When I drive, I listen to the radio. There are times when I get tired of listening to music, so I scan, listening for something that might catch my attention. I can usually count on “Christian” radio to grab my attention. I usually stop to listen. Not to be reaffirmed in my faith, but rather to see what I’m up against and what I may need to preach about – usually something that isn’t in line with what ever it is the hosts of these shows are talking about.
The fact is, most evangelical radio programs drive me nuts. I listen though for a few minutes from time to time to hear what bad theology is being spouted off over the airwaves.
At any rate, the program I stopped to listen to was talking about culture and Christianity and lamenting how the culture has moved away from what the bible teaches.
My question is this – what is it that the bible teaches? I get what the host of this program was saying, but I think it is misguided. It’s the assumption that the culture was in alignment with “biblical” teachings not so long ago, but has some how drifted off of that recently and is in decline. I argue that this has never been the case.
What teachings exactly was the host referring to? I don’t know because he never cited what teachings he was referring to. I can make some assumptions, but that isn’t really being fair to the host. Maybe he’s thinking in terms of biblical family values. But the problem with that is defining what that means. That’s more a slogan than something that can be defined using the bible.
When I read the bible and think of it in terms of culture, what I hear is recognition that culture is sinful and broken and that God is the one who will move us to something new – resurrection, restoration, renewal, and transformation. That’s because culture is made up of people and people are broken. In the bible we read stories of murder, rape, slavery, war, violence, idolatry, manipulation, slaughter, division, broken families, lying, control, power, etc. This is what culture is full of for bible times.
Is this what the host is referring to? Of course not. I think what happens is that people take a rose-colored lens by which they think of the past. That the past was this pristine time when the culture was God-fearing and no one sinned. But this isn’t realistic or accurate.
But it’s not all bad news. The bible is full of other things beyond the list above – that God doesn’t abandon the culture, but because of God’s love for the world – all the world, not just humanity – that God continually comes to us, encounters creation, and brings about transformation.
The culture isn’t moving away from biblical teaching now any more than it was in the past. The bible recounts the reality of human culture – that it is broken. Rather, what the bible teaches is how God is active in the world and calls on us to live and be different, yet in the world. To not accept the ways of the world, but to be different – a beacon of light in a world of darkness. Not to change the culture by trying to manipulate it and bend it to our will, but rather to live differently and in relationship with one another, invite others to this new life, and in so doing, others will come and as a result, a new culture will come into being. It’s not about confrontation and battle. It’s about Jesus not accepting the status quo as legitimate and instead offering an alternative life-giving model in which to live into.