Engaging Culture 1.0
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?