Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Jesus: The Message and Model of Mission;" An Article Review

We live in the midst of a Christianity that, for the most part, is biblically illiterate. Many wrongly assume that this neglect of the Bible only affects our doctrine. Not so! Bad doctrine produces (for the most part) bad methods. In fact, many modern day missionary organizations have hindered the spread of Christianity more than they have helped. Ajith Fernando, in his article "Jesus: The Message and Model of Mission," attempts to provide missionaries with a more biblical view of mission. This article is broken up into two sections: 1. Jesus: The Message of Mission, and 2. Jesus the Model of Mission. Fernando spends much less time on the first section than he does on the second, therefore less attention will be given to the first section.

Without the message of Jesus there would be no mission. Christian mission is based upon the unique teachings of Christianity, and especially the doctrine of Christ and His work. Without doctrines like justification by faith alone, the exclusivity of the Gospel, the rejection of universalism, and the unique nature of Christ, there would be no Christian mission.
The knowledge of what Christ has done for sinners is not just informative, but also prescriptive. Doing mission in a biblical way means imitating Christ, which is not always easy. American missionaries often find it hard to imitate Christ because they have been conditioned to living in a convenient and comfortable environment. The examples of Christ in the New Testament are radically taxing on every level. In fact, the majority of Christ’s examples have to do with meekness, humility, suffering, service, and forgiveness. Each and every one of these involve discomfort on one level or another.

Often times missionaries do not follow Christ’s example of meekness, and end up hindering the work of the gospel. There is need to be bold for the sake of Christ, but some confuse being bold with being rude. Christ was bold, not rude. Surely he did offer some pointed rebukes to the Pharisees, but he also dealt with the prostitutes and tax collectors with an amazing amount of patience and love. Missionaries are not commanded to choose between uncontrolled passion and apathetic pleas, rather they are to imitate Christ in his temperance and wisdom.
The greatest hindrance facing Christianity today is a negative view of conversion. This negative view is exhibited in the extremes of both pluralism (in its rejection of proselitizing) and extreme forms of fundamentalism (and it’s refusal to allow others a chance to speak). Christians must rise above these two extremes if they are to faithfully follow the example of Christ.

What a challenging essay! Saying the things that Christ said is different than doing the things that Christ did. Loving with more than just head and heart, forgiving, suffering, laying aside personal rights and freedoms. What a daunting task. No! What an impossible task! The scriptures discussed in this essay force the reader to the place of dependence.
This is the type of essay that makes the "Footprints in the Sand" poster look so ridiculous. The "Footprints in the Sand" poster communicates that Christian maturity is best evidenced when the believer is strong enough to walk by him/herself. True Christian maturity however, is evidenced in a knowledge of our need of the Spirit of God and our actively seeking His help. Maturity is found in weakness and dependence, not in strength and independence.
How can a believer love and forgive as Christ if they are walking on their own? How can a believer be selflessly committed to a community of faith while receiving unjust reproach and abuse if they are not being carried along by the Holy Spirit? Did Paul, in his own strength, work up such a love and compassion for the messed up Romans that he could say, "I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers" (Rom. 9:3)?
Preachers are afraid to preach the ethics of Scripture because the demands of Scripture primarily have to do with giving up rights. When Christ was ridiculed He gave no reply. Being God, He had the power to call down legions of angels to come to his defense when they nailed him to the cross, but rather than retaliating, He prayed, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:24). Christian mission, at it’s most fundamental level, is loving God, people, and the truth of the Gospel so much that you are willing to throw your individual rights to the curb. Those who give money, time, and talents to ministries, missionaries, or the poor are considered to be super spiritual one even in the church.
This review, even now, is so easy to type, but what will happen after it is written. This review is so easy to read, but what will happen after it is read. This essay was especially challenging to me right now, because I am in the process of church shopping. My question to myself is, "Am I going to be unsettled until I find a church without problems? Am I going to be unsure until I find a church without sinful people?"

What a challenge! But I don’t want to be a part of a church where people are picky, rude, and
difficult. I want to be part of a perfect church. I want to be a part of a church that will not cause any inconvenience. A church that will not cause my spirit any troubles. In the same way, I want to evangelize, but I do not want to evangelize to someone who is needy, hungry, dirty, stinky, annoying, and poor. I want to evangelize to those who can follow my carefully put together gospel message. I don’t want to evangelize those who talk too much and cut me off.
Everyone claims to be a missionary or evangelist, but very few strive for the character of Christ. What does the world think as it looks on? We all claim to be followers of Christ, but very few seek the radical ethic of Christ. The sad thing is that there is no Christian mission apart from the ethic of Christ. We have acted much like the Pharisees in the Sermon on the Mount–we have dumbed down the radical demands of the gospel so that they are attainable. It is very difficult to find a pastor whose ministry is built on service. Many, like James and John, have wrongly assumed that the way to greatness is paved by power, knowledge, and prestige.

Today we build emotional fences around ourselves so that we might be protected from the inconveniences brought about by intimate relationships with other people and families in the church. Christians surely do give of themselves, but only when it can be done without great cost. Granted, some people are awful, and some situations are down right preposterous, but for the most part, people pack their bags as soon as they see anything that might potentially put them in a situation requiring radical Christ-likeness. Our approach to Christian mission is diametrically opposed to Jesus’ approach to mission. Everything He emphasized is considered radical today. Today, the ethic of Christ is a mere option for those who "really love God." But this is not the way the example of Christ is treated in the Scriptures. The Bible presents the example of Christ as the divine mandate for Christian mission.

One of the biggest evidences of a missionary or evangelist that has not built their evangelistic method on the Scripture is one who is militant about their evangelism. The power of their evangelism is bound up in the delivery of their message, rather than in the sovereign Spirit who supernaturally reveals the message to the heart. Therefore the success of the encounter is dependent upon the evangelist and his ability to either sell or force the message.

Without a complete depedence upon the Spirit in Christian mission it is impossible to follow the example of Christ, because even Christ, being God, was dependent upon His Father. How much more should we mere humans look to the Father for the strength and ability to fully carry out the demands of Christian mission. The call of Christian mission is the call of dependence.

2 New Postings

I just posted two of my latest projects from school. The first is a book review of an excellent book by D.A. Carson entitled "Becoming Conversant With the Emerging Church." I recommend the book to anyone and everyone. It is difficult to read at points, but it is well worth the struggle.
The second is a research/reflection paper on culture. Both in regard to what it is, and how it expresses itself. This is an important topic, because we live in the midst of a culture that shapes us and the way we think. It is helpful to know what culture is and how it expresses itself so that we might know how to discern what is good and bad in it. So many today are being shaped by culture in ways that they do not even know. Enjoy!

Becoming Conversant with the Emergent Church; A Book Review

As with anything in this world, Christianity is in a constant state of change. Changing with the times is good for Christianity only in so far as it can be done without compromising it’s unique doctrine and practice. This in no way makes changing with the times not worth it. No Being culturally relevant is worth running the risk of being affected by our culture in negative ways. But if Christianity is going to seek relevance she must always guard against leaning over so close to the world that she ends up “falling in.”

D.A. Carson, in Becoming Conversant with the Emergent Church, is concerned that some of the leaders of the emerging church movement have done just this–they have “fallen in” in their attempts at cultural relevance. The bulk of Carson’s concern is with those whom he considers to be the most outspoken representatives of the emerging church--Brian McLaren and Steve Chalke. Carson’s purpose is not to condemn the emerging church movement, but rather to: 1.both commend the strengths of the emerging church movement and warn of its dangers, and 2. to challenge other emerging church leaders to “rise up and call McLaren and Chalke to account where they have clearly abandoned what the Bible actually says.”

Carson was born on December 21, 1946 to very godly parents (Thomas and Elizabeth Carson) in Montreal, Canada. Carson got a degree in Chemistry and Mathematics from McGill University (Montreal), a Master of Divinity Degree from Central Baptist Seminary (Toronto), and a PhD in Philosophy in New Testament from Cambridge University. He is presently research professor in New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Carson is known as one of the most prominent Christian scholars in the twenty-first century. He has written over forty-five books. Carson is more than qualified to write a critique on the emerging church conversation. In fact, two of his most acclaimed books are written on the subject of Christianity and culture.

Argument of the Book

Before critiquing the emerging church, he sets out to faithfully present the main distinctives of the movement (Chapter 1). Many have expressed frustration at Carson’s over generalizations and misrepresentations of the emerging church, but this is why he prefaces the whole book with this statement:

“The Diversity of the movement, as well as its porous borders, ensure that I have not found it easy to portray it fairly. I have tried to be accurate in description and evenhanded in evaluation. Even so, I must underscore the fact that when I am forced (for the sake of avoiding endless qualifications) to resort to generalizations in order to move the discussion along, one can almost always find some people in the movement for whom the generalization is not true...”

Carson identifies the emerging church movement as a protest movement. They are in protest against three things: evangelical fundamentalism (and it’s discriminating, out-of-date, meta-narrative, modern methods), modernism (and it’s overly confident, dispassionate absolutism), and the megachurch movement (both in it’s emphasis on reaching the already-churched, and in it’s institutional nature) .

Although Carson has issues with much of the emerging church, he does see some things in it that are worthy of imitation. Much of this movement, after all, is the result of genuine Christians who have had issues with evangelical Christianity and it’s neglect of important aspects of Scripture. Carson agrees that evangelical Christianity has it’s flaws, and therefore lists four strengths that he sees in the emerging church movement (Chapter 2). The four strengths include: their attempts at cultural relevance; their rejection of passionless inauthentic Christianity; their recognition of our limited, culture-bound mind set; their undiscriminating evangelistic zeal; and their embrace of forgotten aspects of tradition. All five of these strengths are things that could help evangelical Christianity be more faithful to God and His Word.

In Chapters 3-6 Carson discusses the weaknesses of the emerging church movement. His first critique is that their portrayal of modernism is altogether simplistic. According to Carson, they portray Christianity under modernism as “rationalistic, cerebral rather than emotional, and given toward arrogance because of it’s absolutism.” He then goes on to give some convincing examples of Christians (Spurgeon, Packer etc.) who successfully rose above the cocky pretensions of modernism.

Carson also has issue with the emerging church’s understanding of what postmodernism is. While Mclaren thinks of postmodernism in terms of social change, Carson prefers to think of postmodernism in terms of epistemology, and views social change as one of the “correlatives” of postmodernity and it’s epistemological approach. Carson points out that although the leaders of the emerging church say that they do not completely reject modernism, they never say anything good about it. In the same way, even though the leaders of the emerging church say that they do not wholly embrace postmodernism, they never say anything bad about it (Chapter 5).

Because the emerging church is primarily affected by postmodernism and it’s epistemological approach, Carson spends Chapter 4 giving a brief survey of premodernism, modernism, postmodernism. His conclusion is that postmodernism, like modernism, starts with self as the arbiter of all truth. But that postmodernity, unlike modernity, has a negative view of the abilities of the human mind, which leads them to conclude that nothing can be known because of the limited perspective of the finite knower. After this survey, Carson shows how postmodernism’s premise that we are limited in what we can know because of our culture-bound perspective can be reconciled with modernism premise that we can know absolute truth.

The most pointed critiques of the emerging church are found in Chapters 5-6. The majority of Carson’s concerns have to do with their commitment to postmodern ideals over/against the Bible. He points out that many of the fundamental issues in the Bible are questioned by some of the leaders of the emerging church. For example, he discusses Stanely Grenz and his near pluralistic view of other religions, McLaren and his weak stance on both homosexuality and hell, and Chalke and his outright rejection of the atonement.

In Chapters 6-7 Carson provides the reader with a large amount of scripture that speak to some of the downfalls of the emerging church. The majority of the scriptures speak about knowledge and how we can come to know things for certain. Some of the other scriptures cited deal with morality, the superiority of Christianity, the place for objective-historical evidence, and our need for the Bible to help us interpret our experiences.

Carson ends the book with a short one-page challenge to the emerging church and it’s leaders. His challenge goes as follows:

“If emerging church leaders wish to become a long-term prophetic voice that produces enduring fruit and that does not drift off toward progressive sectarianism and even, in the worst instances, outright heresy, they must listen at least as carefully to criticisms of their movement as they transparently want others to listen to them. They need to spend more time in careful study of Scripture and theology than they are doing, even if that takes away some of the hours they have to devoted to trying to understand the culture in which they find themselves. They need to take great pains not to distort history and theology alike, by not caricaturing their opponents and not playing manipulative games. And above all, they need to embrace all categories of the Scriptures, with the Scripture’s balance and cohesion–including... what the Bible says about truth, human knowing, and related matters.

If they manage this self-correction and worry less about who is or who is not emergent and rather more about learning simultaneously to be faithful to the Bible and effective in evangelizing the rising number of alienated biblical illiterates in our culture, they may end up preserving the gains of their movement while helping brothers and sisters who are more culturally conservative than they are to reconnect with the culture.”

Use for Ministry

Becoming Conversant with the Emergent Church is a must-read for modern day leaders in Christianity. Although Carson’s representation of the emerging church is not true of everyone in the movement, he does an excellent job of exposing some dangers of those who have over reacted against evangelical Christianity and modernism. Carson’s approach expresses a balance that is needed in a society that seems to only operate in extremes.

Carson presents two helpful pictures of how to be culturally relevant in our postmodern context without, in any way, neglecting the ultra importance of knowledge in the Christian life. The first is found in Chapter 2 where he speaks of a non-emerging, doctrinally driven church in New York City that has impacted it’s surroundings without compromising it’s doctrine. The other is found in Chapter 5 where Carson speaks of his own evangelistic efforts. He often creatively uses the book of Revelation, which utilizes vivid word pictures, in his evangelism because people, in our postmodern context, are more likely to be more interested. Here we do not see a rejection of the Bible for the sake of relevance, rather we see how Biblical doctrine can be espoused when thoughtful creativity is involved.

This book is also helpful in understanding our present cultural context and how it got to be the way it is. I personally have benefitted in my evangelism because of Carson and his cultural studies. The models he provides for explaining how a finite knower can know things for certain without knowing things exhaustively have also been of great benefit (Chapter 4).

Understanding Culture

What is happiness? What is love? What is liberty? What is culture? What do all of these questions have in common? They are all hard to answer, because happiness, love, liberty, and culture are all hard to define. Happiness cannot mean any ole thing you want it to mean, but it is possible to at least hint at what happiness is. The same is true for culture . The best definitions for words of this type are those which try not to get too specific.

Many have attempted to put a face on this thing we call culture, but most have failed. Most definitions of culture simply acknowledge the different modes that culture generally tends to express itself in. For example, one of the definitions of culture in Webster’s dictionary is, "artistic and intellectual pursuits and products."1 Surely this has a lot to do with culture, but this is not what culture is. In fact, Culture determines what we consider excellent art to be. Culture does not make art. People make art. But culture is that which informs people of the differences between good and bad art.

Others have defined culture in terms of progress.2 But this definition confuses culture with civilization. Civilization and culture surely cannot be understood without one another, but civilization and culture are not synonymous. Culture affects and changes the shape of civilization.

Before coming to a definition of what culture is, it will be helpful to see some characteristics of it and how it expresses itself. Discussing the many expressions of culture before giving a definition will help us not fall into the trap of a confusing it’s nature from it’s many modes of expression (as seen in Webster’s definition).

Characteristics of Culture

First of all, it is important to point out that culture is not stagnant. Culture is in a constant state of change. One only need read excerpts out of a history book to see the rapid pace at which cultures of entire societies change. No two consecutive generations are ever the same. Evidence for this can even be found in the Bible. One generation the Israelites act like children of God, forty years pass, the world powers shift, and the Israelites find themselves in a completely different cultural context worshiping Baal. Because of it’s fluid nature, many have thought of culture as a spirit. You cannot nail a spirit down. You cannot put a spirit in a test tube. Spirits cannot be confined; they are always on the move.

Culture is not considered a spirit just because of it’s fluidity, but also because of it’s force and power. No one can escape the influence of culture. Even those who seek to rise above the influences of culture cannot achieve complete separation. This is not to say that it is impossible to rise above culture altogether, but rather that complete separation is impossible. Niebuhr even goes so far to say that it is just as impossible to escape the influences of culture as it is to escape the influences of nature.3 Culture, in a sense, is alive.

It is also important to point out that culture does not merely consist of the major cultural norm of a given society. Rather, culture encompasses all of the norms of a given society. This is why we can differentiate between pop culture and Christian culture, secular culture and religious
culture, youth culture and adult culture. These different subcultural groups are to be distinguished from each other, but they are to be seen as parts that make up the whole. One subculture may contradict another, but they are all still to be seen as parts that make up what culture presently is. In the same way, some subcultures may be more influential than others, but this does not mean that those subcultures which bear less influence do not play a part in making culture what it presently is. Subcultures may be likened to different colored strings that are knit together to make a scarf.

Many have considered culture to be a worldview. Although this explanation of culture seems a bit simplistic at the outset, it can be very helpful. It may be better to speak of culture not simply as a worldview, but as a worldview made alive and put to practice. Chuck Colson defines a worldview as "the sum total of our beliefs about the world, the ‘big picture’ that directs our daily decisions and actions."4 Although it may not be entirely accurate to consider worldview to be synonymous with culture, it is accurate to understand that worldviews are that which shape culture. This is why Colson can encourage Christians to "build a culture informed by a biblical worldview."5 One of the most complex attributes of culture is that it creates the very worldview that it is affected by. Culture both creates and is created by worldviews.

"The worldview of a culture defines it’s own criteria for evaluating the way the forms and the people of that culture function."6 The way we perceive reality determines what we do. Knowing this will help us determine why culture expresses itself the way it does. This reality
can be easily seen when comparing and contrasting the differences and similarities between the Premodern (Medieval) era, the Modern era, and the Postmodern era (in Western Civilization).
The major differences in these three era’s primarily have to do with the specific worldviews of each specific era. Surely these differences are evidenced in the arts, moods, fashion, and values prevalent at the time of each specific era, but the specific worldviews of each specific era determined how they expressed themselves in these different ways.

To go a step further, many have asserted that a worldview is the product of one’s epistemology (the study of how we know things). D.A. Carson demonstrates how the cultural face of the three eras of Western Civilization reflect the epistemological foundation most prevalent at the time of each specific era.7 One’s view of reality (i.e. worldview), in other words, is dependent upon two things; one’s view of what can be known, and how one is to go about discovering what can be known.

How Culture Expresses Itself

At this juncture it will be helpful to explore the reality of cultural expression and especially how it is driven by the power of worldview. This discussion will simply be an overview of how the cultures of each of the three main eras of Western Civilization were shaped
by the prevailing world view of their own time. We will look at how these cultures have expressed themselves primarily in all aspects of society.8

1). Premodern (Medieval) Worldview and It’s Cultural Expression

The predominant worldview of the Premodern era (300-1500 a.d.) is built upon the premise that nothing can be known apart from the revelation of God. Knowledge starts with God. Thus theology, not natural science, was considered to be the queen of the sciences. Everything predominant in the Premodern era was the product of an epistemology that starts with God. Nothing can be known apart from God’s revelation, and the way we come to know reality is by starting with God’s view of reality revealed in His Word. Premodernity embraces the fact that there is absolute truth, but it looks to God to learn what that absolute truth is.

If Colson is right when he says that a worldview determines the shape of culture, how did the Premodern worldview shape the face of Premodern culture? Because of it’s emphasis on God and the centrality of His Word, almost everything in Premodern culture emphasizes the transcendent. This can be clearly seen in Premodern art. In fact, "the most depicted scene during the middle ages was the crucifixion of Christ."9 The emphasis on the transcendent in Premodern culture also manifested itself in morality. Morals were not something created by humans, rather they were discovered in the Bible.10

The worldview shaping the face of Premodern society was so effective that one of the prevailing characteristics of this era was a government that made absolutely no distinction between church and state. Church (the Pope) was co-regent with the powers that be (the Emporer). The goal of the Empire was Theocracy.11

2). Modern Worldview and It’s Cultural Expression

The Modern Era (approx 1600-1900 a.d.) is built upon the premise that human reasoning is the foundation for all knowledge. The Modern period is considered to have started with Rene Descartes, who set out to find the basis of knowledge by doubting everything. His breakthrough was the fruit of Augustine’s maxim "I think, therefore I am." He found that humans can reason their way to reality. Descartes’ assertion should not be considered heresy (because of the reality of natural revelation), but it did mark the beginning of an era that found epistemological certainty in reason rather than revelation. Thus, Modernity, like Premodernity, embraced the reality of absolute truth, but it leaned upon reason, rather than God’s revelation, to come to that absolute truth.

The quest for knowledge started with man and his ability to reason, rather than with God and His Word. Modernity was motivated by an overly optimistic, yea cocky, view of the abilities of the human mind. Progress therefore, marked the Modern era. Everything, including God and His Word, were subject to the critique of human reason. Gross individualism was the result of Modernities arrogance. Natural science quickly replaced theology as the queen of the sciences.
Because of Modernities emphasis on the human and his ability to reason, almost everything in Modern culture emphasized man and progress.

This can be most clearly seen in Modern art. Rather than art focusing on and elevating the place of the transcendent (as in Premodernity), Modern art emphasized and exalted man and the universal norms of nature. One only need look at a picture of Leonardo Da Vinci’s "Renaissance Man" sculpture (which is fourteen feet tall) to get an idea of the new place man was taking in society.12The Modern worldview also expressed itself in Modern culture through literature. The greatest example of Modern literature was the detective story, where a detective set out to solve mysteries by the sole power of reason.13

The Modern period embraced the reality of morals, but looked to reason to determine what morality is. Modernity even expressed itself in Christian circles. Higher Criticism, for example, as much as it has advanced Biblical studies, is the result of Modernism’s conviction
that all knowing begins with man, not God.14 Another prevailing characteristic of culture in the Modern era was an overwhelming disinterestedness in God. Even those who did believe in God did not consider Him to be intimately involved in the world (Deism). The majority held to philosophical naturalism.15

3). Postmodern Worldview and It’s Cultural Expression

The Postmodern era (approx 1900-present) is considered the result of the humbling of the Modern era. Postmodernity, like Modernity, puts all of the weight of epistemological certainty on the individual and his reason. But, Postmodernity, unlike Modernity, has an utterly negative view of the abilities of the human mind. The Postmodern mind embraces the fact that everyone is shaped by his/her own individual context, which distorts his/her view of reality. Therefore, it is impossible to be absolutely sure of what is right and what is wrong. Rather than speaking of right and wrong, Postmoderns prefers to speak of preference and perspective.

The only absolute truth embraced by Postmoderns is that there is no absolute truth. Certainty simply cannot be attained, therefore despair and a sense of being lost mark the path of Postmodernity. Postmodern culture, with it’s emphasis on uncertainty, tends to express itself in blurring the lines of reality. It strives toward eclecticism. It celebrates diversity. It loves to call traditional understandings of what is right and wrong into question.

The expressions of Postmodern culture, because it is the direct antithesis of Modernity, are easily detected. Postmodern art is best represented in the collage, because it presents many diverse incongruent pictures. The collage seeks to break all of the rules of art set up by
Modernsism.16 Many of the art forms of Postmodernism do not merely break the rules of good art, they call into question the nature of what art is.

Postmodern culture also expresses itself in science. For example, Thomas Kuhn states that "our understanding of reality will always be derivative, via the paradigms that constitute our most up-to-date science."17 Scientific discovery, therefore, does not reflect aboslute truth, rather it reflects the presuppositions (of how to go about making scientific discovery) of the scientist.

Postmodernism even calls traditional understandings of morality into question. The only morality prevalent in Postmodern culture is that which says that we should not push our ideas of what is right and wrong on others, and that we should not call other’s ideas of right and wrong into question. This idea of morality can even be seen is some of the more extreme branches of the Emergent Church. For example, Rob Bell, in his book Velvet Elvis, states that if we have a gospel agenda when talking to non-believers, we cannot truly love them. Thus states Bell, "We have to surrender our agendas."18

Gene Edward Veith, Jr. explains just how far the Postmodern worldview has effected our society in his discussion on TV talk shows.

"Talk shows interview interesting people, such as ‘self-mutilators’ and ‘adopted people who are sexually attracted to their natural siblings’ (actual listing for one week’s Maury Povich show). On TV these people are warmly accepted by the host and the studio
audience, except for a few who are unattractively ‘judgmental.’ The guests seem so, so normal."19

This is a reality in our present day Postmodern culture. What else could be expected from a culture that exults in our inability, as humans, to come to absolute truth.

Gathering the Evidence

It will not be helpful, for the purposes of this paper, to critique what is right and wrong about each of the three Culture’s discussed. Suffice it to say that each culture brings both good and bad to the table. Before attempting a definition of culture, it will be helpful to make some observations about our discussion on the changing cultures of Western Civilization.

1. Colson was right when he said that the worldview of a particular culture determines the actions of that culture. What we believe truly does effect what we do.

2. Culture affects all aspects of society at large. Each culture discussed revealed itself in the arts, morality, sciences, values, religion, etc.

3. No one can escape the influence of culture. This is primarily the case because culture affects absolutely every aspect of society. Scientists, philosophers, preachers, and teachers, everyone is effected by culture (as can be clearly seen from the overview of Western Civilization above).

Toward a definition of this thing we call Culture

In light of our study, what is culture? Leslie Newbigin comes close to the idea of culture when he defines it as such:

"By the word culture we have to understand the sum total of ways of living developed by a group of human beings and handed on from generation to generation. Central to culture is language. The language of a people provides the means by which they express their way of perceiving things and of coping with them. Around that center one would have to group their visual and musical arts, their technologies, their law, and their social and political organization. And one must also include in culture, and as fundamental to any culture, a set of beliefs, experiences, and practices that seek to grasp and express the ultimate nature of things, that which gives shape and meaning to life, that which claims final loyalty. I am speaking, obviously, about religion."20

Newbigin’s definition emphasizes some very important things. He emphasizes the all encompassing effect culture has on society, but he does not emphasize the fluid nature of culture. Culture, to Newbigin is that which is "handed on from generation to generation." But, cultures change from generation to generation. As said before, no two consecutive generations have ever had identical cultural climates.

Conjuring up a definition of culture is nearly impossible, but this should not keep us from attempting one. Culture is a worldview with lungs, hands, and feet. Culture is a worldview, or better, a set of worldviews set alive and put to practice. To be more specific, culture is the effect, product, and (as strange as it may be) creation of the ever changing sum total of all of the worldviews of a given group, society, or period of time putting themselves to practice by influencing absolutely every person and part of society.

1. Random House Webster’s College Dictionary (New York: Random House, 1991), 330.

2. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (New York: Harper and Row, 1956), 31-32.

3. Ibid., 39.

4. Charles Colson, and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 1999), 14.

5. Ibid., 302

6. Charles H. Kraft, Christianity In Culture: A Study in Dynamic Biblical Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1979), 92.

7. D.A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 87-116.

8. Because of the size of this paper, the following discussion will be nothing more than a survey. Not every aspect or expression of culture will be discussed. The discussion will include only enough to give an idea of how worldviews shape culture and the way it expresses itself.

9. James Emery White, Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 20.

10. Ibid., 20.

11. Ibid., 20-21.

12. Ibid., 22-23.

13. Stanley Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 30.

14. Thomas Oden, After Modernity...What? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990),110-120.

15. Carson, 95.

16. Grenz, 26.

17. D.A.Carson, The Gagging of God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 88-89.

18. Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 167.

19. Gene Edward Veith Jr., Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994), 123.

20. Leslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 3.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Busy Busy

As you have probably noticed, I have not posted in a while. School is keeping me pretty busy. I will most likely not post all that frequently during the semester. I will post some of the papers I write for class, but not much else.
I do want to recommend that you check in every now and then because I will post, but not too frequently.
Also, check out
He is my favorite comedian, and he is very clean. When you go to his website click on the "experience brian" tag and you can hear some of his free online skits. They are really funny. He also has a Cd and a DVD for sale.
Please pray for me this semester. Pray that God would draw me close to Himself. Also pray for Kristal and I that we might find a good church. Thanks