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The Christian and culture

Article · April 2013


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Flourish Itulua-Abumere
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The Christian and Culture
by: Flourish Itulua-Abumere

Published by uPublish.info

Before the practice of Christianity, culture has been in existence. Culture is the regimented way in
which a set of human beings conduct their lives. Culture was involved in the conception, broadcast
and adaptation of the gospel. Culture represents a picture of a group of people. It highlights their
traditions and achievements. While some aspects of culture are beyond by larger world like
language, music, literature, technology, history, art, habits, etc. other aspects are unique to
respective people.

Literature, culture and theology:

Literature: Literature is an art of written works. Literally translated, the word literature means
acquaintance with letters. The two most basic written literary categories include fiction and
nonfiction. However, in the Christian view, literature is a writing that deals with Christian themes and
incorporates the Christian world view. This constitutes a huge body of extremely varied writing which
includes, scripture writing, Christian non-friction, Christian allegory, Christian fiction, Christian poetry
and Christian theatre. Looking at literature from the Christian perspective, the scripture falls within
the strict definition of literature. The Holy bible is not generally considered literature. However, the
Bible has been treated and appreciated as literature. The King James Version in particular has long
been considered a masterpiece of English prose, whatever may be thought of its religious
significance. Several retelling of the Bible, or parts of the Bible, have also been made with the aim of
emphasizing its literary qualities. Letters, theological treatises and other instructive and devotional
works have been produced by Christian authors since the time of Jesus Christ. For early Christian
times almost all writing would be non-fiction, including letters, biblical commentaries, doctrinal works
and hagiography. (Dickerson, 2003)

Culture: Culture has various meanings. However, to generalize it all "Culture" is simply the way we
do things that are important to us, whether they cloths, cars, boats, food, church, sports, the arts,
whatever. Culture, as a way of defining one's self, needs to attract people's interest and persuade
them to invest a part of themselves in it. People like to feel a part of a tribe and understand their
identity within that tribe. This works well in small communities and people feel needed and special in
their small world. Mass culture however lets people define themselves in relation to everybody else
in mass society. In a sense it 'makes the ball park a lot bigger' and we have to fight harder to find
and keep our identity. Within culture there is what we call the Christian culture. The Christian culture
is that which prevails in any given society. The content of there culture is determined by the daily
interactions, needs and desires, and cultural movements that make up everyday lives of Christians.
It can include any number of practices, including those pertaining to cooking, clothing, mass media
and the many facets of entertainment such as sports and literature. In modern urban mass
societies, Christian pop culture has been crucially shaped by the development of industrial mass
production, the introduction of new technologies of sound and image broadcasting and recording,
and the growth of mass media industries, the film, broadcast radio, television and the book
publishing industries as well as the print and electronic news media. Items of Christian culture most
typically appeal to a broad spectrum of Christians. (Douglas, 2001; Kroeber & Kluckhohn, 1952)

Theology: Theology is the study of a god or, more generally, the study of religious faith, practice,
and experiences or of spirituality. Augustine of Hippo defined theology in English as the science of
things divine. Christian theology is a discourse concerning Christianity. Christian theologians use

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Biblical exegesis, rational analysis, and argument to understand, explain, test, critique, defend or
promote Christianity (Migliore, 2004). Theology might be undertaken to help the theologian
understand Christianity more truly, make comparisons between Christianity and other traditions,
defend Christianity against critics, facilitate Christianity's reform, assist in the propagation of
Christianity, draw on the resources of the Christian tradition to address some present situation or
need, or for a variety of other reasons. (Alistair, 1998)

Christianity and culture:

The universality of the gospel necessitated a difference between Christianity and culture. Christianity
can continue living in any culture, but every culture will have a definite beliefs, values, or practices
which say the opposite to Christianity and for that reason must be put aside. The Jewish stressed on
peripheral uprightness by obvious compliance to rules had to be put aside, for salvation is obtained
by faith alone, apart from works. The Gentile practices of idolatry and immorality also had to be
rejected as contrary to one's calling in Christ. Any agreement to culture which obstruct the teaching
of the gospel should also be abandoned. It all seems quite simple, doesn't it? However history
reveals the difficulty which the saints have had in constantly relating Christianity to culture.

In the past, the church has applied great effort to recognize with modern day culture without
becoming either inaccessible from it or indistinguishable to it. The church has endeavor, with
different degrees of success, to relate to modern culture without creating a counter-culture and
without being obsessive by secular culture. Pointless to say, the church has not always succeeded
in walking the tight rope between these two boundaries. In the early church at Jerusalem, the
Jewish culture was muscularly disparate to Christianity. The furthermost jeopardy was posed by the
Judaistic Christians who wanted to enforce the Jewish culture on the Gentile supporters. When
Christianity was declared in the midst of the Gentiles, we saw the fight which the churches (like the
one in Corinth) had in keeping the world out of the church. As bigger antagonism from Rome was
persistent against the Christians, this jeopardy diminished for a period.

When the church enunciates modern culture corrupt, it seeks to get rid of that culture from
Christianity by making a counter-culture of its own. Proper Christians are trained to accept this
counter-culture in position of their previous way of lives. When the church is controlling as much as
necessary, it may seek to enforce this "Christian culture" on society as a whole. Such was the case
in the second century when Roman government was committed to religion. I have come to the
conclusion that it is absolutely essential for us as Christians to understand the relationship between
culture and Christianity. There are different ways culture can affect Christianity in our today society
whereby the Christian values and faith will be threatened in such society.

Culture plays a crucial role in foreign missions. Western missions have frequently been very much
slowed down by the cultural mistakes of the missionaries and their distribution organizations. The
inability to differentiate between what is cultural and what is Christian, missionaries have often
endeavor to remove Western Christianity to foreign soil, rather than to take the gospel and allow it to
develop within the native culture of the people. Christianity has often been regarded as a
paternalistic and capitalistic. Churches are assembled in Western way, with Western monies. Those
who are transformed dress as Westerners. Over and over again, indigenous leaders are sent to
Western Countries to obtain a Western edification. Control of the missionaries and of the recently
generated churches stays in Western hands.

Culture plays a vital role in evangelism. In the old days, Paul told the Corinthian saints that he
cautiously thought-out the crash of his culture on the preaching of the gospel, altering his culture in
any way that was biblical to take away pointless barriers to the gospel (1 Cor. 9:19-23). Most people
finds out that a good part of there failure as a witness is connected to there cultural rigidity. Original
or rather real believing Christians have wanted to defend themselves from the "world" by creating

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firm policies which are often the origin for alienating our unsaved neighbors.

Culture plays a vital role in the worship of the church. Years ago in America till lately, the churches
in America have never seen such a spectacular change in the cultures represented in the
congregation. The 1960s brought about a new generation, one which reacted sturdily to the values
and the lifestyle and the culture of their parents. The "hippies," the "Jesus people," and a crowd of
other reactionary movements came into existence. Even as the revolutionary aspects have passed,
many of the younger generation of Christians have come out of this tradition, or at least have come
to accept a part of this counter-culture. This is most obvious in the area of music. Instead of the
traditional hymns, accompanied by the traditional instruments, the piano and the organ, there is a
new-angled kind of music, often accompanied by guitars. The older generation have tendencies to
find the new music "disrespectful," though the younger generation finds the older musical forms not
stimulating. The harmony of the church, particularly in its worship, has been endangered.
Recognition of these "cultural" differences and reacting to them in a biblical way has brought about
growth for the church. As discovered in the Book of Acts, it is possible for people of various cultures
to be Christians. However, these differences in culture can also threaten the unity of the church. In
order to guard against such a breech in fellowship, Christians of each culture must be sensitive to
those things which are offensive to Christians of a different culture and must seek to set these things
aside, making cultural concessions for the sake of unity and harmony. Churches, , must learn to live
and to worship together, respecting the cultural differences of others in the body of Christ.

The church is often culture-bound, thus hindering its ministry. Most religious researchers` have
observed that the church often seems to be on the lagging boundary of culture, rather than on the
leading edge. One of the reasons why the church fails to minister creatively, and the para-church
groups do so, is because the church is plagued with cultural paralysis. Tillapaugh in his book, The
Church Unleashed, tells how the Baptist and Methodist denominations grew rapidly in the 19th
century by responding to the changes in society. As the population moved west, there were not
enough trained ministers to plant and pastor the churches which were required. The Baptists
responded creatively by supplying 'farmer-preachers' while the Methodists had their 'circuit riders'.
The result was the rapid growth of these churches, due to their responsiveness to the changes in
their culture. The church of today is so culture-bound that it finds change difficult and distressing if
possible at all. The typical symptom of this cultural severity is the protection, since we have always
done it that way before, the church needs to be able to become aware of changes in the culture
around it and to respond creatively, yet biblical to them. Creativity in ministry is, in part, due to
appropriate understanding of culture and its relationship to the gospel.

Satan most effective attacks upon the church sometimes come from culture. Bizarrely, Christian
seems to use there own hands to attract Satan to attack the church in very direct and forward ways,
rather than through his more delicate and effective means. For example, the current conspiracy
about which the church is being warned is that of secular humanism. Our consideration has thus
been focused on such issues as the teaching of evolution and prayer in schools. In the meantime,
Satan is at work undermining our culture. Since our culture is something of which Christians are
rarely conscious, the painful part of it all is that Satan's devices are not even detected.

For instance, for a long time the American culture was largely Christian in its values. In the past,
society did not look positively upon divorce or homosexuality, and so hardly any practiced these
evils, at least in a very open way. Unbelievers considered themselves Christians because they
practiced Christian values. Christians prided themselves for practicing Christian ethics, too. In truth,
many unbelievers and Christians were only in compliance to the mores of their society they
conformed to a culture which was apparently, at least, Christian. Satan used the moral culture as a
means of misleading many to consider them selves Christian, when they were only conformists.

Drenched by this atmosphere, Christians did not remain married or heterosexual because of any

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obligation to Christian main beliefs, but out of conformity to culture's values. Non Christian values,
nevertheless, have changed to conform more closely to their hearts. Divorces have become easy to
get hold of and society came to tolerates them and even support them. The values of non believers
have become evident, and so have the values of the Christians. While the divorce rate among the
general population has slowed down, the rate of divorces among Christians is reportedly still
climbing. Christians are on the lagging edge of culture again. In other words, we can see that
Christians were not performing out of sincerity by staying married to their wives, but only out of
cultural conformity. Satan thus can attack Christians in such a faint way that they are unaware of
what has happened. When we balance Christianity or spirituality to conformity with a certain agreed
culture which is what the Judaizers did, and what legalists of every age does, Satan can attack
Christians by undermining their culture, an area of which they are only slightly mindful.

In conclusion to these writing, I will like to say that in today's society, living in an environment that is
hostile to Christians can prevent Christians from carrying out there duties diligently. If you leave in
an Islamic country, there is a sense of fear even when you are praying through Jesus Christ our
Lord. This is because the Islamic culture practice in that society does not permit such ways of
prayers. This alone will discourage a Christian from going into the streets to preach the gospel. This
essay has drawn on both old and new testament in other to analysis this topic. As we can see, the
practice of culture plays a deep role in practicing Christianity for instance culture plays a vital role in


Alistair, M. (1998). Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought. Oxford:
Blackwell Publishers. pp. 1-8.

Migliore, D. (2004). Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology 2nd ed.
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans

Dickerson, M. T. (2003). Following Gandalf: Epic Battles and Moral Victory in The Lord of the Rings,
Brazos Press

Douglas, H. (2001). Online Etymology Dictionary

Kroeber, A. L. and Kluckhohn, C. (1952). Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions.




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