6 Important Reasons Why Culture Should Matter To Christians – Part 2

Part 2 of 2

(This is part 2 of a two-part series exploring why Christians should care about culture. Click HERE for part 1.)

‘Culture’ is what happens when human beings shape reality. It contains good and bad elements. And it can shape us – powerfully.

And so this raises an important question:

How should Christians respond to the culture(s) around us?

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Here are 3 things Christians need to keep in mind as we respond to culture:

4) The Christian’s stance toward every human culture should be one of critical enjoyment and appropriate wariness

We should celebrate God’s provision of justice, wisdom, and beauty in each culture – whilst being wary of the sinful distortions.

Let’s take the cultural product  ‘Facebook’.

Are there things Christians can celebrate and affirm about Facebook? Can Christians use Facebook?

The answer, I think, is ‘yes’:

  • Facebook can be a means of connecting with others, including loved ones across the globe;
  • Facebook can be a place to share the gospel.

So there are things Christians can affirm about Facebook.

But we also need to be wary of Facebook, and discerning in how we use it:

  • We can become compulsive, distracted Facebook users who neglect our ‘offline’ world by constantly checking our feeds;
  • We can become depressed as we look at the (seemingly) amazing lives of our FB friends – at least according to their status updates – compared to our ordinary existence.

So we need to be wary about how culture and cultural products like Facebook can shape us. And this wariness should inform how we use it.

But we don’t simply affirm and challenge culture for our own sakes.

Out of love for our neighbour – including our non-Christian neighbour, there will be times when we openly challenge and affirm our culture, because of the impact our culture has on others:

  • We might affirm the goal and desire of public school programmes like ‘Safe Schools’ to prevent bullying of kids, but challenge the contested ideology behind it (not to mention it’s coercive implementation in public education).

We can also point people to the gospel by affirming those aspects of culture that are in line with the Christian view of reality, whilst asking how a secular worldview provides for these good things:

  • We can affirm the popular idea that all people everywhere have inalienable human rights universal human rights, but ask how the secular worldview can provide for such rights. We can then move to showing how Christianity provides solid justification for human rights.

 

But there’s more: Christians need to think clearly about culture building, because we each build culture:

5) Like all human beings, Christians are always in the process of making – and influencing – culture

The question is whether we’re doing it well, or doing it poorly.

Christians, like non-Christians, are always making culture:

  • Christian businesspeople develop and promote products and services (a form of culture);
  • Christian tradespeople make and fix physical objects – houses, plumbing, gardens: these are all forms of culture making.

And so the question is never ‘should Christians be involved in making culture?’ To some extent we’re  all involved.

The question is whether we’re going to do it well, or poorly.

Godly culture making involves making culture for the right reasons, and by the right principles.

  • The right reason is out of love of our neighbour (Bible verse);
  • The right principle is according to godly wisdom, mined from Scripture, and this world (e.g. the book of proverbs validates this).

For example:

  • Christian businesspeople will seek to serve their customers with genuinely valuable products and services;
  • Christian tradesman will build and repair things for a reasonable price, and do a quality job;

 

Finally, how does gospel proclamation fit with culture making?

6) What’s the relationship between proclaiming the gospel, and making culture? 

Gospel proclamation is more important than culture making, but both are inseparable to a faithful, godly life.

Making God-honouring culture is an important way of loving our neighbour. Developing products and programmes that help others, passing laws that bring greater justice to society – these are all good things (Gal 6:10).

But:

  • Proclaiming the gospel is different to making culture; [1]
  • Proclaiming the gospel is a distinct command from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Matt 28:19-20), to all his disciples;
  • Proclaiming the gospel has an eternal priority and urgency, that culture making does not (Matt 10:28; 2 Cor 4:16-5:10).

And yet, loving our neighbour (often through culture making)  is also a command from Jesus (Mark 12:28-31).

So sharing the gospel with your workmates is distinct from your work – and more important.  But doing your work faithfully – loving your neighbour in the processis also inseparable to a godly life. [2]

Culture Matters

Culture matters. Christians are shaped by the cultures they inhabit. Which means we need to be aware of how it shapes us, and others – and challenge it as necessary. And through it all, proclaiming the gospel must take centre stage.

 

 

[1] I realise that proclaiming the gospel can shape culture. But here we’re discussing culture making that’s devoid of overt gospel proclamation.

[2] I deal with this issue in depth in a Masters essay I wrote recently. Click HERE to download it.

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2 thoughts on “6 Important Reasons Why Culture Should Matter To Christians – Part 2

  1. Great topic, and I enjoyed reading your essay.

    Here’s a spanner: what if there were times that Gospel proclamation was more important than social works such as after Jesus’ resurrection, but other times where social work was more important than Gospel proclamation, such as when Christians need to earn the right to speak?

    Similarly but from a different angle, can you really proclaim the Gospel with words without also living out the Gospel with your life? That is, you want to demonstrate what you proclaim and the two always go hand in hand. In your words they are inseparable. But I’m suggesting a bigger thing: they are the same thing. You speak about God’s sacrificial love of the cross, and you enact God’s sacrificial love in and through your life.

    I’d say the priorities depend on a person’s context, and we shouldn’t try and determine priorities based on other people’s contexts (such as the urgency of proclamation after the Holy Spirit fell on people, but a quick shift to a need for providing finances as in those selling properties).

    • Hi Nathan,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment (and thanks for reading my essay!).

      Let me try to answer your questions:

      1) ‘what if there were times that Gospel proclamation was more important than social works such as after Jesus’ resurrection, but other times where social work was more important than Gospel proclamation, such as when Christians need to earn the right to speak?’

      Great question. My answer is simply this: gospel proclamation has an *overall* priority, but there may be *immediate* and *urgent* issues/circumstances that mean gospel proclamation takes a back seat.

      You mention the issue of Christians need to ‘earn the right to speak’: I’m not sure that would fall into that category, as the apostles spoke the gospel whether or not they had a ‘right’ to speak (e.g. Acts 5:27-29).

      An obvious example of when gospel proclamation needs to take a back seat is when we’re fulfilling our other God-ordained responsibilities: e.g. doing our work. We can’t always proclaim the gospel at work, nor is it godly to do so.

      But that doesn’t mean work is more important than gospel proclamation: it’s just that we proclaim the gospel at appropriate times.

      2) ‘Similarly but from a different angle, can you really proclaim the Gospel with words without also living out the Gospel with your life? That is, you want to demonstrate what you proclaim and the two always go hand in hand. In your words they are inseparable. But I’m suggesting a bigger thing: they are the same thing. You speak about God’s sacrificial love of the cross, and you enact God’s sacrificial love in and through your life.’

      I agree that gospel-shaped living should always go with the proclamation of the gospel, but I don’t think the New Testament sees them as the ‘same thing’. A godly lifestyle should adorn the proclaiming of the gospel (see for example Titus 2:9-10), making the gospel attractive, but the gospel is a distinct message about the Kingdom of God – and the King who rules it – which can’t be reduced to godly actions (as I understand the New Testament).

      3) ‘I’d say the priorities depend on a person’s context, and we shouldn’t try and determine priorities based on other people’s contexts (such as the urgency of proclamation after the Holy Spirit fell on people, but a quick shift to a need for providing finances as in those selling properties).’

      I agree that context determines a person’s immediate priorities, but that starting from Jesus’ great commission, gospel proclamation has an urgency and eternal weight (Matt 10:28; 2 Cor 4:16-5:10) that gives it great *overall* priority than, say, culture building. But yes, wisdom is required to know when and how to express that priority.

      My 2c.

      Thanks against for your thoughtful engagement!

      God bless,

      Akos