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Is culture the same as race?

The issue of culture is always of interest to those involved with worship for one obvious reason–the “cultural” aspects of worship, primarily music, poetry, and rhetoric, are what often cause the most controversy. Questions rising out of this include:

  • Is musical style neutral?
  • Are there some musical styles that are more fitting for worship than others?
  • Are the cultural forms in Scripture merely arbitrary contextualizations?
  • Is it acceptable (or even desirable) for Christian worship to mimic the art forms of the surrounding culture?
  • Should churches adapt the cultural forms of their target audience in order to reach them?
  • In order to be authentic, must worship use cultural forms that are familiar to the worshipers?

Each of these questions (and certainly many more) find their answers only when we have an adequate grasp of the nature of culture and, following that, a proper understanding of how Scripture deals with culture. It is amazing to me, then, how many authors and speakers on worship either neglect to define culture at all (and, therefore, give no consideration to what the Bible says about culture) or simply assume without adequate basis the ideas about culture prevalent in secular society.

Racial-Identity-Crisis1

If a Christian author attempts to define culture biblically, the term most frequently identified in the New Testament as an equivalent to our idea of culture is ethnos, most often translated as “nation” or “race.” For example, in commenting on Matthew 28:16–20, Christian cultural anthropologists Paris and Howell explain that “the word translated ‘nations’ here (ethnos) refers to the culture of a people, an ethnic group.”1 Likewise, evangelical author and missiologist Ed Stetzer likewise defines ethnos in terms of “people groups, population segments, and cultural environments.”2 If it is true that “culture” is the same thing as ethnos in Scripture, then the following are assumed to be true:

  • God created all cultures.
  • God approves of all cultures.
  • All cultures will be in heaven some day (Rev. 5).
  • Cultures are neutral, or even good.
  • Religious beliefs are but one element of a culture.
  • To judge a culture is racist.

In other words, if a “culture” is the same thing as a “race,” then there is no such thing as sinful culture. What would this mean for worship?

  • All cultural forms are legitimate for use in worship.
  • We should desire multi-cultural worship since this best reflects heavenly worship.
  • In order to reach unbelieving people, we should adopt their culture.
  • In order to worship authentically, we ought to be able to worship with the cultural forms most comfortable for us.

This kind of thinking certainly represents most evangelicals today (as seen in the prevalent cries for “contextualized” worship and “ethnodoxology”), and this understanding of the nature of culture reflects the predominant thought of unbelievers as well (as seen in the emphasis upon cultural tolerance and multiculturalism). If “culture” is the same as “race,” then all of the above makes sense. But is it?

I mentioned that most people usually assume this equivalence without actually supporting the assertion. Well let’s first consider what people are referring to when they talk about “culture.” They are talking about things people do–their habits, their customs, their arts, and their traditions. In the terms of one of the earliest cultural anthropologists, culture is “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”3 Or, in the words of one of the leading evangelical authors on culture, culture is “the sum total of ways of living built up by a human community and transmitted from one generation to another.”4 Culture is the common behavior of a group of people.

So what, then, is ethnos (“race,” “nation”) in the New Testament, and is it is the same thing as behavior? What is clear from both the lexical definitions of ethnos and its use various contexts is that the terms does not refer to the behavior of a group of people but rather the people themselves. In other words, ethnos designates a group of people, usually with common ancestry, and does not specifically describe how they act or how they live. Ethnos is not the same thing as “culture.”

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History, analogy, liturgy, culture - Week in review (9/28)

What idea in Scripture, then, informs our understanding of culture? Very simply, “behavior.” It’s really that simple. Whatever the Bible commands regarding the behavior of people should impact our understanding of culture. Here are some examples of passages that we should apply to our understanding of culture:

  • “For you have heard of my former life [“behavior”]5 in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it” (Gal 1:13).
  • “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. . . . But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life [“behavior”] and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:17–24).
  • “Set the believers an example in speech, in conduct [“behavior”], in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim 4:12).
  • “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct [“behavior”], since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds [“behavior”], conduct [“behave”] yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways [“behavior”] inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Pet 1:13-19).

  • “Keep your conduct [“behavior”] among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds [“behavior”] and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Pet 2:12).
  • “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct [“behavior”] of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct [“behavior”]” (1 Pet 3:1-2).
  • “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Pet 3:15-16).

In each of these cases, I am suggesting that terms related to “behavior” directly impact our modern concept of “culture.”

So, here are a few implications of this equivalence:

  • New Testament authors explain cultural differences between various people groups as differences of belief and value that have nothing to do with “race.” They highlight differences of belief and religion that produce the behavior and conduct of a people. This is important because it contradicts the idea of cultural neutrality. Since values and beliefs are not neutral (i.e., they are either good or evil), the culture produced from values and beliefs is likewise not neutral. Furthermore, this also contradicts the notion that religion is a component of culture. Rather, culture is a component of religion. So while “behavior”-related terms resemble evangelical definitions of culture, the use of such terms in the New Testament should reorient the evangelical understanding of culture such that it is seen as flowing from religious values and worldview. Thus every culture and particular cultural expression must be evaluated based upon what religious values it embodies.
  • New Testament authors identify people groups (ethnicities, tribes, nations, etc.) as those of common ancestral heritage who share common culture flowing from common values. They do not think about “culture” as such; rather, they think about behavior, and they believe that the gospel changes behavior—it changes a person’s culture. Since culture is a component of religion, where religion changes, so changes culture. This creates a reorientation of race for Christians; since a race is a group that shares common values and practices, Christians will find themselves increasingly alienated from the race into which they were born and drawn into a new race united around biblical values.
  • The New Testament demands that the culture of Christians be holy, pure, and distinct from the culture of unbelievers. Rather than understanding culture to be neutral, New Testament authors judge unbelieving culture as worthy of condemnation. They expect Christians, therefore, to reject the culture shaped by the world’s systems and to form a new way of life impacted by biblical values. The culture produced from unbelief is not neutral; it is depraved.
  • New Testament authors proclaim Christianity as a new and distinct people group that shares new values and thus new culture. Peter in particular identifies Christians as a “chosen race,” a “holy nation,” and a “people for [God’s] own possession” (1 Peter 2:9) distinct from other races, nations, and peoples.
  • New Testament authors insist that a clear distinction between the culture of believers and unbelievers will have evangelistic impact. Evangelical authors, however, argue that in order to reach the culture, believers must be incarnate in the culture, that is, they must resemble the culture around them. Unbelievers will be evangelized only as they recognize the presentation of the gospel in their own cultural language. The advocacy of contextualization by these authors flows directly from their understanding of culture as something entirely involuntary and neutral. Evangelism cannot occur, they argue, without cultural contextualization. While this is certainly true with regard to language intelligibility, these authors extend “intelligibility” to all aspects of behavior. In contrast, New Testament authors insist that only when the culture of believers changes as a result of transformed values will unbelievers “glorify God on the day of visitation.”
  • 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”6 —unbelievers borrowing biblical values in certain areas of their lives. 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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Judging Matters of Freedom

So much of the evangelical contextualization posture finds its starting point in analyzing and appropriating whatever cultural expressions dominate the surrounding society. Yet this framework sets the culture as the authority in church practice. Instead, churches should begin with the authoritative Word of God, seeking to develop a unique and holy culture that flows from biblical values. A certain amount of translation may be necessary to communicate those values and behavior to people who do not share the same constructs, but even the translation must accurately reflect Scripture. In some cases, the target audience may be so foreign to a biblical system of values that nothing about their indigenous culture is usable; in those cases church leaders will find it necessary to explain to them the meaning of holy cultural forms and teach them to learn to appreciate those kinds of forms.

For this reason, church leaders, and indeed all Christians, must have a skilled knowledge of the cultural forms used in the Bible to express its truth. A certain amount of study of biblical literary forms, including how they shape their content, will help a church leader better discern which forms in his culture best communicate truth. Likewise, church leaders should study the kinds of sentiments and affections the Bible prescribes for worship and choose worship forms that accurately express those affections.

This will also require that church leaders know how to parse the meanings and values of the cultural expressions within their own culture to determine whether or not they are compatible with Christian sentiments. This may be one area where the missional church emphasis is helpful—churches must know how the people in their community think and the worldviews that influence their thinking as well as how this thinking and worldview is embodied in their cultural expressions. Christians do not necessarily need to immerse themselves in the culture of their community in order for this to take place—in fact, that might sometimes be dangerous for one’s spiritual well-being.

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Paul and Contextualization

Christians in the twenty-first century will not be able to escape wrestling through matters of culture and contextualization as they seek to accomplish the mission God has for them. Yet rather than adopting the understanding of culture developed by secular anthropologists, Christians should be willing to reorient that viewpoint to fit within the biblical categories of behavior and conduct, applying all that the Scripture has to offer about those categories to cultural matters. Only then will they be equipped to appropriate a truly biblical perspective on culture and contextualization for world evangelism, worship, and the entirety of church ministry.

For Discussion:

  1. How does this essay impact the study of the cultural forms used in Old Testament Hebrew worship?
  2. What kinds of criteria should inform a biblical evaluation of cultural forms used in worship today?
  3. Is critique of culture racist?
  4. What differences are there between cultural “translation” and cultural “contextualization”?
  5. What differences exist between the relationship of culture to worship for ancient Israel and the relationship of culture to worship today?
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. Paris and Howell, Introducing Cultural Anthropology, 23. []
  2. Stetzer and Putman, Breaking the Missional Code, 37–38. Emphasis added. []
  3. Edward B. Tylor, Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Art, and Custom (London: John Murray, 1871), 1. []
  4. Newbigin, The Other Side of 1984, 5. []
  5. I am designating as “behavior” in this list Greek terms like ἀναστροφή (anastrophē) and ἔργον (ergon), which I am arguing are nearly equivalent to our modern notion of culture. []
  6. “The unbeliever lives on borrowed capital; that is, he knows the truth deep down and even secretly assumes it, but he has no right to believe it on his own presuppositions—he must borrow from the Christian worldview” (Greg L. Bahnsen, Pushing the Antithesis: The Apologetic Methodology of Greg L. Bahnsen [Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2007], 103). []

58 Responses to Is culture the same as race?

  1. In many debates between Christians and atheists, atheists attempt to set the terms of the debate to exclude the Bible. Accepting these terms is admitting an early defeat; no logical reasoning can absolutely prove the truth of Christianity apart from the foundation than the Word of God.

    Allowing culture to dictate the conditions of worship has a similar effect. Worship divorced from its biblical roots will not accomplish the goal of the Great Commission. Subsuming worship under culture is akin to giving the state control over the church. The tame national churches of countries like China show us that this “contextualization” ends in a modified gospel message that is no gospel at all. The church blends into society rather than standing out as a light to the world and loses its effectiveness as salt and light.

    We do not need to contextualize the good news. The gospel transcends culture and everything else for that matter. We are at war with the world, Satan’s realm, because it is diametrically opposed to our King. Our task is to rescue men and women from the god of this world to become children of God.

  2. Race is simply ethnicity. Culture is the practices that an individual emulates with his/her life. While race and culture share similar origins (geographical location, influence on musical style, etc.), they are two separate entities. Race/ethnicity has more to do with geographical location of birth while culture is shaped by beliefs that are put into practice in a way that borrows from the aesthetic understanding of the area.
    Whether we like it or not, culture has a deep influence on the worship of a community. Why do individuals seek congregations that share his/her language, practices, and race? Because we as humans are drawn to what is familiar to us. We find security in familiarity.
    This being said, differences in cultural practices are of no significance as long as said practices are in line with the Word of God. There is not a prescribed “way” to worship or a preference of cultural practice in God’s eyes. He created the nations diverse for a reason (to be glorified in a myriad of different ways). Our God is a God of diversity (as long as we are remaining obedient to His Word)!
    Having served on many foreign mission teams, I have experienced first-hand the diversity of races and cultures meeting together for the sole purpose of glorifying God. The beauty of this experience is incommunicably beautiful. The bond between my brothers/sisters in Christ and me is unexplainable besides through the shared love and zeal for our Savior.
    Worship flows from a love for God. How this love is expressed is dependent on geographical location and culture of the congregation. However, praise God that His love spans both language and cultural barriers.
    One day all Christians will gather around our Lord’s throne and worship Him. Will that worship be one uniform methodology? Will different peoples worship Him in their own cultural way? I’m not sure, but I cannot wait to find out!

  3. I also immediately thought “ethnicity” instead of “race” as it just seems to be a better definition of the qualities relating to the where and who of a person. Now, culture is a complicated idea to me and one that I had a completely different definition until the class last semester. It helped me when you used the word “values” because it allowed me to pinpoint the difference between the framework of what we call “culture” in this discussion vs. what most people think of as “culture” i.e. food, dress, customs, architecture, art, etc. I would agree that culture as defined by values is not neutral, but that doesn’t mean that something like a culture’s architecture is not neutral.

    To answer #3: The definition of racism is to believe that one race (usually your own) is superior than the others. If we are to define all Christians (regardless of physical ethnicity) as a race as the article suggests, then it would be technically racist to critique another culture since we truly believe that living as a Christian is the best way to live and only way get to heaven. Because of this, I would hesitant to use race in this way.

  4.         The notion of culture being neutral is largely erroneous, particularly in the 21st century.  Culture is not a matter of geographic commonality, or of nationality, or purely a matter of ethnicity.  While this may have been once the case (arguably) it is no longer so.  The modern ability to travel and relocate virtually anywhere in the world, modern media (notably social media) and the internet blur any such distinctions that may once have existed.  
            Some notable exceptions to this are North Korea and areas of the world where sharia law is imposed.  These often do share geography and ethnicity as they are closed and totalitarian cultures.  Even (especially) in these cases, the cultures are most certainly not neutral.
            The premise that culture is derived from religion has significant merit.  This is unfortunately true in the cases of atheist North Korea and areas under sharia dominance.  Christianity as a culture stands at the opposite end of this spectrum.  To follow Christ and consider ourselves Christians is to understand that we are Christians first and Americans, or Koreans, or Germans second.  This is difficult for Americans, who having a culture that was at least once defined by Christianity, struggle to see their national affiliation as secondary.
            I take particular issue with the notion that evangelicals feel they have to “immerse” themselves in the culture.  This is simply a disingenuous misrepresentation of evangelicals.  Evangelicals understand that they must exist in this world; in whatever form that may be.  They further appreciate that an understanding of the culture is critical to reaching lost people.  They do not believe that they must endorse or participate in a culture of adulterers, liars, and thieves (etc) as a means to reach adulterers, liars, thieves.  
            Evangelicals see their place in culture more as Daniel did.  He acknowledged the ways of the Babylonian culture and even excelled in service to a foreign king.  Yet Daniel never succumbed to those things he knew were not right about the culture.  In fact his conduct and devotion to God were such that everyone knew where is heart was.  As he persevered in the lions den (in punishment for his faith and his favor with the king) he influenced that foreign culture and its king to at least recognize if not worship Yahweh.
            The alternative would be (as this article may suggest) to completely set the Christian culture apart from the secular.  This of course has been done numerous times throughout history.  Some are still with us, but what impact are the Amish and Mennonites having in bring the lost to Christ.
            We balk at the notion of using the culture’s worship practices and music in the church as a means to “attract” the lost but where does the alternative leave us?  Do we continue with music that is completely unpalatable to the lost (and many believers) simply to ensure that we are not assimilated into the culture.  Does this not smack of an external show of piety?  Aren’t we really asking “What would the Pharisees do” (WWPD)?        

    Ryan Thiessen
    August 28, 2013         

  5. Is it racist to critique others cultures? The answer to that question comes in the meaning of the word critique. If the word means to look down on (because you are better) or to treat the person like they are garbage because of their ethnicity, then it may be considered racism. If one believes to critique is to look at a group of people (while showing them the love of Christ) and view their fruits (what their life produces), then it is not racist.

    When one looks critically at cultures the question then can be asked, are their sinful cultures. To answer this question we need a definition of sin. If sin is anything that does not bring glorification to a Holy God, then every culture is a culture filled with sin (according to this definition).

    Using an organic view of culture I believe that ones culture is shaped by their religious views. So if every culture is a sinful culture what makes the Christian culture any different? The Christian culture is different because of the change that Christ has made in their life through their salvation. So what about this idea of borrowed capital? I would consider this group to have a culture that is built on legalism. This group believes in salvation by their own merit, therefore it is contrary to salvation by God’s grace (they are not truly part of the christian culture).

    To tie all of this together, I feel that we can critically look at cultures and see if they show the fruits of a christian culture. Christ makes his children a new creation, so those who believe in him will have a cultural change.

  6. The essay impacts the study of cultural forms in OT times by putting it high on the priority list. This generation acts like the bible is just a text and reads it and memorizes instead of reading and soaking up the knowledge that the past gives us. God gives us strict guidelines to how worship should be and how it should be approached/ Instead some of this generation has lost that and we are slowly going from worship in the church and a Sunday morning concert. I am not a “traditionalist” saying this either
    .
    The difference between today and Israel of yesterday is the fact that their worship was not parrallel to that of the culture of those days. It stood by itself and was a different vibe. Today’s worship is very close to that of pop music and I am not talking about the instrumentation of “contemporary worship” I am talking about the content. If I were to put two songs side by side the only difference would be the choice of some foul language that will be found in the pop music and probably a few references to our Savior in what is considered a worship song of today. I know that this might step on a lot of toes but it is the truth. Not all current music is bad that is being created today. But there are a lot of worship songs out that are on the mainstream stations because we have intermingled with pop culture to much. I am a big supporter of praise bands but that does not mean to sings “I want to fall in love with you” By Jars of Clay that not once mentions God, it just hints at Him. Sing Worship Music that is fitting to be sung to Our King that created us. It is something we need to do in our own culture.

    But this article is absolutely speaking truth with how as Christians we need to understand the cultures instead of partaking in the culture. Be active with the people in the culture and share God with them so that their culture becomes that of God’s.

  7. I couldn’t help but wonder, as I read through the article (especially in contrast with Bauder), if the argument regarding culture, race, and behavior has been “subdivided” to address the issue from an international (the proclamation of the Gospel commission abroad), and domestic (the aforementioned declaration to unbelievers within the confines of this country) perspectives?
    My curiosity was arrested, as I have experienced many a divisive conversation within our nation’s borders, especially when it comes to worship preferences, hingeing solely on “cultural” practices. Congregations—some fitting the traditional model, and others the contemporary—have shaped their liturgical structure solely on their ethnicity.
    As a missionary, I have also witnessed similar worship practices, yet not under the umbrella of ethnicity, but under that of tradition (rather than “culture” as the group above).
    I believe it is important that we live out our Christianity, that—for the sake of the kingdom—the doors may open and we be provided the opportunities to lead others, whether at home or away, to a biblical model of worship, and a correct understanding, one that is devoid of personal preferences and practices. After all, worship is only about me as far as I am to express my praises and adoration to the One “who was and is to come” (Revelation 4:8).

  8. As I read the article, the sentence that lingered in my mind after I finished reading is found in paragraph 4: “… if a ‘culture’ is the same thing as ‘race,’ then there is no such thing as sinful culture.” While I agree with the article that culture is not the same as race, I cannot help but believe that there can be a “sinful culture.” However, I find the term “ignorant” to better describes this culture, as the people are not necessarily sinful but rather, live in ignorance to God (Yahweh).
    Assuming the opposite of “ignorant” culture to be Christian culture, I find that there is no strict division between these cultures. Even though the line may be blurred separating the two, this can be viewed as an advantage in evangelism. The words from the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:22 speaks: “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” Since, Christians have the flexibility to adopt traits from the “ignorant” culture to relate to those in the “ignorant” culture, this creates a common ground for the gospel to be preached. Nonetheless, Christians must be rooted in the Word of God so that they will not forget which culture they truly belong to.
    In short, hopefully, all Christians will be motivated to actively evangelize after grasping the fact that the “ignorant” culture embodies the majority of the world.

  9. My ancestors were traditionally animists, and so were my people, Kachins, until the 19th century American Baptist missionary came to our Land in Burma. It is fascinating how missionaries presented gospel to these people while surrounding Burmese society professed predominantly Buddhism and practiced its culture. In order to communicate Biblical truth and values to these people, did missionaries employ the method of cultural translation or cultural contextualization? In an attempt to find out the contributing factors that lead Kachins to the conversion of Christianity, one has to do a lot of research. Growing up in Burma, I was well aware that Kachins have abandoned certain rituals, practices and customs that embody or associate with the worship of “nat” spirits. However, they still embrace some of the cultural elements and values that identify them as Kachin ethnic. So I would conclude that it is church leaders who are responsible to discern which cultural expressions would best communicate biblical truth and values. It is up to us to make certain that those values and cultural expressions are compatible with biblical worship.

  10. This articles raises a valid concern that perhaps Christians have too quickly accepted the secular anthropologists’ world view of culture. After all, God set forth very specific instructions in the Bible as to how He wanted worship to be conducted. The details He left concerning the Tabernacle even included specific instructions for furniture measurements, the type of wood and metal that could be used for each part, and the color and decorative pattern to be followed (Ex 25). As discussed in class today, Deuteronomy 12 also gives explicit instructions for Israel to completely destroy any part of pagan worship practices as they entered the promise land.

    Obviously, as referenced in some of these comments, there seems to be evidence of syncretism in forms of worship services today. However, what of these worship services is God’s desire for true worship perhaps expressed differently by different types of people around the world and what is of pagan practices that have become widely accepted in Christian culture? That seems to be a very important topic for study and prayer. Accepting a different view of culture that is not neutral allows Christians to earnestly seek God’s counsel and Biblical instruction on how God desires to be worshiped. God knows how He wants to be worshiped, and if he was so explicit in the Bible, He has also laid explicit instructions for today. Divine Biblical revelation of culture and worship practices that rejects the mixture of the secular world view of culture seems to be a key element in the spirit-and-truth worship that Jesus spoke about in John 4:23-24.

  11. Jessica, you say, “However, I find the term “ignorant” to better describes this culture, as the people are not necessarily sinful but rather, live in ignorance to God (Yahweh).”

    Is not “ignorance of God,” however, sinful? Does not that ignorance itself form a value system that is alienated and hostile to God. Does not that value system, therefore, produce sinful behavior? That seems to be the teaching of Scripture.

    The Bible teaches that every person is totally and completely depraved:

    Genesis 6:5 “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

    Ephesians 4:17-19 “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”

    Both man’s will and understanding are corrupt:

    Titus 1:15 “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.”

    The natural man cannot do anything good, nor can he understand spiritual things:

    John 8:34 “Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”

    1 Corinthians 2:14 “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

    He does not and cannot seek God, nor does he desire to do so:

    Romans 3:10-18 “As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’ ‘Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.’ ‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’ ‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.’ Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.’ ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’”

    Depravity consumes man’s body (Romans 8:10), mind (Titus 1:15; Ephesians 4:17-18), heart (Ephesians 4:18, Jeremiah 17:9), will (John 8:34, Ephesians 2:3), and emotions (Ephesians 4:17-19).

    Thus man is totally and completely depraved. Total depravity does not mean that man is as depraved as he could be, but that all of man is completely depraved. No part of man escapes the reach of depravity. Not his will, not his actions, not his preferences, not his culture, and certainly not the way he communicates.

    The implication, then, is that culture (behavior) always has at least the potential of being sinful and must be evaluated accordingly.

  12. Dr. Aniol suggests that culture is not the same as race. Culture equals to belief and value, which cause certain behavior and conduct of a group of people; and ethos, race, is used to describe the people or nation. For better understanding of these two words, I checked on Oxford Dictionary. Oxford Dictionary explains that culture is the customs, ideas and social behavior of a particular people or group; and race is each of the major division of humankind, having distinct physical characteristic; notice here, physical characteristic not behavior. Both Dr. Aniol and Oxford Dictionary explain culture and race in the same way. Since culture is carried out by a group of people or race according to their belief and value, which means culture can be changed at any time or can be nurtured. As a follower of King Jesus, I believe that we should nurture this wicked culture with King Jesus Culture.

    As a Chinese, born and grew up in Malaysia, I experience and understand well the difference between culture and race. Living among Muslims, I am influenced by some of the good culture from Muslim practice. For example, in a crowded place, when a Muslim has to walk through two people who are in the middle of a conversation, he or she has to bent down-kind of like bowing posture-while walking in between them. This is to show respect. Good culture is always respected and accepted just as I accepted this good Muslim culture. Therefore, as a follower of King Jesus, I strongly believe that we should influence this wicked culture with King Jesus Culture, the best culture ever. In order to influence and nurture this wicked culture, we first need to separate ourselves from their culture or we need to live differently. Ephesians 4:17, 22. If we do not live differently from them, we have no power to influence them. We are just one of them; nothing in us is attractive to them and convincing enough to influence them. Then we need to renew our old-self in the spirit and put on the new self. Ephesians 4:24. This also means that we need to change our old ways of thinking and living and learn to be more like King Jesus each day. To be more like King Jesus, we need to humble and surrender ourselves before His throne and let Him change us day by day.

    Culture can be nurtured, by King Jesus’ grace and strength, we need to live and carry out King Jesus culture every day through every aspects of our life.

  13. Ben, there IS a prescribed way to worship: in spirit and in truth. The problem in every culture is that we do not always test our cultural forms by the Word of God, perhaps because they are so ingrained in us, we assume that our “normal” is God’s normal. For example, our American culture is so emotion-driven (“be true to your feelings,” “love is a feeling,” “I feel – or don’t feel – God’s presence”) that we set up our entire worship service based on emotional stimuli (feel-good songs, mood lighting, comfy clothes and chairs, the inflection of the speaker as music floats in the background, and on and on). We don’t stop to ask if our choices are actually biblical, we just come to worship God in a way that, culturally, feels good.

    I am coming to understand that this is because we view culture, as secular anthropology has trained us, as neutral. But it is not neutral. Our love and zeal for our Savior can very easily manifest itself in ways that do not worship Him in spirit and in truth – just look at Aaron and the golden calf, Uzzah and the ark, the disciples turning away the children, Peter cutting off the servant’s ear. We need to examine the assumptions behind our actions and be sure that what we are offering to God is truly a pleasing sacrifice to Him.

  14. Valden, I have a friend who calls these songs “Jesus is my girlfriend songs.” Interestingly (and disturbingly) I recently saw a commercial on T.V. for a dating website which used Jars of Clay’s “I Want to Fall in Love With You” prominently in the background!

  15. I agree with the article that culture is not the same as race. According to this article, race is simply an ethnic group. Culture is the common behavior of a group of people. We all live in an ethnic group.In an ethnic group we have many diffrent kinds of begavior. Through our behavior it becomes a culture. I think culture and race are for sure diffrent but that they are relatived. If we are thinking about culture for worship, I think if we submit to the word of God, we have same behavior as the word of God. Even when we are diffrent race. Our worship practive should be like the word of God.

  16. Sarah, I agree with what you are saying about worshiping “in spirit and in truth.” I was more-so addressing the fact that “spirit and truth” do not flow from one culture or worship practice. It would be absurd for me to expect a church in Africa to worship in the same way (with the same songs, acts of devotion, etc.) as the Baptist church down the street.
    Yes, we must examine our hearts and motives as we worship to insure that what we are doing is “in spirit and truth.” Thank you for helping me clarify.

  17. Ben, I’m curious, why would you say “It would be absurd for me to expect a church in Africa to worship in the same way (with the same songs, acts of devotion, etc.) as the Baptist church down the street”?

  18. Culture is not the same as race. Race is one of meanings of ethnos. Ethnos shows the group of people that does not explain their behavior and conduct. On the other hand, culture describes people’s acts and lives. According to this article, the authors of the New Testament describes a race as people groups that people have common values and practices because they categorizes people’s groups like Jews and pagans. I believe that a race is a small process that gathers people’s common practices and builds culture.
    Moreover, this article shows how the authors in the New Testament consider behavior rather than culture. They consider the influence of behavior. I agree with the influence of the gospel and behavior. This article reveals a progress of behavior. The gospel changes behavior, and behavior changes culture, which reveals the reorientation of race for Christians according to the article.
    I understand that the authors in the New Testament know the danger of culture for Christians. I am thinking of how Christians understand and use culture in their worship. I believe that they could deal with how culture impacts on worship and the gospel. I believe that this is our job for them to help their understanding of culture and gospel and build the gospel.

  19. What differences exist between the relationship of culture to worship for ancient Israel and the relationship of culture to worship today? I feel today’s culture of worship is more or less more specific in terms of “musical offering”. For me, ancient Israel worship is more like an “action offering”. It is interesting to see that over the ages, worship did changed a lot from ancient Israel to our modern time, and it keeps changing till the day we all can see the Lord face to face. Look at today’s churches; most of the places do not follow the ancient Israel’s symbolic actions to worship God anymore. I’m wondering if this is because of the cultural environments we live in today is different from ancient time or it is because of “nation” or “race “(ethnos). I guess both of them influenced today’s worship. But if we imaging that we were Israel Christians today, how would we worship God? Same as what ancient Israel did? Separatism? Accommodation? Synthesis? Dualism? Or conversionism?

  20. For me, I view the difference between cultural “translation” and “contextualization” in this way.

    Cultural “translation” attempts to bridge the gap between two or more cultures by finding some source of common ground in an effort to communicate the message of one to the other, while retaining the individual identities of each culture.

    Cultural “contextualization” attempts to bridge the gap between two or more cultures by “assuming” the identity of the opposing culture(s), thus making the different cultures appear to be same.

    For the individual communicating a Christian culture to someone completely unaware of it, “translation” and “contextualization” each seek the same goal of reaching the individual from a different worldview and demonstrating how Christianity is different.. But “translation” ultimately stands apart from “contextualization” in that throughout the translation process, the Christian culture retains its original identity, as a stark contrast from the differing viewpoint. While commonality is useful and at times essential in starting the process, it is merely a springboard in an attempt to show the value and aspects of the Christian culture/worldview. This is the intended goal as Christianity is a stark contrast to the various cultures of the world. The problem of “contextualization” is that by the end of the process, the Christian identity is lost and distorted within another culture/worldview.

  21. Ben, I’m curious as well as to why you would find it absurd to expect a church in Africa to worship in the same way the Baptist church down the street worships.

    I would find it odd if the church in Africa worshiped in the English language, as it is not their native tongue, but would not find it odd if they worshiped in the same way we do in America or the “Baptist church down the street.”

    I work at a church where we have an Arabic congregation and a Sudanese congregation. These congregations are either 1st generation Americans or recent citizens of the US. What I find interesting in these congregations is that they worship in very similar ways as our other congregations. They sing the same hymns we do and have the same orders of worship. The big difference between them is the language in which the service is in. But in essence, we worship the same way.

    This became apparent to me as I have observed various services in each setting and have had the privilege to join in combined services and hear Scripture and things like the Nicene Creed and our familiar hymns in their native tongues, not because we asked them to sing a stanza or read in their language but because they wanted to sing that hymn or recite Scripture/creed in their language as testament to our commonly shared beliefs

    And for the record, “How Great Thou Art” sung in Arabic and Nuer (a Sudanese tribal language) is quite awesome!

  22. Oh, culture. What a daunting word in Christian society. Because culture and worship are so intimately related, and because worship is the cornerstone of the Christian faith, believers are faced with the constant battle of cultural dos and don’ts.

    Dr. Aniol, you have presented a great argument in demonstrating how behavior impacts our understanding of culture. Because behavior is not altogether neutral, then culture cannot be wholly neutral. However, I would like to take this time to reiterate the fact that while culture is not wholly neutral, some elements of culture can be considered neutral.

    Language and dress, for instance, are considered elements of culture. (Erin had mentioned that viewing culture as “value” helped her “pinpoint a difference” between the article’s definition and people’s common definition of culture that encompasses food, dress, etc. I would like to argue that many peoples’ values in various cultures encompass food, dress, language and other things. So, for me, there is no difference between “value” and language, dress, food, etc.) There is nothing essentially morally wrong about using different words to say the same thing (or using various languages).
    Also, dress is the way of a different culture, too. Elements of dress can be considered neutral—a certain style or pattern and colors—those can vary from culture to culture, but are neutral within themselves. When dress becomes a moral issue is when length, foul language is written on the clothing, etc. As Ben stated above, the answer is to always bring cultural “issues” back to the Scriptures.

    Chris said that “the gospel transcends culture and everything else for that matter.” So, why should one have to change his ways, dress, etc. when ministering to a people group different from himself? The answer is simple. While the Gospel has the power to transcend culture, we are still people. We are all different ages, we all learn in different ways, and we all tick differently–no matter who we are. Trust me, I have a twin, but we still are two very different people. Here is the thing. We are always getting wrapped up in this and that, but the bottom line thing is this–getting all other people in this whole world to understand that Jesus came and died for them. We should do whatever it takes to “lead them” to Christ, but doing so in a biblically-honoring manner. If it takes immersing myself in as many cultural “elements” as possible, it will all be worth it if someone comes to know the Lord. Believe me, there are villages in this world that will not even give someone the time of the day, no matter how godly he is.

    Consider children’s ministry. That’s right, I said children’s ministry. If someone were to walk in a classroom with little kids and begin lecturing them on the Bible, using big words and over-their-heads concepts without teaching aids, his message would be empty, void, and completely uncomprehended (unless there is some baby super-genius in the room). So, what is the alternative? Children’s ministers and Sunday School teachers enter into “kid culture.” We use small words, we explain more, we dress up like idiots or take them to places where there are people dressed up like creepy animals, and we use lingo that they get. Why? We want them to fully comprehend the message in a way that is glorifying to God. At the end of the day, that’s all that counts.

  23. Topic for discussion
    5. What differences exist between the relationship of culture to worship for ancient Israel and the relationship of culture to worship today?

    After analyzing this article thoroughly and how this statement will influence the worship to the Lord. We have to understand the perspective of the Creator in order to comprehend the culture of worship. In an exceedingly overview of this modern culture and how this dilemma affects the worship and the moral values of the Christian faith in the present, we should find the response in the infallible word of God. From the beginning the Lord´s desire was to create special creatures that can first of all show his Glory and the Glory of His image in themselves. As is written: … “Then God said; let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:26 NIV).
    The Lord created an extension of Himself. He is a God that contrary of others gods that are part of other cultures (Greeks and Romans) these deities are powerful but cruel totally opposite of the God of heavens that is a God of mercy and truth that wants to be known by the people of the World as Dr. Scott Aniol quoted.
    This omnipotent God was able to reveal Himself to His creation and fellowship and communicate his divine purposes to them. The idea of God was appointed to the mankind as worshipers of Him, of His power, of His love, inside of a close relationship of Creator and Creation and furthermore Father and children. We can see after the fall of Adam and Eve the worship idea was broken and the pure culture( costumes, duties, worship, law) practiced by man inside of the Garden with God was annulled by sin and disobedience. After that pitiful event the Earth began to be populated. Many groups, tribes and races started to develop their generations and this social grown provoked a result of traditions, costumes, religions based on their own understanding completely apart from God with a worldly culture that gives the worship to man, animals, reptiles and quadrupeds instead of the Lord of the heavenly hosts (idea took it from Rom1:23 NIV).
    One more time God turned away one nation among all nations to show His Glory and to teach His perfect way. With His sovereign wisdom He called Abraham from his pagan culture and his ungodly environment, from his traditions and his father´s house. God separated him for the heavenly plans to restore the relationship with man, and create a new nation, Israel. The Lord brought him out of his land to a new land. This journey was the way the Lord changed Abraham life and culture, to transform him in a powerful man of faith and to show him how to be a worshiper of the real God.
    Going toward the Old testament when the Lord delivered Israel from Egypt, He gave Moses clear instructions and commands of how he was supposed to worship, every detail of the construction of the ark and The Temple, the robes and the appropriate attire for the priests, the Levi responsibilities, also the distribution of their positions and the instructions for the people in order to give the sacrifices and the celebration of the different feasts to please the Lord. All this laws and regulations established by God to His people in the Old Testament including the instruments and the singers, all were part of the cultural expression of adoration given by God to the Israelites. Through all the Old Testament we can note how they remained faithful in this practice of worship as a lifestyle, but many other times they fell in rebellion disobeying God commands with the idolatry, copying the costumes and traditions of the pagan´s nations around them. This lack of obedience and idol worship practices displeased the Lord enormously.
    Returning to the present days it is notorious how the culture to worship has been impacted for the worldview of man and important inventions like media, music and pop culture. The new religions new ageist, scientologist, ecumenism, and the philosophical currents like humanism, communism, all of these, remarkable pretensions of usurp the center of worship that the Lord showed to Humanity in the beginning.
    It is necessary that Christians keeps their values of one accurate culture of worship based on the biblical references and patterns given by God, because there is not another possible way, and another source of truth. God never changed his mind and the instructions were precise for the worship in those days and in these days. In past times the Christian music and worship was the most admired and respected for the quality and majesty. Today regrettably the music of the word has been taken place in the holy platform of the Temple when one day that was considering a sacrilege. As a Christian in this new generation it is my desire to appeal like the Gospel song says ¨Give me that old time religion, it´s good enough for me¨. I want to keep the good legacy of those that remained in the biblical overview and in the traditions of generations of truly worshipers.

  24. I agree that culture is the common behavior of a group of people. With regard to the article, I will categorize “culture” into two types: racial culture and religious culture. In the bible, the Old Testament tends to emphasize on the racial culture while the New Testament stresses the Christian culture.
    Racial culture usually related to a group of people who have common ancestry. It is established from generation to generation. The common behaviors of a racial group define their culture. Due to geographical restrictions, certain groups of people are isolated from each other to develop a distinctive lifestyle. The differences of lifestyle create different “culture”. In the Old Testament, races are closely related to a person’s identity and occupation. Therefore, races is an important to factor define culture.
    In the New Testament, culture is organic and is embodied in biblical teaching. In Acts Ch. 11, the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch, which exemplify that belief determines one’s identity. The formation of religious culture comes from the belief of an individual. People with common beliefs exhibit certain behaviors. Although races may affect people’s behavior, belief is a stronger driving force to determine one’s action. Belief can be transmitted and also transformed. Therefore, the culture driven by belief but not races has the potential to reach to all nations. In my opinion, 21th-century Christian should follow biblical teaching and develop a distinctive Christian culture. Christian culture is essential to cultivate biblical worship practice.

  25. The culture is the group of people that informed in the same belief, value and behavior. The most important thing that informs the culture is the behavior. The behavior represents the values and the thought. The people who have the same belief tried to gather to express their faith and then, naturally they could make their own culture.
    Therefore the religion is not one of the components of culture, but the culture happened from the religion. The understanding of the culture helps to be able to see the reflection of the religion value and worldview. I think all cultures based on the behavior of the religion.
    The Christian culture cannot be neutral because we are the distinct people group as New testament author said. It demands to do the different behavior and life.
    How can we approach to unbeliever with our distinct culture? I agree that we should to approach to them with their familiar culture to evangelize.
    I believe that knowing the cultural contextualization and the biblical culture forms would be help to approach them to evangelize.

  26. I really appreciated that this article cleared my confusion, because in these days many churches’ philosophy on worship is just like the article has mentioned “In order to reach unbelieving people, we should adopt their culture. In order to worship authentically, we ought to be able to worship with the cultural forms most comfortable for us.” I was wondering if that kind of philosophy is right or not. This article helps me realize that culture is simply behavior, which can be wrong. There is only one center for worship, which is God, not human. Therefore, the question is not about how to include people to worship with us or feel related, but teach them to worship the way God wants us to worship Him, based on what He said in the Bible. Churches should not be afraid to be distinguished from the secular culture, because we should be different with the secular culture if they do not obey God’s commandment. In deed, God did want us to spread the Gospel, but He never wants us to follow the “culture” ‘s worship style. He wants us to worship Him in His style. When Christians go to a mission field, it is very easy to forget that “culture” does not equal “races”. This article made it very clear that these two things are different. Christians do not agree and follow some kind of “culture behavior” does not mean we are racist. Truly we need to understand and respect different culture, but we should not be afraid to make His culture to others.

  27. I must begin by quoting Millard J. Erikson on the matter of culture and historical theology: “Those who fail to learn from the past are, as George Santayana said, condemned to repeat it. If we closely examine some of our ‘new’ ideas in the light of the history of the church, we will find that they are actually new forms of old conceptions.” If culture, as Dr. Aniol describes, is in direct relation to our behavior it seems relevant to bring up our history as Christians to see if our behavior of worshiping God with the right heart and wrong act is repeating itself. I must make a comparison to the early Anabaptists and the Catholics. The Catholics believed themselves to be saved through infant baptism. However once it was brought to light that believers baptism was what was taught by Christ, Catholics were so used to doing things their way for so long they didn’t want to change it. I feel something similar is happening with today’s worship because we have said, “we must teach infants in the way infants learn best” instead of sticking to the Word-truth in knowledge of biblical teachings. Modern day culture is doomed to repeat itself by getting so used to worshiping in an irreverent and unholy way that they will not be willing to go back to worshiping in the confines of how the Word instructs us to worship. Laura gave a great example that we should teach children in a way children will best understand. Being a preschool teacher in the past I can understand what she has to say but I firmly disagree. Watching children who have grown up in homes where they do not modify language to be simple, not only learn at a faster rate, but are able to comprehend a great deal more. If we continue to dilute the message over diluted message, over time it will become tasteless and as Erin said, no longer salt to the world. Who are we to determine a better cultural standard than that which Christ taught and personified? The best methods for sharing the Gospel are laid out for us in the Word–Jesus didn’t alter his message for the different cultures he preached to. Culture in the sense of language, food and dress were irrelevant to the culture of behavior and practices. First comes God and His Word–how He has called us to live and to worship. I stand firm with the point that God has commanded us to worship Him a certain way and will spit us out of His mouth if we are lukewarm in our reverence for Him. The safest place to be is in the will of God. Our relationship with God is not something to be experimented with because of secular cultural practices. It is not to be changed in anyway apart from how He has called us to live. Live in His will and let His ultimate power speak in different cultures. We as a culture of Christians have lost faith in the power of God and His Word. It is up to us to stand firm and encourage those who have drifted from the Word. God is very explicit about how we need to reverence Him. God prefers our obedience over our intentions.

  28. Vaden, you mentioned, ” But there are a lot of worship songs out that are on the mainstream stations because we have intermingled with pop culture to much. I am a big supporter of praise bands but that does not mean to sings “I want to fall in love with you” By Jars of Clay that not once mentions God, it just hints at Him. Sing Worship Music that is fitting to be sung to Our King that created us. It is something we need to do in our own culture.”

    I am curious–being a fan of praise bands, are you suggesting that only lyrics need to be changed in the way in which ‘pop-Christian worship’ is performed or that the sound of today’s music is too identical to our worship as well? I am confused as to what would still be “like-able” about today’s worship without those two elements. It is my opinion and personal experience that most Christians are too uncomfortable with leaving the popular form of worship to worship in the way God has called us to worship. I know that it took a lot of dying to myself to worship in God’s way and not the popular way. But like I mentioned earlier, God desires obedience above good intensions.

  29. Ben, I find your statement “It would be absurd for me to expect a church in Africa to worship in the same way (with the same songs, acts of devotion, etc.) as the Baptist church down the street.” interesting.
    I come from a small state in the North East of India, called Nagaland where more than sixteen tribes (each tribe speaking different dialect) co- exist. Christianity came to Nagaland about 137 years ago and it was American Baptist missionaries who evangelized most of the tribes in Nagaland. Today, every aspect of liturgy in the church, especially the music and worship in the churches are immensely influenced by the Baptist traditions. The churches in Nagaland have always used translated hymns from the Baptist Hymnal. In fact, when I came to the United States, I was amazed to see that the worship setting and order of service was almost the same. The language used was the only exception. So, even though there is a huge difference in culture and background, we all seem to have similar worship settings and services.

  30. Culture is basically the common social form of living and when groups of people come together where they believe in the same things, do the same things and live by the same values, then naturally they will form the same religious views within that community. Therefore culture can be viewed as a religion, just externalized. Culture is created by tradition and can also be created by cultivating that tradition.
    Worship can be both an individual spiritual response to God and a group spiritual response to God. However, we must be cautious with our understanding of the culture when evaluating their worship practices, because we must be able to evaluate the culture based on the context of which it is being taken from without a biased viewpoint. In a culture it can be easy to take the Bible controversially out of context.
    It is in my opinion that a culture has nothing to do with race. A culture can be made up of several races, or a single one that has a completely different approach just in a different area. I believe that all cultures should be critiqued based on the values and morals that they hold, not by their race.

  31. Last summer Dr. Dan Wallace from Dallas Theological Seminary came to our church and taught a class on different translations of the Bible. He explained that certain versions of the Bible are more suitable to study while others, more aesthetically pleasing to read poetically. Through this class I learned that the New English Translation is an acceptable study Bible, much like the New American Standard Bible, because of its alignment with original manuscripts. However, the wording of the New English Translation is at times easier to understand than the New American Standard Bible because the syntax of the language more closely follows the way we speak today. Since that time I have added the NET to my translations that I use during my personal study and devotion time.
    This morning I was reading Ps 139, and the language of the last verse caught my attention in regards to this discussion board.
    Ps 139:23-24 (NET) – “Examine me, and probe my thoughts! Test me, and know my concerns! See if there is any idolatrous tendency in me, and lead me in the reliable ancient path!”
    I am no Hebrew scholar by any means, so I do not have the luxury of understanding the original language in this passage. However, after reading these verses in several other translations it seems that David was concerned about worshiping in a way that pleased the Lord. The line, “See if there is any idolatrous tendency in me” seems like such an appropriate prayer to have while studying the topic of culture and its role in the way we conduct our Christian worship services. Perhaps in ignorance we have sinned against God. King David, called a man after God’s heart, asks the Lord to search him in case He has allowed those tendencies in His own life. Then He prays, “lead me in the reliable ancient path!” How appropriate a request as we study the history of worship.
    I smiled this morning and thanked God for showing me how concerned He really is with having communion with us “on His terms” as Dr. Aniol has pointed out. My morning devotions that had no intentional correlation with this class. (I actually was just having a rough morning and turned to this passage for the comfort of knowing that He is with me even in difficult moments…) Yet God clearly spoke to me about being willing to be examined, probed, and tested for idolatry that might have crept and be shown a better, God-given way.

  32. Bradley, I think you nailed it on the head when you said that worship can be “similar.” However, how much influence did any Baptist have on the area these people are from?
    R. Mhonroni Lotha, I understand your point as well. However, you also stated, “Christianity came to Nagaland about 137 years ago and it was American Baptist missionaries who evangelized most of the tribes in Nagaland.” Would you not say this direct contact and influence is what seemingly shaped worship in your area?
    It would be absurd for me to place the expectations of a “Baptist church down the street” on a church in Africa because that would be me saying that that form of worship is the only acceptable form of worship before God. Baptist worship has been shaped by years and years of tradition. This tradition did not, necessarily, shape that of the church in Africa.
    Whereas (in an American Baptist church) we have the expectation of the worship service having a prescribed duration, a church in Africa is not so strictly governed by the time. This is a cultural difference that shapes their worship. Also, the song style and rhythm are not going to be the same unless directly influenced by the Baptist church.
    While worshiping in several churches in Uganda, the majority of individuals do not consider and emulate those around. They are worshiping individually while they are gathered corporately, completely focused on each contribution to God instead of being concerned with appearance to those around.
    When left to specific influence, worship is going to be shaped by the dominant culture. Without Baptist influence, culture in Africa would predominantly mold the worship experience.

  33. Vaden, I believe that you a correct when you say that the text must be based on scripture, but when you say that the difference between much contemporary music and traditional music is “the truth”, I am in slight disagreement. I believe the question is not is it traditional or not, but is it found in scripture. It also believe it must be led by the spirit (John 4). I do feel their are many contemporary Christian songs that do not meet this Criteria (some such as what you would find with Sovereign Grace Ministries contain much truth) , but their are also hymns that do not (In The garden says “none other has ever known.” The real question is are we totally surrendered to the Godhead.

    Ben, I would not say the thought is “absurd” that churches in other areas have taken on a Baptist culture because It has happened in the past. The real question is what type of culture the churches need to take on. I would say it is a culture shaped by the sanctification of the Lord, not exactly one that looks Identical to ours. This does not mean that the indwelling of the spirit does not change their culture. On contrary, it changes every part of their lives. Ben, I would say that the working of the spirit and the guiding of God’s word may not look identical in places across the globe (but it should be unified under the “cornerstone”).

  34. Hey, Ben, you’ve raised an important issue that will be part of our focus all semester, so I’d like to emphasize it here.

    You said, “Baptist worship has been shaped by years and years of tradition. This tradition did not, necessarily, shape that of the church in Africa.”

    You’re exactly right: worship practice (i.e. worship “culture”) develops over many years of tradition, and traditions are nurtured in particular systems of belief and value. As I mentioned in class, this is inevitable and not a bad thing, as long as tradition is always measured by Scripture.

    But here’s the important point I want to emphasize: if a missionary enters an African civilization and evangelizes it, what kinds of values and beliefs have nurtured their indigenous traditions and culture? As people in that society become Christians and form churches, what culture should they use in their worship? The culture nurtured over hundreds of years in value systems that are hostile to God? This presents a difficult dilemma for missions situations to be sure, but standard, simplistic answers that they should certainly use their indigenous culture in their own worship fails to wrestle with the fact that their culture was nurtured in, as Jessica mentioned above, “ignorant” value systems.

    This will be an important point to remember as we study the development of worship tradition and culture through history.

  35. Ben, I agree with what you say about our God is a God of diversity. One day, Jess and I were walking home, we discussed about who created culture. We came to a conclusion that God created culture. At the beginning, there was only one culture. After the Tower of Babel, different cultures started to develop. God came down to confuse the “arrogant” nation’s language and scatter them around the whole earth. (Genesis 11:1-9)
    The nation was scattered around the whole earth, this means that they had to live according to different geographical features, such as the climate and the landscape. Different geographical features lead to different living styles. Different living styles develop different cultures. Doesn’t it this mean God created culture since Tower of Babel. Therefore, I think that God doesn’t mind that we use cultural contextualization method to evangelize to different cultures.
    Daniel, LaNu. I like what you said about your people that they still “embrace some of the cultural elements and values that identify them as Kachin”. Each culture has its own uniqueness. This uniqueness is developed creatively. Because of the uniqueness of each different culture, the world is interesting and full of colors. Think of this, if we try to evangelize to different culture groups with our own culture, in another word, we try to change them to be like one of us, then, this world will be so dreary and dull. The same way with worship, if we all worship in the same way, sing the same song with the same language, the worship in Heaven will be boring.
    It is important to share the gospel to different cultures by using the way that their culture can understand and accept the best; as long as we do not go against God’s teaching.

  36. Thinking about what Dr. Aniol said about missionaries go into Africa and “they should certainly use their indigenous culture in their own worship fails to wrestle with the fact that their culture was nurtured in”. This fact makes me think about the whole western church tradition also begins with something different. Before Jesus came to the earth, there is no such thing called “church”, right? The whole “Baptist worship tradition” came after the Gospel spread over Europe, then America. It took over hundreds of years to develop the traditions we had in our church here. So maybe hundreds years later, in Africa, Christians would be the same with “Baptist worship tradition”. As I grew up in China, reading books about Chinese church history, I noticed that Chinese churches did not always worship in the same way that we do it now, which is very similar with the churches in America. When we became a Christian, I think our own culture start to be transformed to Heaven’s culture. When two faithful Christian meet up and worship together, they would not only know they are brothers and sisters in Christ, but also feel the spiritual tie. Their worldview is similar, which would make them have similar behavior and make similar decisions.

  37. The concept of borrowing something suggests that the object belongs to a source. In the article, Dr. Aniol quotes Greg Bahnsen’s concept of “borrowed capital” to illustrate how the Christian culture resembles the culture of unbelievers (or as I prefer, “ignorant” culture). While I agree that the two cultures have much commonality, I disagree on the notion of “unbelievers borrowing Biblical values in certain areas of their lives.” My reason comes from Romans 2:14-15: “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” In other words, although Gentiles (people of the “ignorant” culture) were not given the law (decrees from Yahweh), they still followed principles of the law because their conscience served as their guide to discern what is right or wrong. Thus, I do not believe that the “ignorant” culture borrowed from the Christian culture but rather, they discovered their values intuitively.

    I agree with Ai-Chin response on how God created culture. Since God is the maker of this universe (including everyone and everything in it), I think I can refine my argument by stating that the “ignorant” culture did not borrow or discovered their values intuitively but instead, were inspired by God—who is the source of all things.

  38.         I’ve had the opportunity to experience three cultures other than my own.  These experiences seem to support the idea that religion influences culture.  Living in Germany (then West Germany) in the 1980’s I saw a nation (and Western Europe at large) fall into a general social malaise as influenced by the growing atheism in that part of the world.  In Iraq, I saw a culture formed by islam.  Islam’s repudiation of the true God and its inherent abuses were sadly all too commonly manifested in daily life.  Conversely, I experienced South Korea, a nation that only 60 years ago was heavily Buddhist and ravaged by the war with North Korea.  The introduction of Christianity by missionaries before the war and American Soldiers during and since changed that small nation.  South Korea is a Christian nation, something like America may have been a century ago.  Violent crime generally does not occur there, the elderly are prized for the wisdom and experiences, and families look out for each other.  Christianity shaped that culture not the other way around.  South Korea is now one of the most dynamic nations on the planet.  Not bad a for a country the size of Indiana.  

    Ryan Thiessen
    September 01, 2013

  39. A word on race: Christians should drop the idea entirely. It is merely a social construct placed on top of reality that allows room for ranking skin colors and people groups. Many claim that religion is the cause of more wars than any other force- I would argue that “racial” tension is far more volatile (though this obviously erupts from a deeper problem, namely sin). While there is value in distinguishing physical and social differences between people groups and even in determining the objective value of cultural practices, we must focus on our common heritage in Adam. Highlighting our common ground rather than our differences makes us more likely to treat one another with dignity and grace. Because we are all part of Adam’s race, we are all sinners in need of a Savior. The Christ has come to be the Second Adam (1 Cor 15:45) and to restore the human race, reversing the curse of our sin (Rom 5:12-21).

  40. Danielle, you talked about “diluting” the message. While I do find that this is a big issue in churches today (like Joel Osteen, who preaches what his audience wants to hear), I do not so much find it an issue in the concerns of contextualization. Referring to your discussion on language: you talk about being around children who grew up in homes where language taught to them was unmodified. However, I beg the question—did these children ever own a children’s book? Also, if these children had questions about certain issues or even the language itself, did the parents/guardians explain the answer to them using big words, or did they break it down where the children could understand? I find it hard to believe they did the former. And breaking down a message in terms one can understand (adult or child), whether doing so by using candy to explain or using words that are familiar, the one learning gains a greater grasp of the concept. It is not some foreign “dictionary definition” they have never heard of. If I was explaining to someone what the word “cold” means, I am not going to begin talking about snow if the person has never experienced snow. It would be pointless.

    You also said that Jesus did not contextualize in His ministry. What about Matthew 4:19? “…and I will make you fishers of men”? He was surrounded by fishermen, and this made sense to them. It would be meaningless for Him to use this expression if He was speaking to someone who has never even encountered the concept of fishing. Jesus was contextualizing all the time. In fact, one can argue that Jesus’ incarnation itself is an example of contextualization (Philippians 2:5-8). What a cool way to reach out to humans by becoming one Himself! Moreover, awesome biblical author, Paul, had Timothy circumcised, because he knew it would be a stumbling block to their missions ministry amidst the Jews if Timothy were not Jewified (Acts 10:3-5).

    Thirdly, I’m not sure if I understand what “God’s way” to worship is. You mention “that it took a lot of dying to myself to worship in God’s way and not the popular way.” But what is God’s way? I would love for you to expound more upon this. Some say that “traditional hymns, pianos, and organs” are the only means to worship God through song. However, these instruments and most (or all) of the songs were not even part of the church in biblical times. They didn’t exist. For me, some aspects of worship do not seem so cut and dry.

    I definitely do not hold the opinion that one should be able to do whatever he wants when worshipping God in the church. The Bible is clear in this way for sure: there is singing (Acts 16:25; Colossians 3:16), dancing (Psalm 149:3, 150:4; 2 Samuel 6:14; Ecclesiastes 3:4), and playing of instruments (Psalm 150). There also should be order in the church (1 Corinthians 14:26-40). What I think is probably one of the most key concepts to fall back upon when determining what our worship (musical and non-musical alike) should look like, is the edification of the church (See 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 again). In other words, does the worship build the body of Christ up? Is a song with foul words edifying to the church? No, Ephesians 4:29 clears that up for us. Is a song grounded solidly in Scripture edifying to the church even though it is in a pop form? I have not found any passage in Scripture that would contradict its potential for edification.

    You know, guys, I think prayer is a very, very good example for this particular topic. Culturally, I have grown up in churches that have one person praying aloud at a time or have groups praying quietly together. In other churches around the world, such as Asian ones, I have experienced believers all praying out loud at the same time. To me, this is a huge distraction. To others, this is normal and they are perfectly capable of carrying on a convo with God without being distracted. This is an aspect of culture. Are the out-loud prayers edifying to the Asian church? Yes, I believe so (and I think my Asian friends will agree! :) Are they edifying for people like me? I would have to say that they may not be at first, because those prayers would distract me. However, over time spent in this different cultural prayer atmosphere, it could very well be edifying for me, too.

    It is my hope and prayer that we would all put aside our traditions and seek
    what is biblical and edifying to the church, and that we would do all we can to reach the lost in this world.

  41. This a response to Mhoroni Lotha and Ben. Allow me first to clarify on what Ben has stated: “It would be absurd for me to place the expectations of Baptist church down the street on a church in Africa…..” I believe he attempts to make a point that there is no such thing as “the only acceptable form of worship” before God.
    I’d like to be more specific on the worship music. When missionaries came to our land they shared with us their heart language of worship. We learned a new heart language because it was new and it represented to us a new faith in Jesus Christ. As a result, we began to learn and worship with Western Christian hymns. Over the years, western christian hymns have become part of our heart language. I am thankful for the faithfulness of the missionaries. However, we cannot deny that there is growing need to learn to express our faith in our Lord and our worship in ways that would uniquely express real us, something that would reflect the genuine feeling , emotions, faith and passion of our ethnic people. God created each of us in a unique way. Each culture has music that best communicates and inspires its own people . Western Christian worship music is not universal. The only problem, according to Sarah Teichler, is that we do not always test our cultural forms by the word of God. As long as we express our faith in worship that has its foundation on a biblical theology and worship Him in spirit and truth, we communicate biblical truth and values.

  42. Danielle, I loved what you said about children and the way they learn. You are so right – children can understand and learn so much more than we give them credit for, but not if we only talk baby talk to them. Just ask Dr. Aniol what novel his 6-yr. old is reading right now! I was just thinking that we need to get into some more specific examples within the church to really examine this idea of how the negatives in our culture have pervaded the church. The “seeker-sensitive” worship model is a perfect starting place. Who is church supposed to be for? Isn’t it gathering to worship the one true God? Who can worship God? Only believers, right? And who can move man to believe in God? ONLY the Holy Spirit through the illumination of the Scriptures, right? So, why do we water down those Scriptures and try to make them palatable to those who don’t buy it anyway? Why do we not just preach the Word of God and trust the Holy Spirit to work in man’s heart? What we end up with is a service that does not feed the believer, but allows the nonbeliever (and the believer, for that matter) to remain comfortable in his sin. This confident belief that the worship service is for the believer (while of course welcoming, but not catering to, the nonbeliever) is new to me since coming here in the last year and it has really challenged me to think about how we evangelicals “do church.”

  43. I agree with what Ben said about our God is a God of diversity. And I also appreciated what Ai-Chin mentioned about “…God created culture. At the beginning, there was only one culture. After the Tower of Babel, different cultures started to develop. God came down to confuse the “arrogant” nation’s language and scatter them around the whole earth. (Genesis 11:1-9).” Yes, we all have different life styles and culture backgrounds, and we do worship God in different ways. I think God expect our worshipers’ heart and attitude more than the way itself. As 1 Samuel 15:22 says: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”(NIV) But we should always pray that holy sprit will lead us to worship God in a way that more pleasing to Him. Also, Bauder says in his article “Once Christians know the meaning of a thing, they are able to bring it under the authority of God’s Word and to evaluate its usefulness.”(pp.239)

    Every time we worship God, whether in a traditional way or according to a specific culture that we apply, we should always know the meaning of the thing and go back to check in Bible, and always praying holy sprit to help and lead us, then we will pleasing and glorify Him!!

  44. Laura, I agree to disagree concerning children and their capacity with language. Modern linguistics has actually shown that throughout the developmental stage of childhood, children have a significant ability to process language. In fact when an adult and a native speaker of a different language moves into another culture they develop a jargon called pigeon in order to communicate and carry out practical tasks. Their children however apply a grammatical complexity to these fragmentary word strings developing a new language called creole. I think you underestimate children and their innate ability to conceptualize. But have you ever heard how difficult it is to learn a language when you are older? In this sense I stand corrected and agree that it is necessary to speak in concepts that a culture will understand in order to evangelize them. I don’t want to conflate two different concepts however. Worship is an entirely different concept than evangelism. I would have to strongly disagree with your argument that what we should fall back on in worship is the edification of the church. Certainly the edification of the church is important but worship is primarily about what the character of God demands. For instance see 1 Samuel 15:22-23. It is not about our intentions but our obedience. In fact the main term for worship used in the New Testament is the Greek word proskuneo. BDAG defines this as, “to express an attitude or gesture ones complete dependance on or submission to a high authority figure, (fall down and) worship, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to, welcome respectfully.” If we make the edification of the church the primary focus of worship, we make worship about ourselves and not God. It is no longer about doing reverence to Him but about building ourselves up according to our own preferences. It no longer becomes about obeying but asserting our own will. Now, worship should be edifying but that is a consequence of communion with God–it is not a prerequisite to communion with God. Is our worship today edifying? Is it bringing us closer to the living God as revealed in Scripture or our culture’s conception of Him? A prerequisite to communion with God is a broken and contrite heart see Psalm 51:16-17. We should worship God according to His character and not our own.

  45. After reading about the organic view of culture my thoughts about the neutrality of culture began to shift. It makes sense to evaluate the different aspects of culture separately. Although I now perceive some potential problems with viewing culture purely as a subset of religion the organic view of culture does well in pointing out that cultural expressions can range from contradicting, affirming, or being compatible with Christianity.

    I believe that the article unfairly posits that the concept of culture derived from the term ethnos and the position that our concept of culture should defined by a people’s behaviors and beliefs as mutually exclusive ideas. However, taken separately neither position fully describes our practical observations and interactions with culture. To refute the position that culture is neutral one has only to look as far as God’s judgment on the moral corruption of the Canaanites (Deut 20:16-18). God refers to their behaviors and beliefs as abominable. However, while there are some definite correlations between behavior and culture the scope of the idea of culture is much broader than the specific behaviors and beliefs of a people.

    Recall if you will the articles quotation of Newbigin’s definition of culture as “the sum total of ways of living built up by a human community and transmitted from one generation to another.” In addition to behavior and beliefs this “way of living” also includes general characteristics of culture which are compatible with Christianity. One such characteristic is language. For example Spanish is the primary language of Mexico and a person growing up in that culture would not naturally learn to speak Russian. Food may also be considered a general aspect of culture, it is not by chance that we have categories such as Chinese food or Italian food. In addition to this there are also various ways of eating such as using chopsticks, sitting on the floor around a table, sitting on chairs using silverware. Lastly, while the form and function of clothing styles may be influenced by religion such factors as local geography and climate have a strong influence as well. For instance, the types and styles of clothes worn in cold climates like Siberia vary greatly from what is worn in warm climates such as the Philippines. Many other general characteristics could be added to this list.

    It would seem, by these observations, that culture is comprised both of general characteristics as well as specific beliefs and behaviors. In contemplating this paradigm it appears that the general characteristics of a culture tend to be relatively value neutral but as you progress toward more specific cultural expressions the more they represent specific values, beliefs, and behaviors which may affirm, contradict, or remain compatible with Christian beliefs. For instance the type of car a person drives might say something about a person’s tastes and financial status but if that person were to put either a fish symbol or a fish symbol with legs on the bumper it would then also represent that person’s beliefs. Aside from the fish symbol, the manner in which the person drove the car would also indicate something of the person’s values. Admittedly this is a silly example but it does help to show the difference between general and specific expressions.

  46. I agree with Vaden saying that ” today’s worship is very close to that of pop music.” Church today, unlike in the Old Testament, puts more emphasis on what the people will like instead of actually worshipping God. A lot of the music we use today is lacking in content and is used to attract new members to our congregations. We don’t necessarily need to change the style of music but we need to make sure that the content is the truth and use that to glorify Him and not to please the church. If we are trying to please every single person then the focus is on us and not God.

  47. Christians Forms of Worship in different cultures

    I think the context of a culture matters at the time that we are worshiping God. We cannot see the result of worship as a globalization of one scheme and one same way to do it all the time. Because is possible to transform the act of worship in a monotone ritual and in something static. The way of adoration is in Spirit and truth, it is beyond our skills as musicians, it is beyond the set of songs that we sing every Sunday, but of course we need to pursue the Spirit of Excellency as musicians and singers. As ministers and Levites we carry the presence of God in our lives. I have a big responsibility as a Worship Leader in my Church that by the way is compound for brothers and sisters from Africa. My recommendation for a successful form of worship inside of this multicultural African Church it is to contemplate and study their cultural structure and the background influences in order to manifest the pure and not the adulterer milk of the gospel(Peter 1:22,23), in the reality that circumspect them, because they sing Hymns, gospel and African´s songs with their traditional dresses and costumes of their home country every Sunday. They make processions with little dances when they are presenting a child to God. They have some endemic cultural expressions that are part of their essence and the way they worship and understand the biblical concept of worship to God sometimes will be different than the Occidental way of worship.
    When they worship the Lord with a song in Yoruba (traditional language) in Nigeria, and they sing a Hymn in their language or a song composed to God in African tongues the Lord is pleased too. Because are we just dependent of the Hymnal or still God is using people to write new Hymns in different languages and Cultures? I can tell in Cuba they have 2 Hymnals of Cuban Praise and worship in the Baptist Church. This project united all the Baptist Christians composers in the entire Island. The result of this great idea that was born in the heart of God, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.(Fil2:13). This remarkable work brought an amazing blessing in the services. Because is not the same thing when they experience the worship to the Lord that is created in the heart of a person inspired by the Holy Spirit with their same reality that when the worship comes from a different perspective.
    These wonderful hymnals with the traditional Baptist Hymnal now are part of the services in Cuba in all the Baptist Churches, and many Cuban traditional genres are implicit in the melodies and harmonies of these wonderful Hymns and songs inspired by God in the 21st Century. Therefore is not a contextualization in the worship to bring a diluted gospel or a music adoration permeated for the pagan music of the surround culture. We can´t judge all these phenomena in the same way. Because many of these musical genres of the world were not born with an intrinsic root of paganism or diabolic intentions, but in the case of the rock and other genres and cultural music manifestations like reggae, reggae ton, etc. I disagree strongly with people that promote this musical culture of worship in the Church.

  48. Scott Aniol. I find it interesting that we are in discussion with something that Ben has stated about worship should fit the local place it is in. In Madagascar they are actually fighting the old customs because Christian churches actually came in and told them that it was ok to keep their old culture and religious ways and the people still worship ancestors. I would love it if we could take a small detour in class and you could show the youtube video in class it is very interesting and compares alot to the Ancient Israel and doing it in their own way and not of what God tells us.

    John Grey I completely agree that it isn’t about the style of worship but they way lyrics. I don’t care if the song is played in a minor key if the lyrics are based of God’s word. And I agree there are some bad Hymns, Look up God of Earth and Outer Space. Lol

  49. Danielle I am stating that the lyrics are what is wrong. But that can be said about some hymns that were written. I am a big believer in still using hymns with a steady dose of new music. I think that when you are stating the fact that the instrumentation of praise is sacrilegious it is overstepping boundaries. I will say that playing to the level of Metallica is not worshipful. But there are also no grounds to say that playing with a guitar is not pleasing to God. God did not state that the only worshipful music was from an Organ and Piano (Which I love in worship settings). Because the Organ wasn’t around if we were to never move ahead musically we would still be playing rams horns and lyres.(which is in the guitar family).

  50. I agree with Dr. Aniol’s comment that tradition is always measured by the Scripture. In the example of a missionary in Africa, even though culture and tradition are different, values and beliefs are what Christians need to maintain in worship. Worship can be changed by culture. For example, in African culture, dance can be added in worship according to their tradition and culture. Dance can make worship powerful by expressing their feelings, such as happiness, sadness, and anger. On the other hand, it is hard to add dance in Korean worship because of the different understanding of culture. However, in both worship, values and beliefs need to maintain based on the Scripture.
    Therefore, I believe that worship is to glorify God with spiritual response to God in the biblical truth. In worship, we need to remember and practice how we transform culture to reveal the gospel.

  51. I can see the point Ben is highlighting in his comment regarding the denomination’s influence in any given country (specifically responding to R. Mhonroni Lotha’s home country of Nagaland), and agree with the questions he poses. Also, I appreciate the clarity Dr. Aniol brings to the issue as he emphasizes the need for the development of the worship system in these foreign countries to be Scripture based.
    Yet, this leads me to wonder: how much emphasis do we place on the appropriate worship contextualization at home, especially when referring to freshly born-again Christians? It seems to me it is a greater challenge to lead these new believers into a biblically centered worship experience, and in the development of new, “behaviorally” sound practices. (There’s a variety reasons why this process presents challenges domestically, particularly the availability of numerous worship forms and styles—even within one denomination—for example.)
    Perhaps, it all comes back around to me, to us. That new converts will continue to see the Jesus they fell in love with living within us; that the soundness of our theology—and our behavior and practice—transcends our arguments. That living for Jesus is more than a fad and activities, but being firmly “built… on the Rock” (Matt 7:24).

  52. I liked Ai-chin’s comment. I didn’t think about the tower of Babel as the starting point of diffrent culture. At fisrt I thought that culure and race were diffrent. but after reading Ai-chin’s comment about the Tower, I realized the importance of language in culture. In this discussion I learned many things more than I can add to this dicussion.

  53. I agree with Jessica’ opinion. She mentioned the ignorant culture. That means the culture of unbelievers. It is sure that it is different between the Christian worship culture and the unbeliever culture. However, even though the Gentles don’t know about the form of the Christians worship culture, I believe that they are informed their own culture from the God’s inspire. When God created man, God put their heart to find the creator and worship God. Generally, the Culture is the result from the behavior and belief. Therefore, I think, if the unbeliever’s belief changed to God as the Christian, they can worship with their own culture toward God.

  54. In response to Ben’s comment, I strongly agree that our God is a God of diversity. Different culture or worship practices are great expressions of God’s diversity of creation. According to John 4:23, the essences of worship are spirit and truth. God finds favor with people who obey his commandments and worship him wholeheartedly. Culture describes the way of expression, worshipers thus have rooms to choose their worship practice. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

  55. Glorious worship before God, biblical foundation is the very first key.
    Who is the true worshipper and true worship leader? I agree with Dr. Aniol’s comment that Christian leader and Christian must skilled knowledge of the culture form used in the bible express its truth. Compare to early church’s worship, todays worship is focusing on people’s emotion rather the word of God. In many cases, contemporary songs text begin from the singer’s feelng with popular music style. Although it can touch the young generation’s favor easily but we must consider seriously whether or not it’s text is based on the Scripture. For example, I have been served as a worship leader from South Korea to the Southwestern seminary. When I lived in Korea, I had a special admire to American worship songs. Because Korean translate a lot of American contemporay songs for worship and I sang many of them also. Before here my expectation for Amarican worship and original songs including Black gospel was really high. But after arrived here, my thinking was little bit changed. To be honest, I expected experiencing real songs in worship. However, through experience many worships in America, I realized that the very crucial part for worship is not any music but the word of God, his revelation first. Regardless the music, church’s worship where is living scripture was very gracious. I visited for worship at traditional American church, Black church, multi cultural church. Through these worships, I learned culture including music style is just component of worship.

  56. The article questions the appropriateness of correlating the term ethnos with the modern idea of culture. Instead it proposes that passages which discuss behavior form the correct biblical idea of culture. While I agree that the passages it lists concerning proper behavior should influence how Christians ought to interact with the surrounding culture I believe the equivalence between the terms behavior and culture has been overstated along with the conclusions regarding the New Testaments position on culture. For instance, article cites phrases from 1 Peter 2:9 to make the point that Christians are now a part of a new temporal culture. However, the context of these beautiful statements is found in 1 Peter 2:4-5 which states: “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” The passage indicates that believers are now a part of a spiritual house. Peter is directing his audience’s attention to the spiritual realities which go along with being included in God’s people. To be sure, the new spiritual realities of the believer ought to have a marked effect on their behavior in the world as 1 Peter 2:12 tells us (this verse is also quoted in the article). But here again, in context with verse 11 (“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”) we find that the believers “conduct among the Gentiles” is related to the call “to abstain from the passions of the flesh” and is not intended as a statement about culture.

    Another interesting aspect of 1 Peter 2:11 is that believers are referred to as “sojourners and exiles.” A similar phrase is used in Hebrews and points to a different dynamic of a believer’s existence besides that of their temporal culture. Hebrews 11:13-16 reads: “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” The biggest difference in the life of a believer is not that they have a new temporal culture but that they have renounced their citizenship of the world and been granted citizenship in heaven. This is a spiritual reality that has a drastic impact on a person’s behavior. For the Christian there is the dynamic of living within the world, interacting with and being influenced by the surrounding culture, while owing citizenship to the heavenly city of God. (see also Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17:11, 14-19) Thus, changes in a believer’s behavior do not necessarily indicate a change of culture but the realization of their new heavenly citizenship.

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