To listen to the first lesson in the Bible & Culture series (16 minutes), click below.
(Note: for a different lesson on the Bible (Old Testament) and culture, please click here.)
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In regard to culture, several important questions arise. Given that we are in the world but not of it (John 17:14), how much may believers accommodate themselves to culture? Are there any merely cultural aspects of the Bible?
Is culture good or evil?
Accommodation and Discernment
- Some believers are leery of technology. Technology is often associated with worldliness, power, warfare, and so on.
- The Tower of Babel ("high tech") was state-of-the-art, yet this cultural and technological product was set against the will of God (Genesis 11). Yet Paul implicitly accepted the fruits of technology as he traversed the Mediterranean on ships (technological innovations) -- just as Jesus and his apostles wore clothes spun from various materials. So technology is not necessarily good or bad, though it an be either. More often technology is neutral.
- The Golden Calf (bull -- Psalm 106:20) and the Tabernacle were both products of artistic skill, yet one was rejected while the other was commanded (Exodus 32, Exodus 26).
- Daniel learns the language and literature of the Babylonians, but rejects their dietary customs (Daniel 1:4,8). The deeper issue is holiness -- which came with obedience to the Torah.
- Paul was intimately familiar with Greco-Roman culture (language, literature, philosophy, and more), and used this knowledge to connect with the people of his day. Yet his acceptance of culture was determined by God's word. Becoming all things to all people was still governed by the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
- So as Christians we cannot say that anything goes. But neither do we reject all culture, or sequester ourselves in a Christian ghetto.
Cultural elements in God's revelation?
Do Christians sit in judgment on culture because they are creating a new culture? There is no doubt a sort of Christian culture -- this is tangible as you spend time with true disciples anywhere in the world -- yet culture in the New Testament also bears several cultural markers. Consider, for example, the combination of sandals, unimproved roads, and foot washing. In the next podcast we will make a distinction between form and function, illustrating this distinction with 10 N.T. examples.