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North American evangelicals read the Bible—and the world—through Western eyes. Indeed, all human beings come to the Bible with cultural.
Table of contents

After the horrors of the civil war, when , men were killed, the church got discouraged by the state of affairs, lost hope in bringing the Kingdom of God on earth in America, which made them open to the hyper pre-millennial view which emphasized the immanent return of Christ and the rapture. And of course this has been primarily responsible for the church abandoning culture which explains how we presently see church attendance in America at an all time high, but morality and culture at an all time low!

Christianity and Culture

Furthermore, this dispensational thinking has separated the cross from culture, the creator from redeemer, resulting in a false dichotomy between the spiritual and material world in which the church only tries to win souls for heaven and leaves the stewardship of the earth to the secularists! This teaching is also responsible for peripheral movements and teachings like the one Harold Camping of family radio, who once said that the world will end and Christ will return on May 21st Many like him will merely say they made a mistake in their calculations and they will propose another date!

  1. Jerry Solomon.
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  3. October 2018.
  4. Christian Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems;

Of course, the church is called to flesh out the teachings of scripture by their participation in culture, so that biblical application is a combination of theological exegesis and cultural engagement, but the primary doctrines and truth of scripture are universal in nature and should not shift with a changing culture. For example, the Deity of Christ, salvation by the vicarious death, burial and resurrection of Christ, heaven for the believers, condemnation for the damned, and even the gender roles of family as shown in Ephesians 5: According to 1 Corinthians In spite of this, today more and more evangelical leaders are calling for an egalitarian view in the family and church as related to spiritual headship, but this is driven more by culture than the Bible.

A charge he refutes in 1 Corinthians Furthermore, process theology has invaded the church in many forms, with its inherent teaching that the gospel and biblical teaching are always evolving with the progress of culture, even as God is always learning with the unfolding of time. Although we need to stick to the core message of scripture in spite of our cultural context, we also have to relate the gospel to our particular culture in order for the people to understand it and receive it.

Much of the time people are not rejecting the core gospel but the cultural accoutrements we attach to the gospel. For example, a historian I know once said that some of the reasons Christianity lost North Africa to Islam is because Western culture, language, values, and methods were forced upon the churches and when Islam came, it adopted its message and method to the African culture which made it more amenable for new converts. We even see much legalism attached to the gospel, especially among the ethic Pentecostal groups in which a woman is not allowed to wear pants, earrings or make up, and is not allowed to cut their hair, which has hindered these groups in passing down the faith to the next generation, because young people do not connect these rules and regulations with authentic Christianity as well as the fact that they do not want to be ostracized by their peers for their weird dress code and austere lifestyle!

We also have to distinguish between certain aspects of a culture that are not harmful to biblical belief and can assimilate into Christian faith. Cultural aspects like food, modest dress, language, monetary currency and mode of work can easily be assimilated with a gospel presentation without compromising the message, but other aspects of a culture may be a challenge to biblical norms and values. For example, tribal people in Papua New Guinea were shocked to find out that Christian missionaries taught against cannibalism because the indigenous people thought it much better for their family members to eat the bodies of their loved ones who died than to bury them, and allow worms to eat them!

Read the Gospel in a pluralistic society, pg by Lesslie Newbigin. The woman got married in good faith and if they are sent away the woman will have no other way to make a living but to turn to prostitution! These Africans can also say to us in the West they have a more biblical culture because, at least they are honoring lifelong covenants and partnerships. But we in the west who believe in monogamy think nothing of breaking the marriage covenant through divorce and may even get remarried. Thus destroying families, even though it is only done one spouse at a time!

It takes much biblical and cultural exegesis, as well as prayer, to know how to proceed in such situations! The easy thing to do would be for the church to allow a form of syncretism in which there is a combination of Christianity, tribal religions, and cultural traditions. Sort of like what has been reported the Catholic church has done in some places in Haiti, when some of the native peoples attend the Catholic Mass while continuing to practice voodoo, or as is done in some Latino cultures when they practice both Roman Catholicism and magic arts called Santeria.

However, God is against any form of syncretism and will have no other gods besides Him! Read 2 Kings 17; , 1 Corinthians We cannot worship the Lord and serve idols or demons! We have also experienced a certain form of syncretism when the minority communities in America equated the Christian led, civil rights movement with the democratic party and those who are a part of the Christian right have married their faith to a nationalistic dedication to America and the republican party. During WW1 the churches in Europe were so caught up in nationalism, they all sided against one another based on who their nation was at war against!

We also saw many German churches join the national socialistic party of Adolf Hitler even though he was advocating the genocide of non-Germans! In the last presidential election Barack Obama received almost 90 percent of the Black vote, even from among many Evangelical conservative leaders who knew Obama was a left leaning progressive who espoused values totally against the Bible. They went from the earthly ascending Christ as the Son of God who was baptized, exalted and rose from the dead to the descending Christology which focused upon John 1 and portions of Philippians, Colossians and Hebrews, emphasizing His pre-existence and incarnation.

Finally, the faith went from being explained through simple biblical language as found in Scripture, biblical narratives, and church hymns to it being explained with contemporary Greek concepts such as hypostasis , ousia , prosopon and Latin terms such as substantia and persona. The Greek Orthodox Church still emphasizes this restoration to the image of God.

This is why they utilize icons—images of the saints of old—which they have on their church walls and carry on their person as aids in prayer, inspiration, and faith as they venerate these ancient saints. The Roman Latin Church After Origin, the most influential church doctor teacher was Augustine the bishop of Hippo, who, although he lived in North Africa, brought the emphasis of the church back to the Pauline epistles justification by faith through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

Walking with God in Clash with Our Culture (Genesis - ) |

But Augustine also advocated a strong hierarchical infrastructure of the church that many consider the genesis and backbone of the present Roman Catholic structure. He believed in the power of the episcopate church rule by bishops which produced a hierarchical structure in the church reminiscent of the dominant culture of his time. Theologically, Augustine brought the church back to emphasizing the epistles of Paul and the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as the focal point of preaching and teaching. He brought the church from that which was peripheral in the early church the cosmic, pre-existent Christ to the core essentials of the faith related to the life, death, resurrection and second bodily return of Jesus.

Medieval Times and Scholasticism During Medieval times a revival of Aristotle from the works of the Muslim philosopher Averroes and the Jewish philosopher Maimonides was spreading skepticism, mostly from the University of Paris. Thus, jumping ahead to Thomas Aquinas we see a shift in the church to a more Aristotelian theology, with its emphasis on particulars and pragmatism rather than on abstract thought and idealism.

To counter this emphasis on Aristotle that was spreading skepticism, Aquinas presented a synthesis of Aristotle and Scripture. Rather than merely refute everything Averroes, Maimonides and others wrote as they referenced Aristotle, Aquinas attempted to reconcile their teachings with Scripture in his still popular Summa Theologica systematic summation of theological knowledge. He knew that traditional Augustinianism, which previously governed everything, was now inadequate with the rediscovery of Aristotle.

They needed a faith that utilized the latest philosophical concepts for rational thought and analysis. Because of this Aquinas created a theological and philosophical synthesis. This emphasis on Aristotle greatly affected culture. The shift went from the abstract idealistic Plato to the pragmatic in which Aquinas presented a view in which there are two kinds of truth: Faith is necessary to believe the higher truths such as the incarnation, the Trinity, and salvation from sin.

This is the first time a Christian theologian taught that truth could be learned by a human being apart from God-given revelation.

It was a seismic shift that opened up the door to great advances in science through independent study utilizing the rational mind. But it also led, centuries later, to modernity in which truth went from what works the ethics of Aristotle to empiricism what is true is only that which can be proven through scientific methods. Thus, the church responded to the rediscovery of Aristotle and adapted its theology to a scholastic approach in which truth had to be verified by numerous things corresponding scientifically to each other. This led to the Enlightenment and, as noted before, empirical science, which then led to rationalism and reductionism, which then led to higher criticism of the Bible in which even the authenticity of the authorship of Scripture was being questioned as well as the canonicity of many books of the Bible.

Thus, liberal Protestant mainstream denominations are still stuck in this mode that was first introduced by culture. Unfortunately, we see that as all this evolved it was the church that harnessed the very ideology that has destroyed the faith of many denominations to this present day!

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Fundamentalists reacted by isolating themselves from the world, science, and education, and espousing a Biblicist approach in which only the Bible was studied. Thus, they became Biblicists those who only read the Bible and shun academia similar to the ancient Gnostics who believed that only spiritual things were important and that the material world was something to be escaped from! This tendency to escape culture opened up the door for hyper-dispensational, pre-millennial theology to dominate fundamentalist Bible institutes and colleges, resulting in the church focusing on waiting for the rapture, the anti-Christ, and preparing for heaven rather than engaging the culture and bringing Christ to culture.

Thus, we went from the pre-Civil War Puritan emphasis of Christ over culture to Christ separate from culture. This has caused huge damage because the church no longer functioned as salt and light to the world, thus abandoning the world and giving it over to liberal humanists who took the lead in education, the arts, philosophy, science and politics. The non-engagement of the church is the reason why Marxist ideology rules in universities and in much of the far-left political landscape, and why we are presently fighting the legalization of same-sex marriage!

Postmodernism Out of the shambles of modernism—with its dry, colorless, scientific approach to life—young people began searching for transcendent meaning beyond what can be observed by the physical senses. This resulted in postmodernism becoming the dominant metanarrative in academia and modern culture. As a reaction to this, the Emergent Church movement has grown over the past few decades, in which absolute truth is shunned in favor of experiential, informal and discursive approaches to God and truth.

In conclusion, we see in this brief overview the power of culture in shaping both the theology and methodological approaches of the church. We see how the church went from a Hebraic approach to a Platonic, then Roman, then scholastic, then modern, and finally postmodern approach to church and Scripture. Joseph Mattera has been in full-time ministry since and is currently the presiding bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York, a multiethnic congregation of 40 nationalities that has successfully developed numerous leaders and holistic ministry in the New York region and beyond.

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