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Culture, God, and Us: A Review

Let's review.

Getting Around in Culture (1)

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10.31

A brief review is perhaps in order as we round the curve into the homestretch of our study of a Christian approach to culture.

I do not doubt that, for many of us, “culture” sounds rather far off and aloof. When we think of “culture” perhaps something like the art museum, the symphony, fashion, erudite literature, or some other kind of “high brow” diversion comes to mind. Stuff we rarely think about, much less engage.

Of course, we recognize the existence of a very large and variegated category of “pop culture”— music, TV, film, sports, and so forth—but we don’t really think of that as culture, not, at any rate, in the sense that art or poetry or fine music is culture.

But we must bear in mind what culture is and how we as followers of Jesus Christ are obliged use culture for His glory. Culture is nothing more or less than whatever human beings make or use to define, sustain, and enhance our lives. It is a gift of divine grace and includes all kinds of artifacts, institutions, and conventions with which we are all inextricably and inescapably engaged every day of our lives. As we have seen throughout this study of a Christian approach to culture, culture is all around us, in all we do, even down to the habits, routines, and details of our everyday lives.

As we have previously noted, human beings are creatures of culture, and in culture—all of culture, whatever we do—God calls us as Christians to honor and glorify Him.

As we make our way around day by day, engaging all kinds of culture according to the standards of beauty, goodness, and truth, guided by Scripture, the Christian heritage of culture, and the work of the Holy Spirit, we must be mindful of our calling to the Kingdom and glory of God (1 Thess. 2.12). Our glorious King is making all things new (Rev. 21.5), and it pleases Him to use us in that great work. We offer ourselves daily—together with our culture—as living sacrifices for the glory of God and the progress of His Kingdom (Rom. 12.1, 2).

Getting around in culture from this vantage point will certainly require more attention than what we perhaps have before given to our engagement with culture.

Inescapably cultural…
As we have seen, culture is inevitable. We could not escape culture if we tried, and if we did, we would be hard pressed to survive. To be human is to have culture, and to be Christian is to see culture as a means for bringing glory to God. Getting around in culture provides us with abundant opportunities to bring glory to God (Eph. 5.15-17). Not brilliant flashes of glory or world-shaking creations, but more the constant glow and warmth of a light from beyond this world, a way of life and of using culture that points through this mundane existence to a higher plane of reality.

Bearing in mind that culture consists of artifacts—clothing, furniture, utensils, computers, automobiles, buildings—and institutions—laws, universities, the media, churches, the marketplace—as well as conventions—language, holidays, holding the door for ladies, using “please and thank you”, and so forth—we engage culture to take it captive and make it obey the purposes of Jesus Christ.

We prepare for getting around in culture by prayer and carefully thinking about the day ahead, how we may serve the Lord and glorify Him in all we do (Ps. 90.12, 16, 17). We engage culture throughout the day with the mind of Christ, seeking to bring out something of His beauty, goodness, and truth in our use of culture. And we reflect on our day with thanksgiving for God’s help in using culture for His glory and a firm resolve to improve our cultural engagement on the morrow.

We cannot get along without culture. Indeed, there has never been a society of human beings, be it ever so remote or primitive, that has not made and used artifacts, institutions, and conventions of various kinds to define itself and to sustain and enhance the way of life of its members. As citizens in the Kingdom which is not of this world, we should expect that our approach to getting around in culture will be markedly different from that of those beyond the pale of faith.

…because we are image-bearers of God
We are beings who make and use culture because we are made in the image of God, and He is a Maker of things and institutions and conventions as well.

And God has made us, as creatures of culture, to bring glory and honor to Him in all our cultural activities and endeavors. Indeed, culture can be a powerful vehicle for bearing witness to God. We know this is true of such cultural forms as painting, music, preaching, and worship; but what about those everyday activities that lead us all to engage actively and continuously in culture—things like eating and drinking, conversing, working, caring for our property, using our resources wisely, and all the rest?

Yes, the Lord intends that even here—indeed, especially here—opportunities abound to exalt and honor and glorify His holy Name. It may seem strange or unlikely, but in the everyday cultural activities, including those we share with unbelievers, it is possible for us to demonstrate our Kingdom convictions and advance the Kingdom purposes of Jesus Christ.

This doesn’t happen automatically, of course. We must think Biblically about culture and how it should be used. Indeed, much about everyday culture, because it is affected by the corrupting power of sin, militates against our engaging culture for the purposes of Christ and His Kingdom. We’ll need to prepare carefully and continually if we hope to make progress in this high calling.

But “whatever you do” means just that—whatever you do! God intends to get glory in and through us, to make His beauty, majesty, goodness, wisdom, power, truth, and love known to the world (Hab. 2.14).

And the ways we make and use culture, especially everyday culture, can play a large role in helping us to fulfill this calling. 

For reflection

1. In a typical day, how many ways are you engaged with culture? In which of those engagements are you conscious of offering your use of culture to God for His glory?

2. Do you think it’s possible to do all these cultural activities to the glory of God? Why or why not?

3. Is your approach to engaging culture changing? If so, in what ways? If not, should it?

Next step—Transformation: Prayer, planning, reflection. Be sure that you are including these disciplines as part of your engagement with culture.

T. M. Moore

Two books on culture are available to accompany this series on “A Christian Approach to Culture.” Christians on the Front Lines of the Culture Wars shows how important it is that we consider culture as a way of bringing glory to God. Order your copy by clicking here. Redeeming Pop Culture examines the nature of pop culture and some ways we can make good use of it for God’s glory. Order your copy by clicking here.

Support for ReVision comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

And please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. You can contribute online, via PayPal or Anedot, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 103 Reynolds Lane, West Grove, PA 19390.

Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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