Christian Faith Is a Culture

Culture is worship (cult).

cult: 1610–20; < L cultus habitation, tilling, refinement, worship, equiv. to cul-, var. s. of colere to inhabit, till, worship + -tus suffix of v. action.
culture: 1400–50; late ME: tilling, place tilled (< AF) < L cultūra. See cult, -ure .

Not that I get my truth from the Latin language, but etymologies can still be telling about what we humans believe. Culture is what results from cult, which is what we till and what tills us.

Is it possible to change worship without changing culture? Is it possible to evangelize without forming culture? The gospel, of Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection to deliver us from this present evil age, takes the form of a culture because Christ and the Church are one spirit, as husband and wife are one flesh. When we hear talk of cultural Christianity, all we’re referring to is faithlessness and the idolatrous problems with that culture, not the problem of a Christian culture existing.

Israel was a people and a culture. God has made Gentiles part of her by being the true Israel for us, so that all in him might be redeemed as a people and as individuals.

For this reason, we should care about our culture. Dismantling idolatry involves cultural changes that far exceed what ‘culture war’ people might think of. When was the last time we thought about what the gospel implies about physical touch between parent and child? or the necessary modes of music? or division of church into age groups and of school into grades?

But we seem too tired to cultivate our culture out of the hearing of the word. Instead, we insist that the gospel is culturally neutral. But is it really?

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5 responses to “Christian Faith Is a Culture

  1. Revelation 3:16
    So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

    Jesus Christ taught us to be radical – the gospel message is not a fashion. Even putting faith aside, it is not logical to be on the fence about God’s existence, and even less logical to claim allegiance to a religion and be almost completely lacking in knowledge of its real doctrine… which again and again teaches radical commitment.

    Luke 9:23–24
    Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”

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    • Is this slightly off topic?

      Radical: at the root. When God’s word makes believers of us, when we are baptized into his death and resurrection to become part of his Body, our old roots are torn up and we become trees planted by the water, as the Psalmist says.

      The orchard of these trees is cultivated into a culture of belief.

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  2. Well, perhaps I’m not interpreting your message clearly. I thought you were addressing the sadly incorrect approach of “believers” who separate their faith from culture/the rest of their lives. I adamantly agree with you (if that’s what your saying) – our belief and our culture are one, since we are supposed to become like Christ.

    The problem I see (which I think is what you’re talking about) is Christians who make their faith a private and separate component from the rest of their lives. This practice tragically contradicts what we are supposed to be learning from God’s word, of which most of these people have done little to zero actual study. That’s what I meant by “fashion”. People see Christianity or are raised in a church-going culture, and simply adopt it into their persona without really going any further into it.

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    • Oh, ok, that’s what I thought.

      Beyond the individual level, I also want to stress that the church as a whole does have the responsibility of cultivating a culture with the gospel as its DNA and Scripture as its basis of speaking.

      This doesn’t mean the Christianese I’m accustomed to hearing (which may actually serve to encode wrong interpretations), but it does mean the Church as a Body, not simply as a number of individuals, being involved in the polis by acting as a polis, being literate intellectually, musically and practically in the ways in which Scripture reads society.

      The problem, however, isn’t that church-going culture exists: the problem is that church-going culture is corrupted and needs to submit to the word of God. I don’t have a problem with assimilating things subconsciously, but I do have a problem with what we often assimilate subconsiously. The Church as a culture is a more fundamental reality than the pagan cultures that parody it.

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