The book of Leviticus, graveyard of so many good intentions to read straight through the Bible, is in fact an instruction manual for the creation of a distinct people in the context of the Ancient Near East. By observing its commands and prohibitions—both the broadly ethical, such as “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” and the narrowly specific, such as keeping meat and milk separate in Israel’s diet—Abram’s descendants will be shaping their own distinctive cultural identity. Even the most puzzling, and seemingly arbitrary, features of the Levitical code require Israel to consciously depend on the God who revealed them, rather than simply absorbing and imitating the cultures that surround them.
—Culture Making, p.128
There is nothing tidy about the cultural project of Israel. When we read it as a whole, rather than plucking selected passages to justify our culture wars or cultural withdrawal, the story is profoundly humbling. If God’s chosen people experienced such frustration and failure in creating and cultivating culture, how can followers of Christ, scattered among the nations, expect to do better?
—Culture Making, p.132
The whole of the Hebrew Bible, from Genesis 12 to Malachi 4, can be seen as a record of Israel’s education in faith—not “faith” as a purely spiritual or religious enterprise, but as a cultural practice of dependence on the world’s Creator that encompasses everything from military strategy to songwriting.
—Culture Making, p.131