Christians and Culture – What is culture?

Christians and Culture - What is culture?

 

By design mankind is a cultural creature.

It is not who we are as much as it is what we do.

We talk about culture a lot… But, what is it?

“We must stand against the culture!”

“We must not involve ourselves in the culture!”

“Christians must engage cultural issues!”

“Christians must not get entangled in cultural issues!”

Most don’t have a clear understanding of what culture is. Most people view culture as a thing – an ‘it’. We assume we know what we’re talking about. Furthermore, when we have discussions or debates, we may not even agree on the definition of the word ‘culture’. Different people have different notions about what culture is. I spent my college years studying culture (anthropology) and I know how difficult it can be to attempt to fully understand it. Let me take a shot.

Culture is distinctly human. Animals do not create culture. It can be complex and confusing. So, let’s try to understand it.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines culture as the following: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time; the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization; the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.(link)

While that definition is helpful, it does not answer the question, “Where does culture come from?” The Bible states God made humans in his image (Genesis 1:27). Bearing our Creator’s image, we humans create and inhabit culture. That is important to know as a first principle. Every human is creating and shaping culture just by living life in this world. The biblical narrative is set within cultures over history (Jewish, Egyptian, Roman, Pagan, etc). By God’s design mankind is a cultural creature. It is not who we are as much as it is what we do. It is impossible for a human not to be a cultural creature. So, let’s explore a little further.

If you want to know what water is, don’t ask the fish.” John Stonestreet once told a group of students (“A Practical Guide to Culture”, Stonestreet & Kunkle). Fish don’t know they are wet – it is the environment in which they live. Given, most analogies eventually break down. However, the fish – water analogy is a useful illustration.

Culture is “the environment we live in and think is normal” says Stonestreet. We understand it points to the fact that we’re assuming something about reality – a baseline, if you will. “This is the world and reality as we understand it” is the assumption that all people operate from and shape their lives around without even being aware.

So, what the heck is Culture?

I’m going to distill a few ideas found in Stonestreet and Kunkle’s book, “A Practical Guide to Culture” to help us. I definitely recommend reading it.

Let’s begin with what culture is NOT:

Culture is not creation (nature, plants, animals, humans, water, rocks, the sky, etc).

“Culture doesn’t just refer to all the bad stuff humans do.” (Stonestreet / Kunkle)

People are NOT culture.

“People make culture and are, in turn shaped by culture, but equating them with culture is wrong and can even be dangerous. If we see people as culture and culture as the enemy, we’ll likely see people as the enemy and confuse their bad ideas with evil intentions… Culture is NOT people, culture is what people do.” (Stonestreet / Kunkle)

So, what then is culture?

Culture comes from the Latin word cultura, meaning “agriculture” (plowing, tilling, etc).

“Culture is what humans do (activity) in the world: build, invent, create, tear down, compose, replace, embellish, engineer, assume, dismiss, emphasize, etc.” (Stonestreet / Kunkle)

“Culture is what humans make of the world,” says Andy Crouch

Ken Myers (All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes)
“It’s not a person. It’s not even an institution, like the church or the state or the family. It is instead a dynamic pattern, an ever-changing matrix of objects, artifacts, sounds, institutions, philosophies, fashions, enthusiasms, myths, prejudices, relationships, attitudes, tastes, rituals, habits, colors, and loves, all embodied in individual people, in groups and collectives and associations of people (many of whom do not know they are associated), in books, in buildings, in the use of time and space, in wars, in jokes, and in food.” (Stonestreet / Kunkle)

Culture is a kind of fabric produced by human activity.

Cultural forces shape our thoughts and behaviors without us even being aware.

Culture is created and cultivated for good or evil.

Everything we do or say, and the ideas we think impact culture.

Culture is a gift from God to be stewarded for goodness and his glory.

Attempting to “avoid culture” invites negative culture to fill the void.

Culture is powerful.

Culture isn’t a thing, Culture just is…..

Since humans naturally create culture, this begs the question: What kind of culture are we creating? 

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*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.

Podcast: “Her Faith Inspires” hosted by Shanda Fulbright w/ Guest Lance Cashion

Podcast: Her Faith Inspires with Shanda Fulbright & guest Lance Cashion

There’s a difference between knowing how to think versus being told what to think. But how do you know the difference?

Last month I had the privilege of being a guest on Shanda Fulbright’s Her Faith Inspires Podcast. We had a fantastic conversation. I definitely recommend adding her podcast to your list.

Link: Episode 91 “Do you know how to think or are you being told what to think?” With Lance Cashion

Summary from Shanda’s Episode Page:
There’s a difference between knowing how to think versus being told what to think. But how do you know the difference? We also discuss brainwashing, freethinking, and what the Bible says about trading your mind to think correctly.

For additional context, here is a link to my original blog post from 2013 here…

Please check out Shanda Fulbright’s website here…

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*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.

Did You Know You Were Made For This Time and Place?

Did You Know You Were Made For This Time and Place?

The Gospel isn’t a formula you apply to your life; it’s the Story you’re meant to inhabit.

Do you know your role in the story of which you inhabit?

We live in an extraordinary moment in history.

Do you know your role in this world?

What are your responsibilities and opportunities in this cultural moment?

Where do I start in the square inch God has placed me?

If you are redeemed in Christ, then you inhabit the greatest story ever told. The Gospel is not limited to the way of salvation. It is bigger than that. Yes, your faith in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life is important. But, the Gospel I believe is not the Gospel of Lance. It’s not about me. Neither is the Gospel about you. Our salvation is not the end game nor is it the over-arching theme of the Bible. Jesus Christ proclaimed the ‘Gospel of the Kingdom.’

Michael Craven said, “The Gospel is so much larger than the personal plan for salvation. The Gospel of the Kingdom is the in-breaking rule and reign of Jesus Christ as King over all creation – redeeming and restoring all things. Through Him, the Kingdom of God has come into this world. Jesus has completed the atonement (payment) for our sin on the cross. By his resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God the Father, He is presently ruling and reigning over creation. Christ is reinstating his righteousness on the earth.”

J.I. Packer said, “The Gospel starts by teaching us that we, as creatures, are absolutely dependent on God, and that he, as Creator, has an absolute claim on us… Only when we have learned this can we see what sin is and understand the salvation from sin.”

The bad news is that our modern American gospel is man-centered not a God-centered Gospel. A God-centered Gospel is indeed Good News. There are two competing gospels, the gospel of the world vs the Gospel of the Kingdom. The former leads to death and destruction the latter leads to eternal life and human flourishing.

“Calling is at the heart of scripture.” – Os Guiness

God calls us, moreover, God invites us to inhabit His story. “When Christians see everything as calling from the Lord, we realize the dynamism of our faith” (Os Guiness). As we respond and enter into the overarching story of all of history, we go about setting things right in the world. In other words, we bring order to the disorder we find in our time and place.

“The Gospel isn’t a formula you apply to your life; it’s the Story you’re meant to inhabit.” – The Colson Center

A Unifying Vision:
As Christians, we must cultivate a unifying vision of the Lordship of Christ over the domain of our individual and collective lives as the local church. We shall live lives that are holy and pleasing to the Lord as we exercise dominion over that which God has placed in our care. The hallmarks of Christian maturity are; holy living, the ability to articulate a Christian vision of total reality, and a zeal to bring ALL things under the Lordship of Christ as co-reagents of His Kingdom – redeeming and restoring that which is lost and dying in the place and time in which we live.

We are witnesses to the ‘in-breaking’ rule and reign of Jesus Christ into history as we redeem and restore that which God has placed in our care. We beseech the lost world to be “reconciled to God” in Christ Jesus as we take our place in His great story.

As Christians, we are transformed through Christ. We are commanded to share the Gospel of the Kingdom with a lost world. We are also given another command called the Cultural Mandate or Dominion Mandate. “The cultural mandate is the command to exercise dominion over the earth, subdue it, and develop its latent potential (Gen. 1:26-28; cf. Gen. 2:15).” (9Marks) We create good, true and beautiful culture that transforms the world and the story we inhabit.

The late Chuck Colson said,Transformed lives transform lives – transformed lives transform culture.

We live in an extraordinary moment in history. We have an extraordinary God. We inhabit an extraordinary story. You Were Made For This Time and Place.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

Author’s note: The piece I’ve written above are deeper reflections of my experience and what I’ve learned through the Colson Fellows program over the last two years. “Gain wisdom, live faithfully and act courageously.”

 

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Race Redeemed – We Are One

Race Redeemed - We Are One

Recovering biblical anthropology and the true meaning of race

The word and concept of ‘race’ has been distorted over the last 150 years.

Christians have adopted a concept of race that is completely antithetical to God’s definition in Scripture.

The consequences of this redefinition have been devastating to our societies, culture and Christian witness. When those who claim to uphold biblical truths and live by them adopt foreign man-centered definitions and concepts and then import them into their theology, massive worldview implications ensue. Ideas always have consequences and bad ideas have victims.

The Bible is clear, there is only ONE race – the human race.

Race, Not Races:
The Bible is also clear that the one human race takes on a variety of beautiful physical features and expressions. The Bible speaks of tongues, tribes, peoples and nations. It speaks to the prismatic qualities of the individual and the diverse qualities of different people from different places. Like fields of flowers or oceans of fish, the world is full of the human race in all its fullness, variety, and beauty.

Nations – Ethnos:
Recovering the language and meaning of the truths rooted in scripture is extremely important. Words and meaning form and shape how we understand and interact with reality. The word ’Nations’ in the Bible comes from the Greek, “Ethnos” which is where we get the word ‘ethnicity’ and ‘ethnicities’. We are ONE race but many nations or ethnicities. That is the language of the Bible!

The Christian must understand that the modern concept of race does not find any foundational support in the Bible. ‘Race’ does not mean different ’nations’ or ‘ethnicities’ as modern Christians might assume. It actually is rooted in the (bad) idea that the human race is made up of many species of humans. We must ask, is that true? And what are the ramifications of a false premise or presupposition? How do meanings of words impact reality and our lives?

The language of the Bible is clear and unifying all humans are of one race. To argue otherwise is to introduce foreign secular sociological and anthropological concepts into biblical theology, sociology, and biblical anthropology. The consequence is that this importation of foreign concepts distort the meaning of the Bible and our worldview. This bad idea ends up creating moral confusion and division among people. We are witnessing this in this cultural moment.

Races – Samuel Morton, Scientific Racism and Craniometry:

“Samuel George Morton is often thought of as the originator of “American School” ethnography, a school of thought in antebellum American science that claimed the difference between humans was one of species rather than variety and is seen by some as the origin of scientific racism.

Morton argued against the single creation story of the Bible (monogenism) and instead supported a theory of multiple racial creations (polygenism). Morton claimed the Bible supported polygenism, and within working in a biblical framework his theory held that each race had been created separately and each was given specific, irrevocable characteristics.

Morton claimed that he could define the intellectual ability of a race by the skull capacity. A large volume meant a large brain and high intellectual capacity, and a small skull indicated a small brain and decreased intellectual capacity. He was reputed to hold the largest collection of skulls, on which he based his research. He claimed that each race had a separate origin, and that a descending order of intelligence could be discerned that placed Caucasians at the pinnacle and Negroes at the lowest point, with various other race groups in between.” (source)

 

“Morton was heavily influenced in his thinking by the 19th century practice of phrenology (the now abandoned field of study which used the shape of the skull to determine personality traits) and the theories of hereditarianism (a school of thought that saw heredity playing a major role in determining traits such as intelligence and personality) and polygenism (a school of thought that saw human races as created separately and unequal).” (source)

Morton’s theory had an influence on Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution in “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” Darwin bought into Morton’s presupposition that some species of humans were superior to others. The ramifications of this type of thinking continues to be seen in our current day.

In the final analysis, the modern concept of ‘race (races)’ is divisive at its root. Even when people of goodwill speak of ‘races’ in a positive light, the term is divisive. Why? Because the modern concept of race was created to divide humans based on physical qualitative attributes. Everything that flows from the presupposition made by Morton and Darwin divides and destroys the unifying vision of one race established by God. Therefore, terms like racism, racist, etc. divide even when used to call out evil. Modern science has proven that there is NO scientific / genetic basis for different races (see National Geographic Article here)

Biblical Words – A Better Way:
In order to clear up confusion and bring unity, we must recover the language of the Bible. Words matter. Words and language are important to God so they must be important to us. After all, God’s primary revelation is His Word (the Bible). By design, human culture and society is structured around language. When language is confused or the meaning of words are distorted, chaos ensues.

Meaning Matters – What do you mean by that?
If by ‘racism’ you mean ‘ethnic hatred’ or ‘ethnic prejudice’ then the Christian can ground a distorted concept of race in truth and bring it into the full light of God’s word. The Bible states, hatred of any kind is a sin equivalent to murder. We must understand that ‘racism’ as a modern concept is foreign to the Bible. The Christian must recover and redeem words – grounding them in the Christian worldview.

Moving Forward – Reordering Disorder
I’ve been attempting to use the language of the Bible to clarify conversations and public discourse. This is not been without difficultly because I have imbibed the language of modern culture as well. However, I have found that using biblical language like ‘ethnicity’, help people think clearly and move dialog into a unifying direction. The implication of biblical language clarifies things like ‘ethnic superiority’, ‘ethnic prejudice’, ‘ethnic bias’ and ‘ethnic hatred’ as all forms of the sin of hatred.  I stay away from using modern sociological constructs and language like ‘races’, ‘racial superiority’ and ‘racism’ because those words and concepts obscure the full meaning of what people are trying to communicate. Based on my background in anthropology, study of sociology and my analysis of culture, it is clear that many academic activists intentionally obscure meaning and redefine words. So, beware and be discerning.

The thinking Christian must understand that the fall and sin have disordered the world and culture. Then, we must reorder things back to God’s original vision (recovering and restoring)

Recovering A Biblical Anthropology and Meaning:
The Christian vision begins with a Biblical Anthropology of what it means to be human – what it means to be created in the image of God (image bearer) – what it means to be male and female – what it means to be a fallen (sinful) image bearer in a broken (sinful) world – what does it mean for every human being to have dignity and value. What would this world be like if every human looked the same – if no ethnicities existed?

By design, human beings search for meaning in life. When we attempt to create our own meaning or identity outside of God’s vision of human life, we end up creating massive problems individually and culturally. However, when we ground our identity in God’s design as His image-bearers, we see human flourishing. We experience unity in the diversity of individual image-bearers as one race – the human race.

Again, the Bible speaks to the prismatic qualities of the individual and the diverse qualities of different people from different places ALL made in His image. Though we live in a broken world, we see God’s goodness and glory through frosted glass but we see it nonetheless reflected in the multifaceted human race of image-bearers.

Race is a unifying vision of all human beings – wrought by God and born of one womb.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,” Acts 17:26

The Bible declares that all people of all ethnicities (nations) in all of history in every place on earth bear the image of God.

We are ONE race – the human race. That is the truth.

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*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.

What is the First Responsibility of a Leader?

What is the First Responsibility of a Leader?

The number one thing missing in our culture is LEADERSHIP. What should a leader do first?

In a cultural moment where leadership is lacking, good leaders must do this one thing first.

When we discuss great leaders who did great things, we tend to focus on the character qualities and accomplishments of great leaders without noticing the first duty of a leader.

While it is good to cultivate good character qualities of great leaders, I think we must focus on first principles.

Take a moment to answer this question, “What is the first duty of a leader?

Vision-casting and accomplishments along with humility, courage, creativity, integrity, wisdom, and intelligence are good things but they are NOT the first duty of a leader.

Max Dupree stated, “The first responsibility (duty) of a leader is to define reality.”

This simple statement is true.

What does it mean for a leader ‘to define reality?’

First, a leader must ground themselves in reality by seeing the world as it is in its current state. This is what Francis Schaefer would call “real reality.” If a leader does not see things as they really are, that leader’s vision for what can be will be distorted. Second, a leader must define reality for those he leads. Only then can the leader cast a vision for the future.

When God created the world and everything in it, He defined reality. When man fell into sin, that reality was distorted. The redemption we have in Christ grounds us in reality anew and orients us toward God. One day, He will restore all things – including a restored final reality.

Your first duty is a leader – your first responsibility is to see things as they truly are. That includes the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. You must accept present reality as it is. Then, you must define reality for your people. After grounding yourself and your people in reality, you can cast a vision and develop a mission for the future.

Defining reality is a discipline and skill that must be learned and actuated by every leader who desires to lead well.

Dupree states, “We must teach ourselves to see things the way they ARE.”
Only then can we “cast a vision for what CAN BE” Dupree concludes.

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*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.

Don’t Be a Coward – Creating Communities of Courage

Don't Be A Coward

Creating Communities of Courage

Cowardice has no place in the life of the Christian or Christ’s Church.

A faith that bows before cultural coercion is not biblical faith. When the individual Christian or church acquiesce to the zeitgeist (the spirit of the age), we are being cowards – we are fearing man over God. Humans worship what they fear. When Christians take their cues from the culture, we are cowards (period) – we are worshipping what we fear – the culture (man).

Throughout scripture, God repeatedly calls his servants, his people to be courageous. True courage is properly grounded in fear of the Lord. When we fear what people might say, think or how they may respond, we are not fearing God but man. If our fear is rooted in the fear of man, the fruit is always cowardice. Christian cowardice has always led to spiritual, societal and cultural decay – and the rise of barbarism (ie. the silent church in Nazi Germany). If on the other hand, our fear is rooted in the fear of the Lord, the fruit will be courage. Not only courage but wisdom, righteousness, love and reflections of God’s attributes.

God’s commands carry blessing for those who obey. The command to “be courageous” is not a suggestion, it is a command to follow obediently. And God, like a loving father, blesses our obedience.

In the face of social pressure or coercion or violence, we sometimes think that backing down or appeasing the enemies of truth will give us relief or buy us peace. That is a lie. Don’t believe a lie and don’t disobey God’s command to be courageous.

The secular zeitgeist is a bully. How does one face down and defeat a bully?
First, you must stand up to the bully knowing that he’s weak and filled with folly. It’s all show.
Second, you fight back. Bullies only pick on people they think are weak. When you demonstrate that you are not going to put up with their crap and push back, they back down. Finally, when the bully backs down, their passive and active support vanishes in a mist of humiliation. But, the church must be careful not to become a bully either.

Both cowardice and courage are contagious.

The Christian must choose. All it takes is one Christian to stand up and others will follow. This is the catalyst that creates communities of courage.

The Church needs a commitment to the truth of Scripture and vibrant communities of courage where the people of God stand against a dark culture. When the redeemed in Christ can truly claim, “we’re in this together”, we have become a community of courage. Christianity is a “Public” faith. We have a public theology. We courageously think, speak and live by truth as Christ demonstrated in his earthly ministry.

Need help in developing courage?

Check out this video: Thinking Out Loud “Courage in a Culture of Chaos”

Feel free to share your thoughts and commend below this post…

 

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*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.
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