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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Culture Matters

Nothing is insignificant in the Kingdom of God.
A primer on culture (2)


Human beings cannot escape culture, and we cannot do without it. We are creatures of culture.

It’s true that certain of the beasts employ primitive kinds of culture. They communicate in various ways. Some make and use very basic tools. Others build nests, hives, or other kinds of homes unique to their own species.

But these aspects of “animal culture” are a far cry from the seemingly infinite arrangement of artifacts, institutions, and conventions human beings create and use in order to define, sustain, and enrich our lives. Culture is indispensable for human wellbeing; consequently, human beings cannot avoid culture. Instead, we must learn to use culture in ways that maximize our ability to enjoy and express our humanness.

But culture matters for two additional reasons which, for the Christian, make it especially important that we understand culture and learn to create and employ it as part of our calling as citizens in the Kingdom of God.

First, culture is transformative. That is, culture has the power to shape our lives. It molds the ways we think and feel, shapes our values and priorities, and helps to determine the kind of lifestyle we will adopt. Perhaps nothing captures the transformative power of culture as well as the late Neil Postman’s title of his book on television and its effects on human life and spirituality: Amusing Ourselves to Death.

It’s fascinating to consider that, following the judgment of the flood (Genesis 6-8) God enacted another judgment against humankind. At the Tower of Babel the world was again in rebellion against God’s good plan. Rather than spread out and fill the earth in a covenant relationship with God, human beings decided to hunker down in one place and, in effect, become gods unto themselves (Genesis 11).

God could not simply wink at this direct challenge to His covenant love and plan. So, in order to disperse the people and, ultimately, to carve out a single nation to carry out His purposes, God intervened in their situation with a cultural innovation: different languages. By confusing the languages of people He caused them to get back on track, after a fashion, with His original plan.

Later, in Acts 2, when God once again confused the languages of people, He did so in order to begin a great uniting of human beings under the power of the Spirit in the Kingdom of His own Son (Acts 2).

Culture has power to change our lives. More than this, culture has power to glorify God. As Paul explains 1 Corinthians 10.31, everything God has entrusted to us is a for the purpose of honoring and exalting Him – even down to what we eat and how we take our meals.

Nothing is insignificant in the Kingdom of God. Everything matters, including culture – in all its manifestations. We cannot avoid culture and we cannot do without it. But we must learn to make the most of every aspect of culture – the artifacts, institutions, and conventions that we make and use – so as to make the knowledge of God and His glory known to our generation (Eph. 5.15-17; Matt. 25.14-30; Hab. 2.14).

Culture matters, and it should matter especially to every citizen in the Kingdom of God.

But how can we begin to take captive the culture we use and make it serve the purposes of our Savior and King? We’ll begin to look at that question in our next installment.

Related texts: Genesis 11.1-9; Psalm 8/Hebrews 2.1-9; 2 Corinthians 10.3-5; Colossians 3.23, 24

A conversation starter: “Do you ever stop to think about the ways our culture may be changing our lives?”

T. M. Moore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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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