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Borrowing culture

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series

"A New Testament Understanding of Culture"

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Since culture is the same idea as behavior, we have been discussing important New Testament implications from this idea. Here are the previous implications:

  1. New Testament authors explain cultural differences between various people groups as differences of belief and value.
  2. New Testament authors identify people groups (ethnicities, tribes, nations, etc.) as those of common ancestral heritage who share common culture flowing from common values.
  3. New Testament authors demand that the culture of Christians be holy, pure, and distinct from the culture of unbelievers.
  4. New Testament authors proclaim Christianity as a new and distinct people group that shares new values and thus new culture.
  5. New Testament authors insist that a clear distinction between the culture of believers and unbelievers will have evangelistic impact.

I concluded last time with this remark from Mark Snoeberger: “The proper response of the Christian to culture is to expose its depravity, demonstrate that it has illicitly borrowed from the Christian worldview, and show that its adherents cannot live within the implications of their own worldview.”1

Snoeberger’s comments lead to one final conclusion that must be drawn as a result of synthesizing what the New Testament authors reveal about pagan and Christian culture: where similarities do exist between the behavior of unbelievers and the conduct of believers, such behavior by unbelievers is due to the fact that on that particular issue they are working with what Greg Bahnsen calls “borrowed capital”2—unbelievers borrowing biblical values in certain areas of their lives. Snoeberger explains:

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Some cultures borrow substantially from the Christian worldview (sometimes consciously and deliberately, but more often in subconscious response to the latent influence of common grace that envelopes all of God’s creation) and others do not, and this factor is singularly vital in determining how a Christian is to relate to culture.3

This reality explains why the culture of Christians may at times resemble the culture of unbelievers in some respects. However, this understanding also sets the believer’s initial response toward an unbelieving culture as one of suspicion until he can determine which aspects reveal a borrowing from biblical values. Furthermore, when certain aspects of an unbelieving culture and a biblical culture resemble one another, it is because the unbelievers look like Christians in those instances, not the other way around.

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Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.



Endnotes:

  1. Snoeberger, “Noetic Sin, Neutrality, and Contextualization,” 357. []
  2. Greg L. Bahnsen, Pushing the Antithesis: The Apologetic Methodology of Greg L. Bahnsen (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2007), 103. []
  3. Mark A. Snoeberger, “D. A. Carson’s Christ and Culture Revisited: A Reflection and a Response,” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 13 (2008): 100. []

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