How should Christians engage with the culture? Dr. James Anderson shares a biblical perspective of culture to help us understand how we can engage with the world around us.
How should Christians engage with the culture? Well, this is a very pressing question in our day. There’s a lot of discussion about it, and that is exactly why we’ve introduced a new course into our curriculum, entitled “Christ, Culture, and Contextualization,” which is really devoted to giving an in-depth answer to that question of how Christians should engage with the culture.
Start with Scripture
First, we need to start with the Bible. We need to start with a biblical theology of culture. Culture, in its simplest definition, is simply what we do with what God has made. It’s what human beings do with the created world, the natural world, and the resources that God has given us. And the Bible, of course, has a lot to say about the world and what God has made and what we are to do with the world that God has made. So, first of all, we want to start with Scripture, what Scripture gives us in terms of a biblical theology of culture.
Culture is a Gift
Culture, in its simplest definition, is what we do with what God has made.Second, I think we want to recognize that culture is a gift from God. It’s not something to be feared, it’s not something to be inherently opposed, but in fact, culture is part of the goodness of creation. There is in Scripture what is called a cultural mandate for us to exercise dominion over the created world and to take the resources that God has given and use them for the glory of God and for the good of our neighbor.
Culture is Fallen
Thirdly, we need to recognize that culture is fallen. As well as a doctrine of creation, of course, Christianity has a doctrine of the fall, that this world is fallen in sin, mankind is fallen in sin. Of course, that has an impact on culture. And so the culture around us is always going to be a mixture of good and bad. And so we need to exercise great discernment to be able to tell the difference between a God-honoring culture and a God-dishonoring culture.
All Culture is Religious
Fourth, I think we need to recognize that all culture is religious in nature because all culture reflects some sort of value system. So even a so-called secular culture—and we talk a lot about secular culture today—even a secular culture is in fact deeply religious at its root. And so there’s no such thing as a religiously neutral culture of any kind.
Christians are Part of Culture
We are affected by the culture around us, and we also affect the culture around us.Fifth, we need to recognize that we ourselves as Christians are part of the culture. So we can’t separate ourselves from culture, we can’t isolate ourselves from culture. We are affected by the culture around us, and we also affect the culture around us, for better or for worse.
The Great Commission
Lastly, we need to view culture through the lens of the Great Commission. There are many things that we are called to do as Christians to serve God in this world. But the Great Commission, that great calling to take the good news of Christ to the nations, to make disciples of the nations, to bring the teaching of Christ to the nations and to build up the church, that has to be a priority for us. And the way that we relate to culture can help us in fulfilling the Great Commission and in some ways it can hinder us as well. I think that it’s important as Christians to recognize that the Great Commission is one of our priorities and is an important lens through which we think about our relationship to the culture around us.