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Christians are Redeemed from Unholy Culture

This entry is part 14 of 20 in the series

"Christ the Sanctifier of Behavior"

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The second conclusion that emerges from the idea that the New Testament concept of “culture” is behavior is that Christians are redeemed from unholy culture. Paul says that even believers “once lived (ἀνεστράφημέν) in the passions of [their] flesh” (Eph 2:3), but through Christ, God has raised believers out of such unholy behavior (vv. 5-6). This is why Paul commands Christians later in Ephesians 4:22 to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life (ἀναστροφὴν).” Believers are to actively reject the sinful behavior the flows from sinful values expressly because they are “ransomed from the futile ways (ματαίας ἀναστροφῆς)” (1 Pet 1:18). Contrary to transformationists, the “futile ways” themselves are not redeemed; individuals are redeemed away from such sinful culture. Behavior that flows from sinful values is irredeemable just as the values themselves are irredeemable. True, redemption results in transformation, but this transformation results in entirely different culture than the “former manner of life.”

As discussed earlier, when transformationalists talk about “transformation of culture,” they refer only to the content of cultural artifacts rather than the artifacts themselves. They affirm an antithesis between worldviews, but they deny such an antithesis exists in cultural expressions themselves. For the transformationalist, only the content of culture expresses worldview, not cultural forms. Understanding culture as behavior destroys this notion. It is not simply the content of cultural artifacts that expresses worldview as the transformationists argue, but rather it is the cultural artifact itself that expresses certain values. Thus if the value that produces the artifact is unholy, the artifact itself is also unholy. The transformationists commit a category error by essentially equating culture with creation and content with value. Rather, both the content and the cultural vehicle express values.

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About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies 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.