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What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?

This entry is part 1 of 20 in the series

"Christ the Sanctifier of Behavior"

Read more posts by using the Table of Contents in the right sidebar.

“What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”1 These immortal words from the pen of early church father Tertullian of Carthage illustrate well the tension that exists for Christians seeking to follow the Lord’s claim that they are in the world but not of the world (John 17:6-19). And two thousand years later, the perennial question remains: how should Christians respond to the cultures of unbelievers around them?

For centuries tension between the biblical realities of God’s good creation and the world’s corruption have caused Christians to debate the proper Christian approach to culture. Michael Horton summarizes well the conflict between approaches to culture:

It was confusing to grow up singing both “This World Is Not My Home” and “This Is My Father’s World.” Those hymns embody two common and seemingly contradictory Christian responses to culture. One sees this world as a wasteland of godlessness, with which the Christian should have as little as possible to do. The other regards cultural transformation as virtually identical to “kingdom activity.”2

This conflict, combined with the biblical mandate to reach the world, creates the dilemma. Many popular books on culture today have tended to stress creation’s goodness and the need to contextualize the gospel in order to reach the culture. Yet their answer to this age-old question is not novel; rather, it fits well within a standard, historical approach to culture.

Over the next several weeks I am going to be exploring this important question. This series will survey typical approaches to culture, identify where the contemporary postures fit in the history, and evaluate the approaches from the NT perspective of culture as behavior.

Join me as we seek for biblical answers to age-old questions.

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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.

  1. Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, vol. 3, Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1951), 246. []
  2. Michael S. Horton, “How the Kingdom Comes,” Christianity Today 50, no. 1 (January 2006): 42–46. []