is God’s truth.
I think often of how this understanding is foundational to Christian education, and I think that this is why I get excited about the gift that Christian education has to offer our faith communities. If we understand that Creation and Scripture are Co-Illumining it means that we can find Truth in a lot more than just the supposedly ‘sacred’ things of life. Instead, we can find Truth in ‘secular’ movies, books, music, and art. All Truth, according to Van Sloten, includes “biblical truth, mathematically formulaic truth, aesthetically beautiful truth, athletically inspired truth, naturally scenic truth, psychologically wise truth….” You get the picture.
The converse to the above argument is also true; we will gain an understanding that there are certain aspects of culture that simply are out of line with God’s good created order when we allow the Co-Illumining of Creation and Scripture. This is a good thing because we need to be able to discern the holy from the abominable, and decide whether we need to remove our footwear or put on a pair of rubber boots.
Sloten, John. The day Metallica came to church: searching for the everywhere God in everything. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Square Inch, 2010.