“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.