Posted by: Craig | 1 October, 2007

Cultural Relavance in the Bible…

Continuing on with this theme on culture I want to take a look at what acts 17 has to say about it.

Paul in Athens
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was(AA) provoked within him as he saw that the city was(AB) full of idols. 17So(AC) he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said,(AD) “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because(AE) he was preaching(AF) Jesus and the resurrection. 19And they took him and brought him to(AG) the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this(AH) new teaching is that you are presenting? 20For you bring some(AI) strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

Paul Addresses the Areopagus

22So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription,(AJ) ‘To the unknown god.’(AK) What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24(AL) The God who made the world and everything in it, being(AM) Lord of heaven and earth,(AN) does not live in temples made by man,[b] 25nor is he served by human hands,(AO) as though he needed anything, since he himself(AP) gives to all mankind(AQ) life and breath and everything. 26And(AR) he made from one man every nation of mankind to live(AS) on all the face of the earth,(AT) having determined allotted periods and(AU) the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27(AV) that they should seek God, in the hope that(AW) they might feel their way toward him and find him.(AX) Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28for

(AY) “‘In him we live and move and have our being’;[c]

as even some of(AZ) your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’[d]

29(BA) Being then God’s offspring,(BB) we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30(BC) The times of ignorance(BD) God overlooked, but(BE) now he(BF) commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed(BG) a day on which(BH) he will judge the world(BI) in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and(BJ) of this he has given assurance to all(BK) by raising him from the dead.”

32Now when they heard of(BL) the resurrection of the dead,(BM) some mocked. But others said,(BN) “We will hear you again about this.” 33So Paul went out from their midst. 34But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius(BO) the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

So now we see Paul in Athens which is full of idols to other Gods (V16) and ends up in the Areopagus where he shares the Gospel, and he does not do this by just saying you are all worng but by engaging their culture with the idol to the unknown God(v22-23) and the reference to their poets (V28). He contextualises to their culture but contends for the one truth of the one Gospel, I am not saying that we should just accept culture as it is as it says in verse 16 that his spirit was provoked by the many idols in Athens, he was troubled and preached against their idols (V29),so we should stand firm against anything that goes against the Gospel.

How does this look to our churches today?

Well first you have to look at the culture you are in and this is far more specific than just what country you are in, as the village of Wonersh in Surrey is full of people with High Income, a lot of Commuters and families and middle aged upwards. Guildford just down the road is a student town and students are normally poor but are thinkers. Your culture is very specific to where you are, which one reason you cant just try and copy what some ¨successful¨ (not that success is measured in numbers) church has done and expect God to move in the same way!

So now you know the culture you are in you can make the Gospel and the church relevant to them through worship, evangelism, preaching etc. Handing out canned food is not going impact business men the same as students, 50 year olds do not want flashy lights and contempory loud rock style worship like 17 year olds. This is contextualisation.

Contending for Gospel is holding firm to what scripture says it is saying materialism is not the goal in life to people in Wonersh, it is saying that not all roads lead to heaven to students. It is contextualising the worship but not adding curse words because that is what is in the culture, It is standing in the Gospel sharing it with culture not standing in culture and making the Gospel conform to it.

I could talk about these things in more detail ensure that no misinterprets what I saying but I think I have covered all of my bases.


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