Worldliness and culture

30 06 2009

     Christ speaks of being “in the world but not of the world” in John 17. We are to remain in the world as Christ goes on to be with the Father. We survive in the world through being nourished by the Word of the Father and through the prayer of Christ. He prays for us that we would be protected from the Evil One as we live and face the world’s hostility. This brings up an interesting question. How do we know which parts of the culture are good and which parts are bad?   In other words, which parts of culture are included in the “world” we are commanded not to love  when John says “love not the world”.  Here are the basic approaches.

Christ against culture
Christ of / within culture
Christ above culture
Christ transforming culture
Christ in paradox towards culture

     In these five “stances” we see how most believers approach the world. Either we are to be removed and separate from culture, completely immersed in culture, seeking to control culture, seeking to transform culture or simply ignoring any interest in culture at all.

     The truth is that our approach to culture will be different at different times. Cultures change and usually for the worse. What is needed is God’s wisdom to know what aspects of culture are good and the wisdom to know when to take a different approach towards it. Technology is a good example. God is certainly not apposed to technology. We can and should use it for the glory of God. But these days twittering is all the rage. Do we really want to begin twittering during the worship because that is what the culture demands or kids relate to? I seriously doubt it. Music is another example. The music style of the 70s was called rock and declared to be worldly. Music has changed a great deal in the last 4 decades. There are many melodies of the 70s which seem pretty benign these days, almost ballads. I even wonder why they were called rock.  They really were only popular level songs. If you had not known they were all the rage 35 years ago you might think some of them were simply singable melodies.  Since the culture no longer considers them a symbol of rebellion they have lost some of their negativity.   I remember hearing a song put to a melody written by the Beatles.  It had no more beat than old Christian choruses I used to sing.   However, to a friend, it reminded them of their wild days.  So they could not sing the song to the glory of God.  

     In the end, we must ask God for the discernment to know when  and where to confront the world,  when and where to engage it, when and where to withdraw from it, and when and where to ignore it!


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