If, like me, you’re slightly nervous about today’s social agenda of ‘inclusion and diversity’, then you, and your church, may need an injection of real gospel diversity to set the record straight and (to change the metaphor) adjust the direction in which we are traveling.
John Stott called it ‘double listening’, urging that the preacher must exegete, not only the Bible, but also the culture. Not only to the eternal word of God, but also to the changing context in which that word is to be proclaimed.
Colin Adams would agree, and says that he has been thinking about questions such as:-
It is all to easy for Christians either to ignore contemporary culture, or to demonise it as ‘bad’ without even trying to understand it.
Trevin Wax says that ‘examining a cultural artifact is not a statement on the spiritual state of an artist; neither is it a blanket endorsement or condemnation of a product.’ Rather, ‘cultural commentaries are an exercise in cultural literacy, what Kevin Vanhoozer describes as “discerning the meaning of cultural texts and trends in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”’
Does the Great Commission of Mt 28:18-20 supersede the cultural mandate of Gen 1:26-28? Does the command to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ replace the requirement to fill and subdue the earth and to rule over all living things?
At first sight, it might seem that this is indeed the case. After all, the cultural mandate was given to Adam in Eden, as God’s image-bearer, in a state of innocency, prior to the Fall. …
Kate Fox, in her book Watching the English (Hodder, 2004, pp 353-357), offers a fascinating account of the ‘rules’ underlying English behaviour. The book is full of witty and insightful observations. After all, Fox writes as a trained anthropologist (which she defines as a being a professional ‘nosey parker’). She talks engagingly about how we English converse about the weather, the way we approach humour, the rules that govern our behaviour regarding driving, work, dress, sex, and so on.…
J.I. Packer explores this topic with cross-cultural evangelism in mind. Here’s a summary.
1. Three preliminary thoughts
(a) The communication of the gospel must be determined by its content
The content includes a diagnosis of the human condition, value-judgments on the life that is, and the life that might be, lived, and a call to respond in radical commitment. Now this content must be verbalised, and it must be preached (i.e. explained and applied). Such media as instrumental music, pictures, sculpture, or dance may reinforce the message, but only preaching can communicate it. …
D.A Carson has a helpful comment on ‘plausibility structures’ – patterns of thought that are taken for granted within a given culture – and how these change over time:-
As western culture progressively drifts from its Judeo-Christian heritage, new challenges to accurate and forceful communication are erected. It is sometimes helpful to think in terms of ‘plausibility structures’. A plausibility structure is a social structure of ideas that is widely taken for granted without argument, and dissent from which is regarded as heresy.
John Stott tells the story of the cockney gardener who was showing a clergyman the beauty of his garden, with its herbaceous borders in full and colourful bloom. Duly impressed, the clergyman broke out into spontaneous praise of God. The gardener was not very pleased, however, that God should get all the credit. “You should ‘have seen this ‘ere garden,” he said, “when Gawd ‘ad it to ‘isself!” He was right. His theology was entirely correct. …
How are we to understand the relationship between Christian faith and the world in which it is to be believed and practiced? Over 50 years ago, H. Richard Niebuhr, in his Christ and Culture, outlined five approaches to culture in Christian history. These still provide a helpful framework today:-
1. Christ against culture. This represents a tradition of Christian opposition, not to culture per se, but to existing cultures. The Christian world view is seen as diametrically opposed to non-Christian world views and their cultural outworking. …