If you are just joining us, we are beginning a series on engaging culture. Before we can begin to discern how to engage culture, we must first understand what culture is and what the Bible has to say about it. Dictionary.com defines culture as the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another. The language of “sum total of ways of living” is an inclusive term that comprises work, religion, food, customs, sports, family-values, education, arts, and media. Operas and comedy clubs, caviar and Big Macs, Super Bowl parties and Easter egg hunts, SUV’s and tricycles, graduation speeches and bedtime prayers, Blockbuster movies and independent records all make up our culture.
But, what does the Bible have to say about culture? According to the Bible, culture all started “in the beginning”. In Genesis 1 we learn of God creating. Beginning with nothing, God created the skies, stars, night, day, water, land, animals, and fish. Then, He created something that was utterly distinct from the rest of his creation in that it bore His very own image, he created humanity (Genesis 1:27). In the very next verse God gives Adam the command to go make culture (Genesis 1:28)
Bob Thune summarizes it this way,
Adam’s dominion over the garden was to expand into dominion over the whole earth. By producing godly offspring and teaching them to work, Adam and Eve were to subdue all of creation. The language of subduing and ruling mirrors what God did in creation: turning chaos into order. Adam and Eve are to turn the whole earth into the Garden of Eden. And it won’t happen by magic, but by concerted effort.Theologians call Genesis 1:27-28 the Cultural Mandate. God is mandating the establishment of culture. Adam and Eve will produce children. Those children will create families, and those families will band together into cities and social networks. Those networks of human beings will reflect all the aspects of human culture – language and art and music and food and philosophy and theology. (A Theology of Work, pg. 3)
So we see that God mandates culture, and that culture is the natural outflow of being created in the image of a creative God. Even more, we see that someday God will again restore us back to the perfect culture known as the new earth. Thune continues,
It is no accident that the ultimate biblical picture of redeemed humanity involves a city (Rev 21:2). A city reflects human culture in its most developed and complex forms. God’s purpose for humanity started in a garden, but it culminates in a great cultural center. One of my seminary professors is fond of saying, “God expected Adam and Eve to split the atom.” He didn’t just expect them to have babies and plant trees. They were meant to exercise dominion over all of creation, turning the entire earth into a showcase of the glory and beauty and majesty of God – and then working it and caring for it for all of eternity. (A Theology of Work, pg. 3)
Culture was created good. It will end good. But what do we do in-between?
One of the values that I’ve learned from my church community (which actually first came from the Bible) is that the Gospel changes everything. For years I mistakenly viewed the Gospel as simply a door-way through which every Christian must initially walk to get to the “Christian Life”. The truth that Jesus Christ died on a Cross for my sins simply meant that I got a ticket to heaven some day when I died. However, the Bible paints a very different picture. Rather than the door that we walk through, it is more like the path we walk on every day. As Tim Keller says, “The gospel isn’t simply the ABCs of Christianity, but the A-through-Z.” This means we not only have eternal life after death, but that our life here on earth is meant to “glorify God and enjoy him forever”. It means that every area of our lives is now important. Everything we do is now viewed through a Gospel paradigm. Everything. No area of life should be untouched when you grasp what the Gospel means. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31,
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
This means the Christian lives decidedly different from the rest of the World. Believers eat differently, work differently, parent differently, and view entertainment differently. While we could, and should, spend the rest of our lives working out the implications of the Gospel in all areas, I would like to look more in-depth at what it means to view entertainment differently.
What often happens is that Christians think, or are taught, that they should burn the Marilyn Manson CD they listen to and gather the family around to watch 7th Heaven re-runs. I would argue that it is much more complicated, and enriching, than that.
This is not a new idea. Exactly how the Church approaches culture has been long debated in our history. I don’t presume to bring anything new to the table. I simply want to invite you into my sanctification as I seek to understand what it means for me to glorify God in how I engage culture around me.
Should Christians listen to secular music? Is it okay if I go to a rated “R” movie? If I’ve spent a whole day watching a Real World marathon, should I repent? What if I only watched the season with John the virgin, christian, country singer? How do I discern whether it is okay to engage culture that utilizes profanity, violence, nudity, or Tom Green?
These questions, and more, will be addressed in the coming weeks. But until then, what are some of your favorite movies? Television shows? Books? Music?
Proverbs 27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
Keith Simon has a fine post about biblical friendship. Heres an excerpt:
According to this verse we often get our friends and enemies confused. Sounds weird doesn’t it? Who would be dumb enough to think that their friend is an enemy and their enemy a friend? Well I guess most (or all) of us at one time or another.
According to the book of Proverbs, a true friend will occasionally wound you. Now think about that for just a moment. A wound hurts. It isn’t pleasant. It might take some time to recover from. No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I sure hope that I get wounded today!”
No, we usually wake up hoping that the day goes “our way” which means comfortable, easy, and hassle free. Wounds don’t fit into that picture but kisses sure do.
We love it when people “kiss” us by affirming us and telling us what we want to hear. “You were right to get angry.” “You didn’t deserve to be treated that way.” “You need to look out for yourself.”
But the Bible says that just like wolves can appear in sheep’s clothing so our enemies often dress up like friends and the costume they wear is many “kisses.”
Via Ray Ortlund
“You cannot sin and not suffer from it. It just can’t be done. I spent a great deal of my life trying to sin and to do away with my conscience at the same time. One of the things I like best about being a Christian is the way that I suffer when I sin – it is the chastisement which guarantees me that I am one of God’s people. I like it. It feels good. It feels like correction. It feels as if I am being straightened out. . . . When I was only half-believing God, he actually did come into me and make me miserable every time I sinned. That is how I learned that he really is believable.”
Ted Wise, preaching at Peninsula Bible Church, 11 June 1972.
One year ago today (April 21st), Katie and I welcomed Gabe into our world. On his first birthday, I thought I’d come up with a list of why I’m thankful for my little man.
10.) He unconditionally loves me. It doesn’t matter if I have morning breath, am a grumpy jerk, or I accidentally let the dog leash smack him in the head leaving a welt, he still loves me. That feels good.
9.) He shows me love and affection. Gabe is a cuddler, especially when he is tired. He often crawls over to me and into my lap just to be held, and he even digs his head into my chest. He’s not too cool to show me affection.
8.) He is helpless. His helplessness is slowly going away, and that is the process of growing up, but for now, it is endearing. The fact that I am needed, and that someone else’s life is my responsibility is both humbling and precious.
7.) He forces me to die to myself. I think this is what God meant in Psalm 127:3, and it connects well with Luke 9:24. Gabe has forced us to trust and rely on God. Whether it was sleep training, his clubbed feet, teeth, or his stubborn desire to eat without a bib, Gabe has driven us to the Cross.
6.) He’s authentic and real. Though he is a sinner (Psalm 51:5), he hasn’t yet learned shame or the ability to hide his feelings. If he is happy, he’ll let you know. If he is mad, he’ll let you know. If he is sad, he’ll let you know. This is refreshing in a world full of people trying to hide and save face.
5.) He is an adventure. To him, life is an adventure. This adventure takes him up the stairs, through doors, behind cupboards, into the bathtub, and anywhere else that his curious little mind seeks to go. The adventures seem insignificant now, but this is only the beginning. I have no idea where Gabe will take me, but I know I will be along for the ride, and that excites me. Proverbs 16:9.
4.) He connects people. Once we had Gabe, we were instantly initiated into a fraternity of parents, and developed even deeper connections with friends and family. Gabe has been one of the best missional tools Katie and I have, allowing us to form connections with neighbors, employees at stores, and other parents in our community.
3.) He helps me understand the Gospel. At this point, his depravity looks pretty cute. His pride at climbing the stairs (Proverbs 16:18 has LITERALLY come true on our stairs), his anger at not getting what he wants, and his selfishness in not wanting to share all seem harmless now. But, these examples show me how my pride, and anger, and selfishness are not so cute, yet my heavenly Father loves me infinitely more than I love Gabe, to the point that he sacrificed his own Son.
2.) He has deepened my love for Katie. Gabe has allowed me to see a new side to my already wonderful wife. Through Gabe, God has shown me the way He has uniquely designed Katie to be the perfect wife for me and mother for Gabe. Being a mother to Gabe has given her life and joy and energy that flows over into our marriage, our home, and our ministry. Proverbs 31:25-29, speaks of Katie,
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.
1.) He has helped me to understand my Father’s love for me. This is, without a doubt, the greatest gift Gabe has given me. Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6 both speak of our adoption as sons of God, and by that adoption we can call God “daddy.” This revelation is astounding, and the implications are vast. I have only begun to understand what joy is found in understanding my adoption as God’s son, but it is life-changing, and I thank God that he used Gabe to show me this.
My fellow blogger, friend, and brother-in-Christ, Nathan Bliss, has been changed by the good Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Check out his sweet redemption story below. You can check out other sweet redemption stories at the Coram Deo blog.
One of the reasons I love Coram Deo is because it puts a heavy emphasis on sound, biblical theology. Before attending Coram Deo, I thought theology was only for theologians and smart college professors at seminary. My views have since changed. Every human that takes a breath is a theologian, and that is why good theology matters. Whether or not we can articulate a coherent belief system, the way we live our life is directly associated with how we view God and what we know about him. Below is a video advertisement for Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris. I read a couple of books about dating by Joshua Harris in college and I thought they were a load of hooey. Now, looking back, I think he’s on to something. I don’t know much about his current book, but the video is spot on.