Culture & Christianity

4 12 2012

Have you ever wondered how, as a Believer, you should respond to certain events or topics in society? I know I have! And I have come to realize that there is no pat answer that works across the board for all things. It is tricky. The thing that we are really wrestling with is how as a Believer, one who is called to holiness (set apart-ness), we should engage/participate/exist within culture (the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular group of people). Given that this time of year we encounter many significant cultural days…Halloween, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving, Ashura, Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas, and many more…this question surfaces to the forefront of our minds. I don’t have an answer that holds true across the board. BUT, I do know there are biblical principles that should shape our thoughts & behaviours, and provide a foundation for us to discerningly ENGAGE our culture…and maybe even CREATE culture.

Here is a helpful quote from missiologist Lesslie Newbigin that frames the extremes, irrelevance & syncretism, we should seek to avoid. Newbigin is addressing cross-cultural missions, but this applies just as well to engaging our local culture:

Everyone with the experience of cross-cultural mission knows that there are always two opposite dangers, the Scylla and Charybdis, between which one must steer. On the one side there is the danger that one finds no point of contact for the message as the missionary preaches it, to the people of the local culture the message appears irrelevant and meaningless. On the other side is the danger that the point of contact determines entirely the way that the message is received, and the result is syncretism. Every missionary path has to find the way between these two dangers: irrelevance and syncretism. And if one is more afraid of one danger than the other, one will certainly fall into the opposite. (Lesslie Newbigin, A Word in Season (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 67.)

Consider these passages that speak to engagement without compromise…

  • 1 Corinthians 9 — Paul expresses that he has full freedom, even rights, in Christ! He becomes all things to all peoples that by all means he might save some (vs 22). Yet, Paul says he endures everything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel (vs 12).
  • Acts 17 — Paul engaged the local culture in order to have a platform for the gospel. He frequented the Athenian marketplace and reasoned with people there, including philosphers. He was quite familiar with their philosophies and beliefs.
  • John 17 — Jesus prays for his disciples, that they would be IN the world, though not OF the world.

We need discerning hearts and minds guided by the Spirit of God. Perhaps the biggest challenge is that personal conviction is not elevated to the status of biblical principle that is for all believers for all times.





Book Review Intro

30 03 2008

If interested, here is the introduction to a book review that I wrote. It is not a specifically Christian book, though it is written by a professed believer with a political background. I used it to evaluate concepts of God, Man, and Sin. The book is Voice of Many Crying by John Munday.

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