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And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the...
March 7, 2016
cultural-literacy-practice-discernmentChristians who embrace a seeking God lifestyle are urged to consider their role in engaging culture an important aspect of their God-given calling in the world. But what precisely does this mean? In an insightful article for BreakPoint, author and speaker Eric Metaxas addresses this very question.

History provides numerous positive examples of Christians engaging and shaping culture. In the Bible, the book of Acts recounts how Christ’s apostles and disciples went out to boldly spread the Gospel, guide believers toward lives of holiness, and develop and organize in the early church a Christ-centered society of care and compassion for the vulnerable that would, with the spread of Christianity, turn the values of the ancient world on its head in just a few generations.  The early Christians, with their longing to live for and reflect Christ, revolutionized their culture.

As a second example, consider the temperance movement of the 1900s. While not everyone appreciated its methods, Metaxas points out that the temperance movement did address major social problems – widespread public drunkenness and addiction to alcohol that was devastating families – which impacted culture and raised awareness about prevalent issues.

Western culture however, may require a third approach to effectively engage a new generation with the transformative implications of the Gospel. Metaxas explains, drawing from the up-and-coming Christian writer and blogger, Trevin Wax:

Trevin, however, says the point of cultural critique is not simply to tell the faithful whether it’s “safe” to see a certain movie—though that of course has its place. But it’s to engage in cultural literacy, which theologian Kevin Vanhoozer describes as “discerning the meaning of cultural texts and trends in light of the gospel.
Before we ever set about changing something, it is important to first understand what it is we are trying to change, and even more importantly, why we want to to see change. In short, our first step in engaging culture is discernment, which we achieve from being open to others:

It starts with discernment. Trevin says that we need to get better at “reading the culture.” Why? Four reasons: (1) We need to know what songs and messages are forming our own minds and hearts, and the minds and hearts of others. (2) We need to be “trained to see the underlying philosophy, to recognize both what is good in that worldview and what needs to be challenged.” (3) We need to “know where we are in the great story of redemption. If the culture is the setting for the next scene,” Trevin says, “we need to understand that scene well in order to be effective witnesses.” And (4), we need to better love our neighbors—yes, love.

As representatives of Christ, we can speak to the good and the bad of culture. “Almost every cultural phenomenon,” Trevin says, “has aspects that can be affirmed by Scripture, as well as aspects that are idolatrous distortions …. To only focus on what can be affirmed is to dull the prophetic edge of the gospel’s hard truth. To only focus on what should be challenged is to fail to show how the culture’s longings are answered in Jesus.”
Above all, participate in the activities around you, understand what resonates with people to connect with them as Jesus did, and live out an exemplary Christian life.

…your doctrine and theology can be excellent, but if you don’t grasp the interests and longings of those around you—worse, if you don’t care—you will not be able to scratch where they itch. As the late Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “To love to preach is one thing, to love those to whom we preach is quite another.”
Look at the gospels, and notice how often Jesus used illustrations from everyday life to connect with His audience. When it comes to speaking truth—especially gospel truth—into the lives of people searching for it who are all around us, can we afford to do any less?
Our world is certainly plagued with turmoil, grief, suffering, and despair. But, with the grace of God, we can transform culture and bring the joy of Christianity everywhere we go. 

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