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More on affirming culture

Yesterday I posted some reflections on the idea of “cultural affirmation” in response to another blog post, and a few friends helpfully indicated that I may have read more into the author’s words than he intended. This is entirely possible, and it is because I was “reading between the lines” that I didn’t specifically link to that post. If you didn’t know about it already, you didn’t know who I was talking about.

However, I want to reiterate the point I made yesterday, which stands regardless of the intentions of the original post.

Conservative Christians are culturally affirming. We do affirm lots of culture because we affirm the common grace of God and the image of God in man, even those who are not redeemed.

This is why conservative Christians even affirm culture produced by some pretty terrible people (Mozart, anyone? Beethoven?). We affirm even such culture because we believe those cultural expressions embody noble virtues regardless of their source.

Those who are critical of or reject certain kinds of culture do so, not because they don’t believe in the common grace of God or the imago Dei. They do so because they recognize the influence of sin upon human behavior and have determined certain kinds of cultural expressions to embody values inconsistent with biblical holiness.

So whatever the author of the article meant by saying he was glad a particular group was “more culturally affirming,” it really isn’t accurate. The group is no more culturally affirming now than they were before they changed. What changed was simply what kinds of culture they affirm. So what he should have said is, “I am glad that they now affirm kinds of culture that they rejected previously and that I deem worthy of affirmation.”

A lot of this is rooted in my understanding of culture, which I also mentioned briefly yesterday. Very simply, culture is human behavior, and understanding it this way has significant biblical implications for how we approach culture.

I first developed this concept of culture as behavior in an article published in Artistic Theologian a few years ago, I developed it in my dissertation, and it will appear in my upcoming book with Kregel. I’m trying to “get it out there,” because I really do think it’s a much better paradigm than the standard “culture = ethnos” assumptions (unproven) that are common in discussions today.

I recently gave a talk at a conference in which I briefly summarize this idea. You can listen to it here if you are interested.

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.